Game Design Theory Level 4 – Advanced Game Mechanics and HUD / GUI Elements

Love Your Players! Give Them the Tools to Succeed Like DDB and Rubber-banding


When it comes to difficulty levels some players will be more skilled than others.  Some games use a strict and rigid difficulty setting using easy, medium and hard. Easy would have 2 enemies in one place and in the same spot Hard would have 5 enemies. Many other games use techniques like Dynamic Difficulty Balancing and Rubber-banding to keep lesser skilled players just close enough to winning to make sure they keep playing. We discussed this topic before but while you are designing “special” power-ups you need to consider giving your players some unnoticed power-ups when they need it to keep them in the game.


Dynamic Difficulty Balancing just refers to the process of making things a little easy when the player fails too many times in a row. Maybe the player’s health is increased or their offensive power is increased or the enemy’s health is decreased. Keeping track of how many times the player has died and even how they died can be useful in utilizing DDB to the fullest extent to give your players the push they need to make it to the next section.


Rubber-banding is like in a racing game where the enemy’s lead on you can only get so far and their progress is based on how well / bad you’re doing. If they get to far ahead, they’ll artificially slow down until you speed up enough to get within a certain competitive distance. In effect, the CPU opponent pulls the player ahead by slowing itself down and then speeding back up – similar to a rubber band. Some games pump up their players by “buffing” the player or giving them more access to upgrades and power-ups when they aren’t doing well. 


If You Think  a Game Element is Too Difficult to Pull Off or Too Boring Get Rid of It


Don’t try to hold on to ideas that aren’t working or don’t enhance the experience for the player. Sometimes there are sections that you work on as a designer and really want to see come to life, but in the end just aren’t meant to be. There are several reasons why a section may be cut, whether it’s because the section is boring and lacks excitement, it it too hard to program properly or just doesn’t work well, feels clunky or it may just be too difficult. These sections may work well in other games, and you can always pick through whatever mechanisms you programmed to see what you can use in other sections that aren’t being cut. Maybe an enemy, power-up or graphic that was made just for that section can be recycled and used again. Just because you have to give up a particular section doesn’t mean you throw away the work, but you have to get rid of it within your game. You want to give players the very best, most refined version of the game that only has the best content and some things will not meet the standard.