Game Design

Richness vs Complexity

The Design of Everyday Games analyzes Advance Wars and what makes it so much fun to play, even with older technology and gameplay.

The argument is that Advance Wars is incredibly rich and yet is not complex. You press a single button to do almost any action, unlike some games that have a different key mapped to do even the most similar things. Advance Wars is enjoyable, has plenty of variety, and yet doesn’t require too much brain power just to interface with it. You don’t have to think too hard about what physical action to take, leaving you more brain cycles to concentrate on playing the game.

There isn’t a focus on the engine, either. The game is more or less the same as it was when it was first released, and it is still fun because it was improved. It didn’t change drastically to allow for the latest tech. The game dictated the tech needed, not the other way around.

If your game isn’t as good as it should be, maybe you shouldn’t be asking yourself what you can add.

Maybe you should be asking yourself what you can cut.

4 replies on “Richness vs Complexity”

Its an interesting point, but I think its more along the lines of a complex system from a simple set of rules. The example with Diablo however, I mean, Diablo 2 had a bazillion items, didn’t people play it to collect and try out different combinations?

Something like Go with very few rules but lots and lots of different situations (so its hard / impossible to memorize) seems to be the ideal for these kinds of strategy games.

From and HCI perspective, its the rule of 7 +- 2, as in short-term memory size. So, if you have too many actions, units, etc to consider, the player can’t hold all that in his/her head at a time…so making things simple means its easier to consider the moves, but it can still be hard to pick which is the best move (like in Go).

Perhaps it is why games like Fluxx and Settlers of Catan appeal to so many. The rules are simple, and all you need to do is figure out what would the best choice.

Heh, I suppose it sounds like we’re repeating “interesting choices”, but I guess that’s just one part of it. The interesting choices is the richness part of the equation. I think the argument being made is that complexity can ruin it. Hitting one button to do all of the interesting choices results in an easier scheme to grok than if you were to have a different input method for each action.

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