577 The Simplicity Complexity Scale, Vol. 2

In Vol. 1 of this series, we took the time to define what two terms mean in the realm of game design: Simplicity and Complexity. But we didn’t talk much about practical examples of either, so let’s dive into that.

Candy Crush Saga There is so much to say about Candy Crush Saga, but I’ll keep it succinct. We in the game industry thought the match-3 style game design was big even before CCS came out. But once it was released, the flood gates were blown open for this genre, with a seemingly never-ending player base of extreme diversity.

CCS is a simple game. Pretty much through and through, it is Simple, if we are measuring on our S/C scale. And simple is never bad. But the problem with CCS is that it presents the facade of complexity in its game design. As you progress, it mostly just piles on new and convoluted mechanics, with little care for overall strategy or design. Like we talked about in Vol. 1, complex is not equal to complicated. And complicated is rarely a good thing.

DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) Much like the other two games we’re talking about, this game is supremely well-known. It’s often attributed to birthing E-Sports, and is played competitively all around the world on a daily basis.

It’s also a great example of a game that leans very far toward the Complexity side of the scale. There is nothing simple about DOTA. It’s not simple to learn, it’s not simple to play, and it’s definitely not simple to master. And this is probably directly related to much of its appeal, specifically as a competitive game.

Minecraft The game to end all games, Minecraft has been a critical and commercial success in every sense. And for good reason! Minecraft is a good example of a game design that successfully straddles the S/C line. It is at its core incredibly simple. There are blocks that everything in the Minecraft universe is represented by. You can build and destroy these blocks. Now, be free!

And yet obviously there’s a lot more to it than that. There are complex strategies to use to survive, the drive to build complex crafting systems, the ability to create and upgrade weapons and tools… the list goes on and on. The key though is that the complexity is born from a relatively simple set of rules; simplicity begets complexity.

The second point to make is that the game can be played (and enjoyed) on either side of the spectrum. This seems to be a pretty rare thing. Two people can play the game drastically differently, and get the same amount of joy out of it. Ideal, really.


Stay tuned, we may talk more about how to apply this to new game design concepts in a future volume.

[ Today I Was Playing: nothing… ]


July 30, 2016

#games #game-opinion, #game-theory

Foster Douglas is a game designer, entrepreneur, and a wannabe Japanese-Italian. He’s been posting a new idea each day in this blog for over 2 years.