The Fine Line Between Depth and Approachability

For a developer, in your eyes, is it a necessary evil to sacrifice the complexity that translate to depth, in order to prevent alienating their target audience? It is a dilemna I struggle with. I want my game to be deep, which comes from complexity, but not if it means people won’t play it.

I think there’s ways of getting both, and I’d cite Smash Bros Melee for this. It was a commercial success, but it’s also tremendously complex and deep. It was able to accomplish this because the majority of people who played the game have no actual fucking idea how to play it, or what most of the functions are. It has a very simple foothold for people getting into the game. You move around like a platformer, you attack in the direction of your opponent and it usually works. Super simple.

Making a game deep but understandable is about connecting with what your audience actually wants and actually can understand. The key is building a low “skill floor”, the minimum level of skill necessary to functionally play the game.

Street Fighter has a very high skill floor in comparison to Smash Bros. To play on a basic level, you need to know a LOT more and be competent at a lot more, otherwise you can’t even make real decisions.

I think this is what holds back a lot of action games, they have these complex move lists and people take one look at that and go, “like fuck I’m gonna remember all that” or they just mash buttons and it usually works, so they call it a button mashing game.

A ton of really complex games are extremely successful, like league of legends, but they do that by making the players’ most basic means of interaction with the game really simple. You can move, you can shoot, you have like 4 abilities. A lot of the other stuff is more advanced and you don’t need to know immediately. You can feel like you actually understand the game well enough to play fairly quickly. Similar deal with Pokemon, which has hundreds of actual pokemon, hundreds of moves, abilities, and weird other shit, but kids don’t need to know all that just to play.

I think the key is layered complexity, and introducing things one at a time, while not holding advanced players back. It’s a fine line to walk.

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