When designing our game experience, we always keep in mind the flow. We want people as immersed in the game as possible. Here are some tips for designing games that flow:
Limit the amount of information displayed at any one time. Psychologists have proven that your mind can only focus on a certain number of things at a time. In the game, limit the number of things that the player has to pay attention to. Have your player focus most of their attention on the core gameplay, each bit of distraction takes away from that immersion factor.
Unless your game is all about UI’s…Consider that the more players spend on your UI, the less they are playing your game. Forcing a UI on the player during the game interrupts the flow of the gameplay.
To achieve a flow state, players must understand what their goal is. Avoid situations where the player asks themselves “What am I supposed to do now?”. Don’t change things at random and expect players to pick up on it.
Make mechanics obvious and let the player discover them in a controlled way. If a player is doing something wrong, let them discover it early and don’t punish them mercilessly for not getting it right the first time.
How the player perceives their own skill level compared to how they perceive the difficulty of the game will influence the overall state of flow. You want to prevent anxiety where the challenge level too high in comparison to perceived skill level. You also want to prevent boredom where the skill level exceeds the challenge level.
This is the most important tip to consider. I see a lot of games that are not challenging enough, they get boring quickly. If possible, dynamic difficulty adjustment can help the situation. Hearthstone’s ranking system helps by constantly adjusting the player’s competition based on their skill level.
Understand what kind of player you are making the game for. It is design fact that you cannot please everyone, so it is better to focus on a pleasing a subset. Are you making your game for technology-native gamers or for soccer moms who only know how to play angry birds? The relative difficulty of your game should depend on the audience your striving to please. Some types of games appeal to a wider audience which can make balancing more difficult.
Now that you’ve selected an audience, test your game on them! Let them play and don’t interfere by telling them what to do. Try to discover problem areas as they arise organically. If they ask you questions, don’t just give them the answer – ask them “what do you think?”. Observe body language and signs of frustration or boredom. Let them lead you, don’t lead them. Its OK to ask them what kinds of games they usually spend the most time in, to help gauge how experienced of a gamer they are.
Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost. —Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi