I will be talking about controlling player choices by using examples from the mobile game let me out, Several Dota heroes and items, and possibly Starcraft 2.
Thinking about possibilities when designing a hero or character. This is the major decision when designing options for a player. The designer must take all choices into consideration and design around those choices. When a designer constructs, they should decide what best course of action they want a player to choose.
For example, surge from dark seer compared to sprint owned by slardar. As a player knows, surge and sprint speed up the player’s movement across the field of battle. Any player choosing these two abilities can choose to use the ability three different ways.
One, they can use it to scout. Scouting is looking for wards, enemies and seeing what the enemy is doing and seeing what they might be up to during a match. Most scouting is done by wards. Wards inform the team where enemies are lurking. Scouting can be the same way with dark seer. Once the player finds an enemy, this player can surge or sprint to safety. But this is not efficient because of abilities and items like blink dagger and astral step. Which allows these players to close the distance between themselves and dark seer. It allows you to run around the map and take in more information because you can just speed around the map.
Another reason this ability isn’t efficient at scouting is because of abilities like Gondar’s Shadow Walk and Rikimaru’s cloak and dagger. These abilities enable those characters to be invisible during usage of the ability. When this is done a surge will alert enemies to your presence but won’t give any information to Dark Seer and his team.
Two, chasing, Chasing is by far one of the fun things about dota. Chasing is the ability to follow an enemy so dark seer or another character can kill them. Surge allows dark seer or an ally to close the distance between themselves and a high priority target. One thing dark seer doesn’t have is the ability to scout ahead when chasing a victim. A low health opponent or other victim might lead dark seer into a trap. It’s easy to fall victim to these problems.
Another reason to have these two abilities is for fleeing. Fleeing is fun. Because of fog of war, fleeing becomes the ultimate game of cat and mouse. Outsmarting the enemy and trying to catch each other. Surge and sprint allow each character to save their allies or themselves. The only two problems with fleeing are with abilities like shukuchi, track and thirst. Shukuchi is a windwalk that increases the speed of Weaver. It allows him to catch up to an enemy. Although dark seer and slardar might not be the best characters to chase. Killing them feels awesome. Track and thirst function the same way. They allow the enemy to become visible through the fog of war. With these two abilities a player cannot hide.
Providing the choice to flee, chase or scout is what sprint and Surge allows inside the video game.
Even though this is possible with sprint, surge has another advantage that sprint doesn’t. That’s the ability to push. While slardar has an aoe ability. It’s not useful for pushing. It is held back by this limitation. It deals too much damage and stuns to long. So, to balance it the cooldown and duration are short. This is what gives dark seer a pushing advantage compared to Slardar. Ion Shell on a surged unit increases dark seer’s potential for pushing. Ion Shell allows for damage in a radius and must be attached to a target to function properly. You can surge with or without ion shell. Either way you push the lane. To do this, you wait until the enemy creeps are wiped out and then you surge one of the creeps or yourself and rush ahead. In conjunction with blink dagger. Pushing can reach a maximum threshold. Dark Seer can push a lane, either offensively or defensively in order to strategically placate enemy creeps away from tactical structures, or dark seer can put allied creeps closer to an enemy structure.
The designer of dark seer has created five uses for this hero. The same conclusion can be framed from most dota heroes, except blood seeker. I am just kidding. Blood is the black sheep of the game. Everyone picks on him.
When creating routes for a hero to engage in during a match, a designer will want to decide the best course of action. Faulty or meaningless actions are not ones a crafter wants his players to experience.
Let me out, you can move some cars as many spaces you want. The limit is that you can only move some cars from east to west, other cars from north to south. Additionally, you cannot bypass another vehicle. Sometimes there are two cars on the field. Sometimes sixteen. Many of the cars you have to create a system to solve the issue. One system is by moving a set of cars around so they function like a wrench. In a semi circle or lock. Sending the yellow or purple car through the lock or semi circle sets it free.
Basically, ward economy is bad in dota. It’s a bad design based on how the game has evolved over the years. IT has not been updated to a perfect system. Someone on Playdota suggested having watch towers. For example, what is in StarCraft. Yet, that is an even worse system, here is why that is a conclusion:
Wards now give an infinite amount of possibilities for players to place their vision. Seriously, wards can be placed anywhere. Though considering, wards would lose this flavor if they became watch towers. Having its place reduced to a fixed location instead of going anywhere a layer chooses is bad for the player. Also, this takes out an integral part of the strategy for a player. Which are wars over where wards can be placed. Right now, a player can take out an enemy ward by placing sentries to counter the observers. Basically, sentries provide vision for stealth content, while observers display the ability to see in a wide area. A non-player can see how this can be important. A player can spot an enemy that is trying to surprise attack them. A player can scout an area, and the team can see if enemies are using roshan or the jungle area.
