GDC 2014

GDC 2014 Session Scheduler

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Make Things Worse: Enabling Setbacks for Consequential Play

Patrick Redding  |  Creative Director, .

Location: Room 2016, West Hall

Format: Session
Track: Design
Vault Recording: Video

At runtime, the player and game form a complex system that is resilient to severe shocks. When shocks happen, a mechanically deeper game will afford the player more ways to recover. Ubisoft's Patrick Redding argues that for a game experience to be meaningful, players should suffer occasional setbacks - situations in which the game requires them to shift their immediate goal in order to continue and succeed. In this session, Redding (Far Cry 2, Splinter Cell Blacklist) explores the conditions that permit setbacks to develop systemically and examines several design strategies that encourage them without provoking players into reloading a saved game. Redding looks at the unique challenge of fostering recoverable setbacks in stealth games, which at their best lets players play a tense cat-and-mouse game with a formidable AI; but which at their worst can degenerate into brittle guesswork with little room for experimentation or error.


Attendees will understand how to visualize their game as a succession of discrete player goals, and recognize jumps between goals that are severe enough to yield setbacks. The audience will become familiar with ten game dynamics that encourage recoverable setbacks and three that inhibit them.

Intended Audience

This session is a non-technical design talk, and will be primarily of interest to design leads who are responsible for defining the core player experience of their games. It will likely resonate with developers working in mainstream genres, but the topic is relevant to all games.