10 Pitfalls of Gamestar Mechanic Projects

In Gamestar Mechanic’s Game Alley, you can find many good design techniques on display, but you can also find many poor ones — in order to create fun content on the website, you should learn from these examples and see how to avoid them.

Luck-based elements

Luck is sometimes good in a game, adding an element of randomness to a game so that it doesn’t appear to follow a script. However, a luck-based challenge in place of a skill-based one can be irritating for players.

Players who finish long challenges don’t want to have their victories determined by chance. Similarly, when players face challenges that can be solved only by trial and error, they grow more frustrated in proportion to the number of choices they have.

An example of a luck-based game is a room full of randomly moving enemies. Whether the goal is navigation or fragging, the open space and chance-based patterns make the game rely more on randomness than on the actions of the player.

Loopholes

Loopholes can be hard to spot, but you must check for them in your game. You might design a level, and a player then discovers a “trick” that solves it quite easily. Perhaps you’ve misplaced a key in your design or overlooked a simple technique.

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Loopholes in Gamestar Mechanic can emerge in a few different ways:

  • Imperfect enemy patterns

  • Breakable mazes

  • Unrestrictive rules

Misused message blocks

Message blocks are useful tools, displaying as many as 40 short lines of information to the player. However, there are several ways to use message blocks improperly, resulting in either irritating the player or compromising the content of your message.

Sometimes, players have to touch a single message block many times to get where they need to go. This process can become annoying to players, especially when the message block has several pages of content.

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Another problem with message blocks is the “wall of text.” If you try to simply copy a long spiel into a message block, the text pours over from page to page, and the result is intimidating text that may turn away readers and cause them to skip over the information.

Inconsistent writing

Any game that involves text, whether it has a story or a tutorial or simply a series of encouragements, has the mechanic of messaging. Messaging encompasses everything that is told to the player, when it is told, and how it relates to the game. You must ensure that the player’s messaging is consistent.

Messaging is a difficult concept to master, though you can do so with some practice. Tell players everything they need to know, when they need to know it, and make sure that the information you provide is consistent and useful.

Time consumers

A time consumer is a portion of a game that takes much longer to complete than it should. Fortunately, this one is easy to solve: If you make the player run a long distance before reaching the next challenge, find obstacles to place in the avatar’s way, to make the path more interesting.

One of the most common time consumers is the roomful of enemies, pitting a powerful avatar against a swarm of unedited turrets or chasers.

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Overloaded enemies

The pitfall of having overloaded enemies is a result of the bigger-is-better concept. If you want to build a game quickly, implementing huge swarms of enemies is a simple and tempting task.

However, it sacrifices the virtue of crafting the element of fun in a game. Rather than add lots of enemies to make the game fun by coincidence, try to design the toughest gauntlets with a small number of enemies. If you truly want to give the player the satisfaction of bringing down an army of enemies, make sure that the enemies can be destroyed or dodged quickly and elegantly.

Details ignored

If you have room for detail, you should implement it — detail almost subconsciously marks a game as well designed in the minds of players.

Adding more detail can transform a game. The left image shows the first iteration of the game. As you can see, it’s missing background detail and a sense of space. When you incorporate these elements into the right image, the game becomes much more interesting and appealing.

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Underused Wrench tool

The Wrench tool may seem to be usable only for fine-tuning, but it’s vitally important and must be used often. Because some sprites have thousands of combinations of options, editing them is one of the most useful techniques in the toolbox.

Here is a game in which no sprite is edited. It isn’t well balanced, because the player can always attack all the enemies, but only one or two enemies at a time can attack the player — their straightforward motion patterns make them easy to defeat.

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You can improve this game in a number of ways by using the Edit tool a few times to adjust these elements:

  • Avatars

  • Enemies

  • System sprites

Sham options

A sham option occurs when you give players a choice that turns out to be loaded, uninformed, unnecessary, or unfair. For example, if you make a level that involves two split paths, these pitfalls can occur:

  • One path is impossible for the player to complete.

  • One path is trivial, or too easy for the player to complete.

  • The paths are exactly the same, and they lead to the same place.

To prevent sham options, test all choices you provide, to ensure that they’re true options.

Deliberate irritations

The most important point to remember when designing a game is your motive: You want players to enjoy your work. Some people find it humorous to irritate players throughout the game, using unfair obstacles or large amounts of message blocks to make the levels drag on. You should avoid this. Fortunately, this pitfall is easy to fix: Just remember what your players want to see.