★ TouchArcade needs your help. Click here to support us on Patreon.

What is it that makes a game fun in your opinion?

09-25-2010, 08:22 PM
Joined: Mar 2009
Posts: 659
What is it that makes a game fun in your opinion?

I'm a long time gamer. But new to actually making games. My first game some reason isn't that fun So in an effort to make it more fun

I'm wondering what you guys think are the important things to get right. What are the Must-haves?
09-25-2010, 10:13 PM
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Hollywood, CA
Posts: 1,869
um.. this is an odd question!

you really need to spend a lot of time gaming, and looking at what games are popular, to understand why people enjoy them. it is usually not too hard to discern in any given case, but you need to do a certain amount of research (as with any situation) to become familiar with what elements are necessary.

It's difficult to distill it down to a few generic notions, but I will say this:

- a game usually needs to look cool. The art doesn't necessarily need to be particularly detailed, or even very good, but a consistent style is very important in helping a game look professional and getting an audience's initial interest. you could have the most enjoyably-playing game in the world, but if there's not a compelling aesthetic, people will get tired of looking at it and move onto what's next.

- the game should generally be easy to get into, especially with iPhone titles. It should be approachable for an 8-yr-old or grandma to understand within the first few moments of play, but not be so empty that a "real gamer" can't enjoy it as well. It takes a lot of work to whittle your idea down to the point where it can satisfy the two camps; but fortunately the platform is still fairly novel, and making interesting use of the touchscreen and motion controls often can result in something that is easy to grasp and fool around with.

- bells and whistles. Gamers these days are fairly spoiled with the backend of their games. It's to your advantage to build a certain amount of layers into the experience. Multiple gameplay modes, openFeint or some kind of social networking and achievement system. This all helps the player feel like they are getting more bang for their (literal) buck and stick with your app a little longer than "pick it up once, play for 3 minutes, move on and never play it again"

- create a community, and stoke it. This can be quite hard to do. You need to generate some buzz around your product and get people talking about why it is cool and how much they are enjoying it, "nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd." You may need to do things to woo people over, especially at first, but if your game is enjoyable enough it can get a certain amount of steam going under it. You are competing with countless other apps though, so "having legs" for your community's enthusiasm is quite a lot to expect.

The bottom line, though, is that you can't develop games in a vaccuum. There's pros to that as well, but mostly you just want to keep tabs on what everyone else is making, what people are excited to be looking forward to, and what they are enjoying playing right now.

09-25-2010, 11:27 PM
What makes a game fun? It's a good question, albeit hard to answer. Here's some questions you might want to ask yourself (note not all questions are valid for all types of games):

- when thinking of a new game idea, play it through in your head. Would it be fun to do what's at the core of the game?

- when prototyping your idea into a first implemented app, play around with it and give it others to play around with. Are they laughing, enjoying themselves, or are they quickly bored and return the game to you?

- do we forget about the game's controls (good), or are we constantly reminded of them during play (can be frustrating)? Try to play the game controls through in your head during planning as well. Is this motion fun to do repeatedly?

- is there an easy and casual way to get into the game, but a progressively harder world awaiting them? If it's too hard to get into you might appal casual gamers just trying the game first. If beyond it's casual opening you don't offer any long term fun, people might turn away from the game after some sessions though.

- is your story intruiging and does it open a world of fantasies for the player? Most fantasies might be filled in by the player's imagination. Think of a title that involves zombies, to give a random example: the player will immediately fill in a world of their own fantasies which they associate with zombies, which they learned from movies, horror tales, drawings, comics. Sometimes, the player's fantasy may even be more powerful than one you could create in pixels. (Sometimes, a brand can be a short-cut to trigger such fantasies, though unless you own a brand -- say, you're DC and you own "Batman" -- you need to be more creative.)

- is the game polished down to every little graphic, sound and programming detail? Look at the "zoom in" function near the end of a Peggles level, as well as the final Peggles animation, to get an idea of how much such a detail can add to the fun.

- does your game give player's little jolts throughout, like by letting them collect something?

