Hello all, Alex here! This is the second installment in the Shard Infinite DevLog. This time I'm going to be discussing Shard Infinite's Core Experience, an important basis to any title. For those of us not familiar with this industry term, Core Experience is a broad term which encompasses how we as designers define how the game looks and feels to the player, the ways the player can interact with the game, and how this causes the player to react both in the moment, and when the player thinks about the game later on. From the beginning of development, to beta tests, release, and updates, designers are always comparing the current state of their game to their target Core Experience to guide decisions and deliver the best content to players. So let's take a closer look at Shard Infinite's Core Experience and how it evolved.
The inspirations for Core Experience arise from many different beginnings, and every designer draws their ideas from different places and to different degrees. In the case of SI, the main inspirations were a group of core feelings and encounters that I wanted players to have. Even now, as more advanced features of the game take shape, I still look back on these original ideas to help guide decisions on how to present a feature or interaction to the player.
These feelings/encounters were (In no particular order) :
- The thrill of exploration and expedition into the unknown. This means knowing there is no perfect guide or map to where you're going. Knowing you're on your own.
- A sense that the environment itself is an adversary. Like a thick jungle, or a deep cave, the location presents a challenge separate from levels or enemy encounters.
- An escalating feeling of tension derived from ever-present danger.
- Players enjoying a feeling of self reliance when they use knowledge or skill to defeat this
- The double-edged sword of specialization: players have the freedom to choose a play-style that
fits them, but must still consider that style's weaknesses. This encompasses occurrences such
as discovering the limits of one's gear, and planning based on your known strengths and weaknesses.
- For players to walk out of each floor feeling that they have just had an original experience, which they can tell as their own story, even to other players of the game. This encompasses feelings of repetition and difference. Some things are repeated or common, they give connection and continuity to player experience. Others are disconnected or different. They bring originality to the experience.
As I continue to write these DevLogs, I'm going to come back to these core experiences and feelings. For now though, let's look at some broad ways these points have influenced the gameplay of SI.
One of the most critical influences these points have provided centers around how the player interacts with the world. As often as possible, I try to design so that the player accomplishes things by interacting in the world directly in order to gain information or value, instead of through a menu. This extends to things like visiting particular buildings for access to different task completion, or the use of a "guiding lantern" (which will likely get its own DevLog) instead of a map while in the dungeon. Even when the player must use a menu, I try to tie it to some physical action or location.
Another guidepost these points created was the need to define each floor by a set of outcomes or experiences that I want the player to have there, rather that an exact profile of rooms or progression. This has heavily influenced how enemy encounters are scripted. Encounters, even in the same rooms, may not play out in exactly the same way in each play-through. However, the encounter system is built to ensure that even with this variation, broad sets of conditions are met for a floor overall. This ensures that as a designer I have a metric for player progression without tying players to an exact set of circumstances that would cause the floor design to become static.
From a combat perspective, these points made it clear that weapons should not simply be a case of progression. Rather, they should adhere to a couple of principles. The first is that no matter how powerful any one weapon gets, there should always be situations where it is useful, and situations where it is distinctly not useful. The second is that each weapon should have some traits that make it unique, even within the same class of weapon, but also provide some amount of customization to the player. This makes the weapon experience a full circle one, equal parts a player learning their weapon, and affecting its growth to their preferences. I am sure that I will be doing more than one DevLog on weapons in the future, and they are one very interesting element of evolving your play within Shard Infinite.
These are just a few of the ways Core Experience affects SI, and it is something I will return to in future DevLogs. For now, I hope this has been an interesting insight into some of the roots of the experience taking shape in Shard Infinite.
Until next time!