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Feature: How Meaningful Skills And Activity Statements Improve Your Designs

In Gamasutra's latest feature, former Insomniac designer Mike Stout shares a useful rubric for judging the depth of play mechanics, including checks for redunda
In Gamasutra's latest feature, former Insomniac designer Mike Stout shares a useful rubric for judging the depth of play mechanics, including checks for redundant ones, using examples from the Ratchet & Clank series. Stout, who currently works in the Central Design department at Activision Blizzard, observes how adding more ways to accomplish the same task is often mistaken for adding depth by untrained designers. Writes Stout of a design experience early on in his work with the Ratchet & Clank series, "Looking back, it's clear to me why the mechanic never felt deep enough: I kept adding new objectives, but failed to add many meaningful skills. Experiences like [this] ... taught me a valuable lesson: most game mechanics that don't feel deep enough feel that way because they have too many objectives and not enough meaningful skills." Stout goes on to examine how meaningful skills offer players meaningful challenges, and how using an Activity Statement can help designers determine if their designs, in fact, ask players to use those meaningful skills. "By altering the Activity Statement during the design phase to more explicitly encompass the meaningful skill (and thereby altering the underlying mechanic), your whole design will get deeper and more satisfying," writes Stout. For an in-depth explanation of these highly practical terms, read today's Gamasutra feature, Evaluating Game Mechanics For Depth.

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