- does your game have flow? If you think of music, is your game core, as it is being played, more like BAM - BAM - BAM - BAM or more like "fiddling around - walking walking - closing a dialog - BAM - more fiddling around - walking"? A good game flow is like good music, and it can be immersive and addicting. A game like Tetris has a constant flow without anything else interrupting that flow. (Just keep in mind... some people might enjoy the "fiddling around in menus" itself, like for complex simulation or strategy games... the achievement to them is mastering the complex game world... so keep in mind not all questions posed here have a single "right" way and answer!)

- does the player create their own world? This could strengthen how much they identify with the game challenge. If the godzilla monster is about to destroy the house the player build up in detail over the last thirty minutes, it's a much more thrilling challenge to defend the house.

- does the game allow multiple players to play against each other? We often have a lot of fun competing against each other.

- does the game blow you away with its graphics and sounds? If so, players may play the game just to "unlock" more great screens and music.

- does the game offer something new in comparison to other existing games of the genre?

- does the game give you a sense of a "career" of achievements, does it let you build up your character, let the player feel they are doing something worthwhile within this fantasy world (because they're ammassing some kind of worth, be it avatar skill points or money or what-not)?

- does the game make the person playing it feel they're part of something bigger, something epic? Is the world you've created believable? Not believeable to be reality, but believable within its own fantasy rules.

- does the game world grammar make sense, and allow the player to learn it and master it? Say you have a 2d game map with small levers, doors, treasures, monsters and so on -- will this create riddles that the player can immediately understand grammar-wise (not immediately solve, but immediately "grasp" in terms of what it represents)? Reading can be fun because the letters form something bigger than their individual parts. Is your game merely door -- walking -- lever -- walking -- monster, i.e. sequential, or will you create something *new* (a word, a sentence!) out of combining the individual parts?

Look and analyze what's fun in the real world (as well as in the virtual world of games) -- and also ask yourself, what in the real world (or your virtual world of games) isn't fun? Sometimes we like to build things; sometimes we like to break them; sometimes humans do good to other (benevolence, heroic deeds), sometimes they enjoy doing bad to others (Schadenfreude, sadism); sometimes we like to have a dangerous adventure, sometimes we might like to know what it's like to live in perfect peace and luxury; sometimes we like to understand what's happening, sometimes we like to be confused for a while before figuring it out; sometimes we think loud music is fun, sometimes we enjoy a quiet surrounding. There's so many varied ways we can have fun. By looking at the world and how we interact it, and where we have fun, you might find tips for your own games.

Good luck!

Last edited by Philipp; 09-26-2010 at 02:23 AM.
09-26-2010, 01:04 AM
Wow, that's a super broad question 99! That's like asking what makes food good... the answers you get are going to differ for each and every person.

Two thumbs up to Headcase and Philipp's replies!

It's hard to boil an answer down to just a few core concepts, but if you look at some of the great games of our times like Super Mario Brothers or Megaman you'll see that it comes down to a low learning curve, good challenge to reward ratio, and variation.

All gamers want a game that is easy to learn but hard to master (othello). They want to feel a sense of achievement (angry birds). They want to have an experience different from their daily life (diner dash). And they want to be part of something larger, like part of a community (words with friends).

There's plenty of other things to consider, but that's going to depend on who your target market is going to be.
09-26-2010, 02:02 AM
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Hollywood, CA
Posts: 1,869
a little bit more to say, since I kind of wandered all over the place in my answer 1st time around

"press buttons, and good things happen" - it should not be hard to get a successful condition in a simpler game. look at bejeweled, look at tetris. even if someone is not too sure how to play, even if they are messing around with it they can clear a line/make a match fairly easy even if by accident. And then the game gratifies them with a glitzy clearing animation or whatever (positive reinforcement for the player, etc). If they expend some effort then the reward should be a little juicier (bigger explosion, higher point bonus, etc)

to make something really fun, you just really need to concentrate on your core mechanics and screw around with them so that it's just easy and pleasurable for the player to do it over and over (and as mentioned above, if the player feels challenged to "work with it" and the game reacts accordingly, therein is the enjoyment). Jumping in Mario, leveling up in an RPG. In our game 180, our special mechanic is the flipping - it looks pedestrian at first but invites the player to experiment with it, and after a little while it becomes clear that there's a whole different philosophy of gameplay underlying it's use.

