Conflicting Goals to Encourage Depth

>Conflicting goals are frequently helpful for encouraging depth, by giving players the challenge of prioritizing goals situationally.
Now this is interesting. Examples of this?

Okay, my favorite example of this is Touhou. Touhou has a few different systems that create conflicting goals. First is pickups. Pickups require you to move over to them to pick them up, instead of sitting where it’s safe and shooting. Next, you can pick up all the pickups onscreen at once if you move to the top of the screen, which is where enemies come from, which is really dangerous. Next, there’s the graze system, which gives you a score multiplier for grazing projectiles, which means getting close to them, or getting close to the place where they spawn, so you can graze a lot all at once. These give you conflicting goals between gaining score/getting more powerful, and staying alive. So they might make it easier to win, but the process of trying to attain them also makes it easier to lose.

Most games have this on some basic level, you have risk versus reward. In order to win, you need to open yourself up to losing in some way. You can get an advantage, but only by incurring some type of other risk. A common strategy for this is to boost your damage for getting closer to an enemy, where it’s generally harder to evade them.

In Dark Souls, if you’re damaged, you have a similar type of conflicting goal, healing versus killing the enemy. If you kill the enemy, you can heal safely, but in doing so, they might hit you, killing you. If you try to heal, then you might increase your safety net, but you also might get killed in the process. And ideally these strategies invoke different skills, and are better in different situations, so that sometimes the player really should heal, and sometimes they really should attack to finish the enemy off. Another example from my recent playthrough of Dark Souls 3 was on the final boss of the Ringed City DLC, he was down to no life, I was down to no life. I saw his health bar and I was like, “this should be it, one more attack and he’s out”. I saw an opportunity to attack and landed it, but it wasn’t enough, I had miscalculated. At that point, he started winding up another attack and I had a decision, either stop attacking and try to evade, and hopefully don’t get chipped out, or throw out one more attack and hope it’s enough to kill the boss. I threw the attack out and won by the skin of my teeth.

With Q in 3rd Strike, there’s a similar dynamic. Q’s taunt increases his defense by a lot, and once he taunts 3 times, he’s the highest health character in the game. So he has a balance, either risk taunting when you think the enemy won’t attack, or use them attacking as an opening to deal damage. He wants to taunt to become powerful, but also wants to attack to prevent his opponent from hitting him and to get closer to winning the round.

Conflicting goals help add situational factors that give players reasons to sometimes pick one thing or the other, which increases the relevant depth of a game, as well as the complexity of individual situations.

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