From whence comes the mystical beast known as “fun”? Sometimes I think too hard about it — this post isn’t about what is fun, but rather about thinking too hard about it and why you should avoid it (because sometimes I think too hard about fun and my head pops). You ready? Let’s go.
Sometimes, when I’m thinking of a new idea for a game, a new concept, I think too hard about “But why would this be fun?” and all too frequently I can’t figure it out. I’ve been thinking about the generic JRPG combat. Not grinding, but the combat. Why do people enjoy it? There isn’t much to the tactics at all. In battle, there is hardly any test of skill; all you do is say “attack” and sometimes use other things while conserving mana (or whatever the system chooses to use). The player is hardly involved. Even in boss battles, you’re just kind of asking yourself “do I feel like healing or risking a bit so I can do some more damage?” and where is the fun? Suffice to say I couldn’t, mentally, find it.
And yet Etrian Odyssey is a game I love and adore (along with is sequel and hopefully the third entry in the series too). The combat in it is a lot tougher, and I tell myself it’s because of this or that, these are the reasons that I love it (I’ll go into them one day, but not today) — but I think it just comes down to the fact that there is, somewhere, fun. I just can’t dig it out remotely.
That’s the only in-depth example I’m going to give, although I’ve had similar thoughts on platformers, explorey-type games, and more. The fun can be hard to find when you aren’t immersed in it. So the best way to go about FUN TESTING, I think, is prototyping and playtesters. Is something fun? Try it. Nothing will tell you better whether or not something is fun to play than the simple act of playing it.
There are other factors some people like to consider, such as how quickly the basic concept can be made to instantly grab someone’s attention — but I don’t think I’ll ever write about that. I’d rather have 100 people play a really awesome game and love it than have 10 000 people play a decent game that I didn’t make better because I designed it around making them want to play it. Ugh. If you can market a really awesome game, that’s great. But don’t let it get in the way of what the game should be.
I would be terrible at making games for money :/