I think it's just not easy to stumble onto "fun," and the road to get there is to simply build off of what has been done before, get used to thinking and trying things that have been proven to work and maybe some that don't (for a reason). After a little of this experience, it becomes clearer why things are the way they are. Not everyone can do it, but there is definitely some science and formula to it.

To reiterate, we are in a wonderful time right now for experimentation and revolution in game design. A lot of people scoff at it, but with touchscreen/accelerometer (and lack of buttons) it DOES force us to think about design and gameplay very fundamentally differently, and you can (relatively) easily start to slap a playable experience around a simple gimmick idea. You just need to have your head in there..
09-26-2010, 02:35 AM
Originally Posted by headcaseGames View Post
"press buttons, and good things happen" - it should not be hard to get a successful condition in a simpler game. look at bejeweled, look at tetris. even if someone is not too sure how to play, even if they are messing around with it they can clear a line/make a match fairly easy even if by accident. And then the game gratifies them with a glitzy clearing animation or whatever (positive reinforcement for the player, etc). If they expend some effort then the reward should be a little juicier (bigger explosion, higher point bonus, etc)

I think this is a very important and excellent point. Let players at any stage, even the freshest beginners, have a toy they can't break but that does *something* that feels you're going in the right direction. If it's a racing game, let the car bump outside the track and slow the player down and maybe make them score last place... but don't let the whole game be interrupted as the car "dies" and there's a whole seconds-long interruption (I saw this happen with at least two otherwise cool iPhone games).* If you give a baby three building blocks it may not stack them up on each other, but it also won't break them, it can fiddle around with them in different ways and throw them around and stack two up or clash one against the other, and a multitude of other things that may not be "your goal" (if your game was to be about building stacks of blocks!) but that are also not interrupting the game, and that may even be enjoyable in their own sense.

A game like Tetris is a great example. The worst you can do is not stack things right. But by doing so, you still felt like the "ruler" of your destiny in the game, and you might have learned what you did wrong without the game immediately ending. It teaches you a lesson while the game continues, decreasing frustration, and make things feel fair. I guess if it would be a productivity app, it's the difference between a "You could do better, keep it up!" dialog, and a message saying "Program crashed".

*On the other hand you can still let the car/ player/ something "die" if there's a super-fast speed if you absolutely want to, based on the assumption that such a high speed can only be reached by very good players, and can only be reached after some time of "speeding up" passed. A "super crash" may be funny in itself due to shock value. Just don't have such a crash happen every few seconds.

Last edited by Philipp; 09-26-2010 at 02:39 AM.
09-26-2010, 11:25 AM
Joined: Sep 2008
Location: Washington, DC
Posts: 1,151
Best advice I've heard, at least for casual games:

Easy to learn, hard to master.

So anyone can pick it up and figure out how to play it intuitively and immediately, and get sucked in. But actually getting good at the game takes time and practice and commitment. This is true of all the good casual games out there.
09-26-2010, 05:38 PM
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: The badlands
Posts: 242
Why can't anyone make a fantasy adventure game using the same engine as gangstar? like an open world rpg similar to oblivion
09-26-2010, 09:18 PM
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: Hollywood, CA
Posts: 1,869
Originally Posted by NothingLikeSleep View Post
Why can't anyone make a fantasy adventure game using the same engine as gangstar? like an open world rpg similar to oblivion
'cause it is very expensive! I suspect you'll see something sooner or later. right now it is way more cost-effective to make a gangstar-type game (which probably has a lot more of a broad appeal). If that game takes way off (I am not sure how well it is doing compared to it's cost) then I am sure they will reuse their engine more as it makes sense to.

I think in the meantime, ""dedicated" RPG players still expect for that type of an experience, it is more enjoyable to play a console or PC game with all the bells and whistles, than a very dated-looking stripped down iPhone version. I think if they got the sense that they could charge a higher price for it, then you'd see one come faster (and more feature-packed as well)
09-26-2010, 11:29 PM
Joined: Jan 2009
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 230
Check out 'A Theory of Fun for Game Design' by Raph Koster... it won't give you a blueprint on how to make a fun game, but it helps understanding what 'fun' actually means.