I like to say, those who forget the lessons of art history are doomed to repeat Art History. There is a famous 20th century artist who apart from his novel use of perspective and color choices is remembered for visiting friends who owned his paintings, finding something he didn't like, and taking the painting down for a revision. Now I'm not saying you should hide your phones with Firecracker Fight on them when I'm in town, but I will be fine tuning the destruction of your targets right up to release day, and probably on future updates as well. I'm also admitting that I don't remember the name of that artist, and if none of you leaves it in the comments, I'll be repeating Art History. With that, a few words about damage, destruction, and player satisfaction.
With a name like Firecracker Fight, you expect the firecrackers to have great explosions, and the things you hit with them to go up in a ball of fire. I could probably stop there, but there's more to it, especially if you're a game designer who believes it's worth getting the details right. Your explosions are essential to the game design principles of satisfaction and predictability.
Predictability lets your players anticipate what's going to happen when they do something, avoiding confusion and frustration. It doesn't mean every prediction has to be correct. In fact, that would be boring. Without putting it into words, when you toss a firecracker at targets in the grass, you probably have a mess of related and even contradictory predictions:
It's worth repeating the stance that a game is less a delivery system for points and prizes, and more an engine for generating interesting possibilities. A good game always has you wondering what's next, never bored by repetition, but also not adrift in a sea of confusion when anything could happen at any time. Predictability is essential because it lets you expect certain outcomes, and experience satisfaction when at least one of them happens.
Satisfaction is clearly another distinct element of game design, but it also pairs well with predictability. Moments of game play are constantly blossoming, one could say exploding, into possibilities. But sooner or later the possibilities resolve to some conclusion. Even if you didn't win, or you could do better, that play space has resolved and left no significant unfinished business, and that is satisfying.
That sense of resolution is especially evident when you think things work one way, but they turn out to work in a very different, and interesting way. That's when you realize there's more depth to the game than you expected. Imagine blasting your way through a few levels of enemy trucks, then finding out you have to pick off enemies without damaging allies, under a time limit. There's a moment of confusion, but I would assert that resolving it is more satisfying than winning. That's when you start feeling good at the game.
Bringing this back to Firecracker Fight, good damage indicators and quick, conclusive explosions of the targets help you recognize the outcome sooner. We show the amount of damage you did on a first hit with a typical, predictable hit points bar. You keep tossing lit firecrackers. "Did I get him?" you'll be wondering. Your target disappears in a ball of fire, and that's a "Yep!"
At that, here's a short, satisfying recording of that damage and destruction sequence from Level 6, Thick of Battle, from our latest weekly build.
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