Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Game Dev Quote of the Week: Lee Perry

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 12, 2013

This week’s quote of the week comes from Lee Parry, formerly a lead designer at Epic (and now an indie):

“If there’s one single thing I would drive into any developer’s head if I could, it would be the importance of great player feedback.  When I talk about feedback, I mean the classic loop between hitting a button and the game responding in a way that simply feels great…

“Simply pressing a button has to be an experience people want to repeat.  It’s what makes a game addictive, intoxicating… it’s the recipe for a game that “feels” right.

“The best game in the world, regardless of high concept or awesome mechanics, can feel absolutely neutered when these principles are disregarded or neglected.  Conversely, there’s many simple games that nail player feedback and become extremely successful while people scratch their head wondering how they pulled it off so well.”

Read the whole thing. It’s gold. Stuff I need to be reminded of constantly.

Like everything else, this can get taken to ridiculous extremes. I’m reminded of the Bioware mock-worthy “Button-Awesome” meme that came up during the Dragon Age 2 promotion. It should be a means, a tool in a designer’s bag of tricks, not an end-goal. It is the sizzle, not the steak.

One of the very first (commercial) games I ever worked on should have driven this point home to me. The control dynamics of the player’s ship in Warhawk for the Playstation 1 were praised pretty universally by reviews and playtesters. Things like an Immelman turn (where you do a partial loop and then roll out) or a barrel roll were automatically handled by the ship logic when the player tried simple commands. When the player entered a “loop,” for example, simply attempting to exit the loop would automatically roll the ship out level.  Double-tapping the turn would automatically launch a barrel roll. We did this in a lot of places, and it made flying the ship pretty intuitive and easy. I can’t say we invented it all whole-cloth… there were other examples of games that we drew inspiration from. But for a game that looked at first blush (and for the era) to be more of a hardcore “simulator style” game (it really wasn’t), it was a lot more comfortable for average gamers to play.

The other thing that should have been a no-brainer in retrospect was the “swarm missiles.” I coded the logic and special effects on these, and I tried to emulate what I’d seen in countless sci-fi anime shows. The idea was to launch lots of little tiny missiles that flew a little erratically and independently towards their target, like a swarm of angry bees. They weren’t especially effective, from a game mechanics standpoint. But players loved ’em. You pressed the button, and yeah, something awesome happened. By 1995 standards, at least.

You can see a little of both the flight dynamics and the swarm missiles in this video:

We had some help and feedback from the producers at Sony on this one, so while a lot of it was stuff we kinda stumbled into, not REALLY knowing what we were doing other than going by “gut feel,” we did get some direction. The lesson I learned – and I have to be reminded of from time to time – is exactly what Perry states in his article. Given whatever you’ve got for video, audio, or any other kind of feedback, make it responsive. This can be applied to anything from interactive fiction to the latest AAA shooter.

Filed Under: Design - Comments: 2 Comments to Read

  • alanm said,

    So to translate this into industry standard lingo, games need to have good UXD.

    I dunno why the game industry keeps reinventing IT wheels. Project management, quality assurance, UX …

    Maybe it has to do with Vogel’s point about how games are more akin to the the movie industry than software development.

  • Cuthalion said,