|December 9th, 2011|
Raph, aren’t there some situation where lack of feedback actually add to the experience? I’m thinking, for instance, something as simple as a game of hide and seek. You don’t really know if you’re well hidden until you’re found (or not)! Doesn’t “knowing you don’t know” add more tension and excitement?
Well, first of all, let’s not underestimate the amount of feedback there is for the hider while hiding; the sound of giggles and held breaths let go, the clear sounds of the seeker exploring the area, and depending on your location, actual visual tracking of the seeker. But all of that isn’t even really the feedback, as you state — it’s whether or not you’re found. Having to wait for that level of feedback is common in all sorts of games.
To address your question more specifically: yes, of course a certain amount of lack of feedback is fine. In the case of hide and seek, you are building a heuristic for “how the seeker seeks.” So it’s a psych game as well as a puzzle of finding decent hiding spaces. You are trying to determine how the seeker thinks, and outwit them. Worse, you have to do so with limited resources (limited environment, limited timeframe).
You get clear feedback for the time running out (“Olly olly oxen free!”). Before that ends, you have to have input your choice into the system — you have “pressed the button” in terms of selecting a hiding spot.
Being able to see or hear the seeker based on your hiding spot means you get variable feedback based on the choices you made (hide inside a wardrobe, you get very little — cling to the ceiling like Spiderman, you get lots). There’s a risk-reward tradeoff there. Many of the best spots to hide will limit your feedback; many of the hardest spots to use will offer great feedback. But basically, it’s the seeker’s turn; in basic hide-and-seek you have no verbs at this point.
Finally, you’re either found or not. This is properly understood as the feedback for what you did in “your turn.” It’s the resolve state for your turn followed by their turn.
Having to wait until the end of a turn for full feedback on a choice is very common in games. Often, in board games, you have to wait for many people’s turn (thinking here, for example, of card games ranging from Poker to Bohnanza, wherein full feedback for your “input” choice doesn’t occur until after a full round has gone by).
Hide and seek actually has a classic flaw in it, that the feedback for the victory state for a hider kind of sucks. I remember playing hide and seek, hiding too well, and the other kids eventually gave up and I didn’t know whether the game ended!
I suspect this is why the “run for home base” variant exists, to correct that flaw. If you hide well, the game offers a fresh victory condition that requires you to surrender your safe location and assume greater risk to get a victory condition with good feedback: the act of slapping your hand on the home base tree and yelling “HAHA!”
So, a multiphase game fairly readily decomposed with game grammar:
- Overarching goal: outwit seeker’s hunting algorithm.
- Hider turn: select hiding spot from among available choices. Prep stages include knowing the environment well, having on good shoes and camo clothing, etc.
- Seeker’s turn: run preferred search pattern. This can only result in a win for the seeker, or a “draw” unless played with a time limit.
In the “home base” variant, there is a verb for the hider during the seeker’s run: to run for home. This is a whole new phase in its own right dealing with assessing each other’s speeds, the intervening landscape, the use of stealth or charging for it, etc. And this one has a win condition for the hider with great feedback.