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4 min read
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Esoterics V: Only Death is Real

Attrition rates and the decay of immersion.

 

Attrition is a natural part of games. You can see them everywhere when you surmise all attributes down to basic tokens. In soccer we have the red tokens versus the blue tokens. Worn tokens are able to be substituted for fresh tokens and tokens that behave incorrectly are able to be removed from the board for a time or entirely. Here we have a natural attrition, tokens are removed and replaced until tokens can no longer be replaced. This could be seen as progressive micro management and monitoring. Tokens are important as they need no definitive shape, size, colour, theme, aesthetic. They allow the gradual expansion of mechanics one piece at a time.

 

But attrition much like any force in the universe… lets use torque. Attrition is like the torque of a galaxy. Always constant and no one ever really notices, until it's pointed out. Then everyone just goes back to playing the game, because it's not like you can do anything about it. This is perfect attrition. Consider the following. A game is a series of challenges that prevent a player from reaching a goal. These challenges are tokens that are placed on the board and when the player passes the challenge the token is removed. We can see this occur as a fractal through game systems. From individual opponents to rooms to levels and the entire game length. All of these systems must be placed and removed. One could even summarise this further down, if it exists then it must die. Or at least have the ability to die. It must fall in line with the natural attrition rate of the game. The player(s) is also a token that must be placed and removed from the board. Sometimes people forget that once a player dies, the player session is over. It is their choice to continue, but it is a "new" play session, regardless of previous progress. But this is a little existential.

 

This attrition rate can fall into its own rhythms. How often the player is succeeding and if the player is unchallenged. It's not good enough just to scale attributes or artificially inflate data, this will often hasten the decay of immersion. We want players to be immersed in the game mechanics. We want their brains pumping with wonderful chemicals, the neurotransmitters that make all games work. If our challenges are no longer challenging then a player will slowly withdraw from the game and on the reverse of this is if our challenges are too challenging then our players will withdraw from the game. This is a decay of immersion. It will be gradual and slow for a while, and then suddenly rapid. As they will look to other things to interest them. Remember that your game is a token that must be placed and removed.

 

Attrition rates must be monitored and dynamically adjusted. All of this data has the ability to be collected, plotted, graphed and scaled in game. We are asked to create fun, a subjective experience. This is impossible. The big secret about game design is that it's all a giant guessing game. Our experiences and previous data suggest that things should be done a particular way and they enable us to better our educated guess. Then it turns out that it works or it doesn't and we change it and put it in a box and ship it. Hoping that our gamble gets it's money back. And we built an industry around this? We spend so much time making things more shiny and no time improving methods for game designers apart from a few heinous clues and tools that programmers design. Why rely on your best guess, the cat is out of the bag.

 

Only Death is Real. 

 

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