For this post I chose three games and examined their goals and feedback. I believe the examples I chose show how a game’s goals influence how effective its feedback is.
|Beat Saber||Correctly hit as many incoming blocks for |
the entirety of a song
|Display system showing when a player|
misses or incorrectly hits a block
|Civilization VI||Become the most dominant civilization in |
science, culture, religion, or military
|Ranking system, reactions from NPCs|
|The Sims 4||Simulate life||Positive and negative emotional states|
In Beat Saber the feedback is more physical than in the other examples. When the player successfully strikes the incoming blocks a satisfying buzzing is felt in the hand controls. The controls also buzz when the player strikes the blocks in an incorrect way, but the sensation is different and not as satisfying. In addition to this physical feedback, there is also a counter that keeps track of combos and misses. At least according to screenshots and gameplay. Truth be told, I was unable to see anything other than the incoming blocks while playing Beat Saber. Granted part of this is due to me being nearsighted (the Oculus Rift can pose challenges to those of us with poor vision), but my unlucky genetics and/or long time screen usage is not totally to blame. The numbers are small and placed near the center of the screen. Considering players are focused on hitting the blocks, which are coming at them from the center of the screen, it is easy to not notice the counters. And as I learned within my first 10 seconds of playing, it is important to keep track of misses. Should the player miss a certain number of blocks the game will end. If the counters were moved to the corners and enlarged it would be easier to notice them, which would allow them to serve as better feedback.
The main feedback source for Civilization VI, a leaderboard, is standard and effective. However, while it is a minor feedback feature, the player’s relationship with other leaders (which can reflect ranking in the leaderboard) and how it is tracked is interesting. While leaders’ current disposition towards the player is indicated by icons on their portraits, figuring out what their feelings will be as the game progresses is not as clear. There is no visible bar showing where on the ally-enemy spectrum leaders lie. In gameplay, this means that after doing trades or giving gifts to a leader who hates me, there is no way to see how much (if at all) it improved our relationship. Some may see this as a feedback drawback, but I’d argue it adds to gameplay. By not giving too much detail of leaders’ feelings, Civilization VI forces the player to keep track of their previous interactions and rely on what they know about that historical figure in regards to what will please or displease them. For example, Gandhi is easily triggered by a military focused playstyle (fun fact: I once had Gandhi denounce me after I built two warrior units in a row, even though at the time those two units made up my entire armed forces). (Note: there is a DLC that adds an option for a diplomacy victory that I assume relies more on alliances and relationships than the base game, but I have not played it myself and was unable to determine via research if it adds anything to the feedback system).
The feedback in Sims 4 at first doesn’t seem like it’s that bad, but like many aspects of that game it falls short. While there is a UI element that displays sims goals and wants (referred to in-game as “whims”), there is little indicating what will make sims unhappy besides the obvious (lack of sleep, food, etc.). In previous Sims games the UI featured fears as well as wishes and goals. I would argue this was a better feedback system as it clearly indicated what would make sims unhappy. This is significant because not all players want to make their sims happy. The goal of the game is to simulate life, and life is not always pleasant. Many a time while playing Sims 2 I intentionally made my sims fears come true to create more drama and realism. By foregoing the display of fears, Sims 4 gives less feedback to players making it harder for them to achieve the game’s goal of simulating life, whatever that might mean for the player.
This post is based on Exercise 4.4: Goals and Feedback (“Pick three games and list the types of feedback generated in each. Then describe how the feedback relates to the ultimate goal of each game.”) from Chapter 4 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton (quote taken from pg. 100).
Beat Saber. Prague: Beat Games, 2019.
Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 4: Working with Dramatic Elements” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. New York, NY: 2K Games, 2016. Video Game.
The Sims 4. Redwood City, CA: Electronic Arts, 2014. Video Game.
Beat Saber screenshot – “How To Download And Install New Custom Songs On Beat Saber – Summer 2020 Update.” UploadVr, https://uploadvr.com/download-install-new-custom-songs-beat-saber/.
Civilization VI screenshot – taken by the author.
The Sims 2 screenshot – “When you want to have a baby but it is also your fear” Reddit, https://www.reddit.com/r/thesims/comments/6egcx3/when_you_want_to_have_a_baby_but_it_is_also_your/.