While reading Chapter 3 of Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, I found the section that explores game objectives to be particularly eye-opening. I was surprised by how many games have multiple objectives, and especially how often these objectives are very different from one another. For example, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has relaxing exploration, logic-based solution (e.g. solving puzzles to advance through dungeons), and combat required capture (e.g. clearing out enemy encampments) objectives. While at first this seems contradictory, it makes sense for a game to have diverse objectives. If a game had one just objective or all its objectives were achieved by similar means, then it would be boring.
I feel multiple objectives are especially important to consider when designing video games. This is because many video games are intended to be played for multiple years, possibly indefinitely. The more objectives there are, the more things there are to engage players and keep them entertained. In addition to expanding its playable lifespan, diversity in objectives can also help a game appeal to a wider market. For example, compare Stardew Valley with Animal Crossing: Wild World. What makes the objectives in Stardew Valley more effective than those in Animal Crossing are their diversity. Stardew Valley’s objectives include managing a farm (a construction objective), developing relationships with NPCs (a narrative based objective), and advancing through dungeons (a capture objective). Objectives in Animal Crossing, on the other hand, are mostly limited to collection, hence limiting gameplay options. In contrast to this, a player in Stardew Valley could choose to ignore the NPCs, or spend their time fighting in a dungeon instead of farming.
That said, it is important that objectives make sense within the context of a game. Just like Fullerton’s example of having sushi being an object in Diablo III, certain objectives do not make sense (or would be hard to pull off) in certain games. Consider, for example, an FPS that also had a social farming element (a la asking friends for help in FarmVille), or a team competition style game that had individual players renovating their own house. Granted such features could improve immersion or allow players to feel they are influencing the narrative (e.g. a war shooter where you have the option to repair a village you’ve captured), but it is important not to lose sight of or stray too far from the main gameplay experience players are there for.
This post is based on Chapter 3 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton.
Animal Crossing: Wild World. Kyoto: Nintendo, 2005.
FarmVille. San Francisco, CA: Zynga, 2009.
Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 3: Working with Formal Game Elements” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Bethesda, MD: Bethesda Game Studios, 2011.
Staredew Valley. ConcernedApe, 2016.