David · November 26, 2022

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.

Cursed problem:

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.

Workaround techniques:

  • 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.

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