Game Control Design
There are other things to consider regarding playability. For example, in Teardrop Explodes, I tried to create the hi-score table so that players would find it fairly easy to get their name in lights. On the other hand, I made it quite hard, but certainly possible, to beat the highest score. You should also save the table, as this gives players something to beat after they have completed the game.
Saving the game's configuration data is also advisable. The player should have to monitor brightness levels only once, for example.
A recurring trend in games is to use cut-scenes to further the story line. If you use them, try to keep them fairly short and allow them to be skipped through as well. The same goes for the “Game Over” sequence, where the player will (hopefully) be eager to have another try at your game. Also, if you have a “lives” system, don't take too long in restarting the game. If you do, the player might get frustrated and just switch off.
As for game completion, you should offer something that rewards the player directly for how much effort he has put into the play. Someone who spends three months of his life trying to finish your game will want something fairly substantial. If it takes 30 minutes, on the other hand, a single static screen would suffice.
Again, I'm not claiming that following these tips will make your game a block buster. Guidelines such as these are purely optional; if you disagree with anything, feel free to do it your way. Incidentally, the quote at the start of this article is by a Scottish sweet-maker and appears on the back of his company's wrappers. I include it because I think the quote can be applied equally to games, particularly in these days of eye candy over content. I wish you luck with your projects, and I look forward to seeing a flurry of games activity on the Linux scene.
Dave Thomson is close to graduating with a CS degree from Heriot-Watt University, in the UK. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for heated debate on the virtues of almost anything and, in particular, games.
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