I recently came across this hilarious series of entries at PC Gamer, describing how someone was going to play through Skyrim using nothing but illusion magic (meaning that the player could not directly cause damage to anyone in the game – including punching people). I’ve heard of similar things happening – like the guy that played through all of Deus Ex without killing anyone. Somehow, I get the feeling that the designers of these games had no idea that people would try such things.
I really do think that unintended or unexpected gameplay is the sign of the signs of a great game. There’s something to be said about it, when the players have fun with it. Isn’t that the goal of a game – to have fun?
I really haven’t done much of my own game development, but I image the process goes something like this:
- Create a set of objects (including the game world and the player)
- Set up rules that determine the behavior of each object.
- Set up rules that define interactions between objects.
- Set up any other explicit rules for how particular interactions should occur.
- Establish gameplay by putting some sort of limit or goal when particular things happen.
Things get interesting when the interactions between objects are defined. The more general the behavior and interactions, the more interesting things can become. That’s where emergent gameplay seems to come from – unexpected interactions that weren’t explicitly defined by the game designers. It just tickles me pink when I hear of stories like the one from PC Gamer when things like that happen. It shows that even designers can’t plan for everything.