This is my summary of a talk by Alex Jaffe.
Player promise: Essential experience. Why the player came to play.
Designers create promises and design the game around them. Players create promises based on their expectations.
an unsolvable design problem rooted in a conflict between core player promises.
Instead of solving the problem, you work around it.
Example: Side-scrolling beat-em-ups and cool. Let’s make it a competitive four player free-for-all. You run into the free-for-all politics problem. The two promises: focus on combat mastery and play to win are in conflict (a single great player will get taken down because other players team up on them).
Several other examples.
- Barriers - cut affordances that break promises.
- Gates - hide bad states behind challenge.
- Carrots - incentivize avoiding the bad states.
- S’mores - make the bad states fun.
Super Smash Brothers works around the ffa politics problem with s’mores.