This is the in-game content that can be used to calculate in game decision from having vision. It’s obvious how important it is. It’s no wonder supports complain to non-gamers about their experience with their teammates complaining during the match trying to get ward purchased.
In a game like Dota, buying key items is important. Wards can make or break that. Another problem with wards is they take away experience form the player. What this means is…A player’s character will not be strong enough because they did not stay in an area where gaining stronger spells was an option. This is a draw back because a lot of vision is in inconvenient spots, and a lot of players gain experience through being around playable or non-playable characters that have died.
This is why I consider this system is outdated.
One, it keeps supports out of the battle. Crystal maiden, lets just use her for example, must travel out of lane to ward efficiently. Sometimes at least twenty seconds away. Twenty seconds missing from a lane is detrimental to your character. Take crystal maiden it takes her thirty seconds to go from an out lane to mid lane. This is around two hundred xp she is missing out on.
Two, wards wars are boring to watch for competitive matches. I mean it really is boring. Most of it is not even covered by the casters. It even is annoying to play with. Because you have to keep buying wards. These wards are in limited stock because it costs time to purchase them.
Three, it pulls other units away from battles because they have to babysit the warding unit. Yes, it’s a bad decision by the game’s creators. They should make it worth while to babysit supports who are leaving the lane.
The downfall of this design is that it sets these players behind also. Hopefully Valve thinks of a solution though. These are the things that must be thought about when crafting a variable for a game. What variables or mechanics do I want to stifle, and which ones do I want the player to explore in greater depth. How much can I get out of this character and what things must I stifle to have a set amount of plays.
One thing a designer does not want to have is too many possibilities for a mechanic—A mechanic is a game’s rules or content—in the game. For example, you do not want a character with one hundred possibilities. Mainly this will cause the player to freeze up. A lot of the other content may become redundant or boring over time also.
I got this idea from let me out. In that game you have to maneuver cars, in a six by six area with each car taking up two slots or three slots, around so that one car can be free to drive away from the traffic jam or parking lot. However you want to picture the game’s story. All the cars are either red, blue, white or teal. The one car that is different is the yellow car–some times it transforms into a purple car. Figuring out how to move these cars is what makes the game fun. But a problem with the game is even after mastering it you feel like there are too many cars. A fundamental issue with the game is that while you play it you freeze up sometimes because you get stuck on old ways of solving problems or solving problems that don’t need solving. Holding up time and energy.
A good example of a system in Dota that has too much content is the item shop. There are just too many choices in the match. It allows for a fun experience, but it takes a lot of time and playtime to master using the game’s shopping experience. Time most players do not contain. It’s made to maintain gold.
Take Bloodseeker into account. His silence provided too much freedom: It could poison, it could silence. This is way too much for this character but it’s an overuse of an ability that can be combined with something else. What Valve did is interesting; They split the ability into two parts. Part of the ability went into the first spell, and the second went into making the aoe disable. It is a better ability, now, imo. Sometimes it’s better to simplify.
A hero that has implemented both arguments presented in this article is clinkz. When Strafe was taken away. It took away the option to sneak up to an enemy and snipe him. This is the only way this character was being played besides sniping towers. Clinkz had one option but it was a powerful option. Windwalk to an enemy, appear out of nowhere and snipe him. The only item he needed was Orchid. Burning Army changed all this. He could snipe a group of enemies. Stop a lane from being pushed. And participate in a grander view inside of battles. Orchid was still the only item he needed. Now he has both Strafe and Burning Army.
For those that don’t know. Strafe is the ability to speed up clinkz attack speed. With the addition of searing arrows. This ability becomes op. Burning army is several illusions that appear in a line that deal damage to enemies. They cannot move, they can only attack.
Weaver can act like clinkz but weaver needs more items to be efficient at this. His only change was removing his movable wards. It was replaced with The swarm. An ability that allowed him to track enemies. It also allowed him to stop a lane from being pushed. Because the creeps would stop and attack the bugs infesting them. It allowed for a more dynamic playstyle than previous versions of Weaver.
Many of the dota heroes have just enough possibilities to feel different from each other. Clinkz and Weaver might be equal in surprise attacks but clinkz needs less items and is not as versatile as weaver during a match. Slardar and Dark seer might both have a sprint ability, but he is good at battles but bad at pushing. While Dark seer is good at pushing and supporting.