The gameplay are the actual things you have to do in the game to complete it. Gameplay is also what is optionally available in the game. It’s what makes the game fun. It can also be your skill, or that of your character. Gameplay goes hand in hand with the story. You will need gameplay to progress in the story, or to find more out about the backgrounds of the story.
Gameplay is also the mechanics. What you can or cannot do in a game. In what way you can do things and what it can cause.
Graphics are important in a game, but not as important as the gameplay. You can have the most beautiful graphics, whether that means photorealistic or cartoonish, but when there is no good gameplay, that game will eventually fail to keep a player playing.
So gameplay is basicly that what keeps a player playing the game. Gameplay is all the activities in the game. For example being able to find trivial story information throughout the game world. How deep and how much a player can explore in a game world is definitely a good example of gameplay.
For a music game the gameplay could mean that you need to sing and get the highest score in that by hitting the right tones, for a guitar game it means hitting the right buttons and swiping the string on the right moment.
When a game fails on for example the controls to do these actions, players will be losing interest in playing the game.
What seems to work on the gameplay and gamedesign side of things are:
– Exploration of the game world
– Trading (mainly MMO’s)
– Karma / alliance / factions that give advantages
– Secrets / stashes
– Easter Eggs
Exploration of the game world
There are games that show you only certain areas that have been photographed or made accessible and there are the type of games that let you roam freely. Which one would you prefer? Most players like the freedom of going there where they would like to go. Limitations are a big no-no.
Crafting is huge among gamers. This happens in both online and offline games much. How deep you can go on crafting can make the game better. But.. go too deep and you might only reach a certain specific group of players that is interested in that, so there are limits aswell.
Players love to upgrade their gear, some even do it for only their (characters’) looks! Upgrading items could be part of a reward of a quest, come out of something you buy, or a product from crafting. In some MMO’s items became a main goal of the game. Constantly finding better items, comparing the statistics of these items and combining the right type for a specific type of goal. But there’s also the type of player that just wants to look cool (avatars’ looks). Or plain hidious – like a clown for the fun of it.
This applies mostly on MMO games. But trading is nearly a game on itself, just as it is in the real world. People love to make money, whether that is to buy more upgrades, to get rich or to get a certain amount of fame. Trading in RPG’s could mean that you get a better standing with an NPC.
Not really applicable on all games ofcourse, but there are still a lot of platformer fans out there. It was where gaming started afterall, well after Tetris and Pacman at least. Previously we were talking here about side scrolling platforming games where a player requires a playing skill to jump from one platform to the other to continue. After that it became also 3D on Nintendo GameCube, Wii and also in some other games for Xbox and PS3 / PC. Nowadays platforming makes an entrance to MMO’s and RPG’s aswell. They become part of the exploring, for the secrets or stashes on difficult to reach places.
Karma / Alliances / factions / standing
All above terms are practically the same. What it all comes down to is that you could for example have a good standing or karma with an NPC trader, which in turn gives you cheaper prices on goods you want to buy. Another example has to do with being good or evil. Being evil (bad karma) could mean you will get captured if you show yourself in daylight in a city. You maybe will have to hide in the shadows or you can increase your bad karma by stealing. It could on itself give you better prices on the black market or rogues guild. Factions is also used for getting specific items, abilities, trades or can just be part of a battle system. It’s a populair system by gamers and also by game developers. It’s used by both online and offline games. It’s not only cool to have in a game, it also gives a little more depth to your game world. It feels like a realistic advantage/disadvantage. In real life you also have to be careful to obey the law and by being nice you can also get cheaper deals.
Secrets and Stashes or Chests
These are combined with either platforming skills or physics gives the player an extra achievement and reward. For figuring out something in a puzzle form or by letting the player do something a certain amount of times, you can reward them with a stash or a secret reward. Even if your game doesn’t have it, gamers are always looking for it. So take the chance and take this info with for your next title!
Perhaps one that is less important for a game. Easter eggs just add an extra laugh or the extra reference to a popular topic or real life event / movie / book. You can be sure that people are always looking for this in a game. Whether its an online game or an offline game. Players just look for things they can do that might be not meant for it, but might actually show something hidden (secrets also here part again, rewards would be nice here too). Otherwise easter eggs often refer to previous games created or can be part of the world storyline of the game.
I left the most important one as last topic in this article. Physics is something that needs to be programmed in the game as a mechanic. Also here it can go very deep and advanced, or one can keep it very simple.
For example, the speed in which you can move around in the game, whether you apply buffs that make you go faster, or whether your character hops on an object that makes the character move faster, all options; Traveling in general. This also includes travel speed in water, or getting taken away by a water stream (Minecraft for example, or Sonic or Mario). These act as a difficulty of skill for the game. But there are also the type that makes it possible to move on, to unlock secrets, doors and gates, to gain access to new pathways and the like. This could simply be a key that opens a door or the more advanced ways where you can chop a tree to make a new bridge.
When we take weather in consideration, it will enable for several new mechanics such as objects being transported by wind or clothing getting heavier in rain, characters freezing in the snow, ice melting in the sun. Or you could have mechanics or objects in the game that allow for having an influence on the weather.. or in the more simple version: create temporary effects such as wind blowing you upwards on areas you normally can’t get.
It can also be the realism of backfiring weapons or the bounce effect of objects thrown (velocity, degree).
There are so many things you can do with physics that would make a game interesting and trivial to play. I believe that physics is the most important gameplay element, but ofcourse you will need to make use of the other gameplay elements aswell to create a very diverse game that players want to keep playing and exploring.
I’m currently wondering if this article is missing anything. It might therefore be edited at a later point. Feel free to comment on this article with your suggestions.