As we push forward in the gaming industry, the budgets for our games become larger, the “talent” becomes more experienced, and the ideas leap by bounds. The PSW genre is booming, the corporations have gotten a whiff of the sweet smelling dollars and the quiet ding!’s of virtual cash registers. A genre filled with such a passionate fan base, that we even propose higher fees for ourselves! With such growth and advancement, are we going to see better-designed systems? Unfortunately, I don’t think so.
These projects are no small undertaking, and thus, have considerably large “teams” that work on them from day one. The teams are broken up into several departments, each with their own little niche in the process, usually with a Lead Designer or Designers overlooking the project as a whole. What’s been missing so far is the mathematician, the lone person who can save the gamer from ever weeping again.
Mathematics and numbers are a constant; they reside on their own plane, and do not need us to exist. The core of these games, even deeper than the code itself, is machine code. Simply put, nothing but numbers that do every single little bit of work you see. Billions of structured 0’s and 1’s produce every solitary thing, including what you’re reading now. Why? Because numbers don’t make mistakes, numbers don’t lie, numbers don’t have cyclopean opinions, and they never ever nerf. Code is code is code.
Designers, while often quite intelligent and insightful, are absolutely horrible at core system design and balance. They look at games from an artistic viewpoint, and not a functional one – “This is my game with my rules.” Whether you add in thousands of variables (read: players) or none, if your system is sound, it should never require a redesign or change.
Breaking the argument down into how I see it.
Character Creation: You start with a base of 0. Designers give the mathematician on board the specs of what they want with the creation module. You then apply the pro’s and con’s of say each race and class, with the end result always being 0.
Dark Elf: +10 Intelligence, +10 Wisdom, -5 Reflexes, -5 Strength, -10 Constitution.
Giantman: +20 Strength, -10 Reflexes, -10 Dexterity.
While each game will be designed differently, the fundamental rule here is that mathematically each character will always equal that base 0, while still being unique and different.
Combat: Far more complicated a system to give a simple example of, however, allow me a feeble attempt.
Melee Attacker – Defender = Combat
x – y = z
Magic Attacker – Defender = Combat
w – y = z
x = w
The idea here is that while each sect of combat can be completely different, if they were mathematic equals, problems such as “class balance,” “PvP balance,” and “Unabalanced Items” would never exist. I know this is terribly oversimplified and likely will not convey my point across well enough, but the message is clear, if different play styles are programmed equally, regardless of the variables you throw in or what direction you try to take them, the constants will always remain the same.
I won’t bore you by going into the details of every intricacy within game mechanics.
There’s a reason math doesn’t change and does not require change, it’s because it is wisdom at its finest. Perhaps game design needs to move towards scientific precision over artistic. Designers and those who would be doing the mathematical aspect would not be mutually exclusive, either. I think the two can work together quite well. After all, the job of the designer is to design, isn’t it? The coders is to code. Add in the number-wrangler into the mix, and the unit will still be cohesive. A well-oiled machine.
When all is said and done, we come to our final question: Is game design, by definition, artistic? I don’t know the answer to this one; I can only offer my opinion as I have in this article. Yes, the game will be free of nerfs, but will it still retain its “fun?” Can you have an “evolving” world exist if its core were designed strictly from mathematical concepts? Can the world change if you stick to the numbers?
I’m sure you will all let me know.