How Hard is Too Hard & Other Game Design Choices

This week has been devoted to testing, documenting and debugging the first four levels of Fish Lake. After that, I will get in to adding more to both the beginning levels and the next two levels.
Here is my Snakedilemma of the day  – as any good game, the levels get harder as you go up. So, going down the path and back in Level 1, you have to avoid the snakes that have been driven out of their holes by the storm.

Level 2 is MUCH harder. I died 7 times. Now, I am 55 years old and the kids playing this will be, on the average, from 10-12 years old. On the other hand, I really suck at playing games – designing and making them, not so much.  Taken together, I may be a good simulation of the average child playing our game.

The question this poses is – is the game too hard? On the one hand, I got frustrated and was tempted to give up. On the other hand, when I finally got through that part of the level, I felt that I had accomplished something.

So, I think I will leave it as is on the difficulty aspect, but change a few other things. Since it will take probably a few tries and a while to get through this level, I’m going to add a couple more math problems. I look at the math sort of like commercials – too many and you quit watching the show. Too few, and it’s not paying for itself.

I know other people say that we should be teaching intrinsic love of mathematics and it’s really bad to use extrinsic reinforcers, etc. etc. It always struck me as odd that the people saying that invariably are working at jobs for which they are extrinsically reinforced by a paycheck.

math book

I love math but not everyone does. Even brilliant people who could master math with some effort often choose to do something else. Three of my daughters are cases in point. I disagree that “If we just showed people the beauty of X they would love it.” People have different interests and sometimes you have to entice them to do what they are not interested in doing at the moment. On the other hand, whether forced to  do it or not, if people do more of anything – math, running, flower arranging – they will get better at it, and because it is less effort, be less resistant to doing it. After a while, who knows, they may even come to like it better.

Because getting down the  trail is likely to result in your death a few times, we want to have dying at different points have different effects.

Thanks to one of my twitter followers who is a zookeeper (how random is that?), I know that only one variety of snakes depicted in our game is venomous. I can easily make (as in, have someone else make) a movie that shows something about snakes and then ends with a question about what fraction of the snakes are venomous. (The same follower also pointed out to me the distinction between venomous and poisonous, that I believe would be good to include in the video.) We can have this movie triggered as an Easter egg one of the times they die, depending on where on the trail it is.

If they die at another juncture, they will see a movie, that also needs to be made still, on a legend involving snakes, a baby and a medicine man.

Yes, this is what I do for a living as a grown-up. Pretty awesome, no?



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