The Structure Objective -> Challenge -> Reward is the basic structure of a video game. This structure creates fun and therefore interest in the game. It is also called « Gameplay Loop ».
For example, an effort providing not giving reward is very frustrating for most players. But the opposite also works : getting an effortless reward (challenge) gives an impression of non-legitimacy as well as a decline in value of it. This frustrates the player who has not had that sense of legitimacy for that reward.
The Gameplay loop applies to all levels of the game:
- The micro level loop: the smallest loop that represents a few seconds (for example, overtaking a competitor in a racing game, or succeeding in pressing a key in the context of a QTE ),
- The mid level loop: This is the loop that includes a mission (a chapter) of the game (for example, finish in 1st position in a racing game, or finish a level to reach the next one in a platform / reflection game),
- And the macro level loop : it is the loop that encompasses the game's scenario and is composed of several mid level loops (an example of a macro loop would be to finish all levels of a game, or to reach its « end game »).
The objective is the starting point of our structure model. This objective must be clearly understood by the player. Several methods can be implemented to give this objective: directly, induced by the structure of the game (to finish a level, a race, ...) or by a playful mechanism (to overtake an opponent in order to move up in the ranking).
The objective can be of different natures, some examples:
- Go to the end of the level, for platform games,
- Solve a riddle, for logic / reflection games,
- Overcome a horde/wave enemy, for several types of game,
- Execute a combination of keys without faults (QTE, combos, ...),
The objectives can be governed by the scenario (to perform a mission), the logical sequence of the game (to perform secondary missions which can help for the rest of the game), simple and native actions (to move his character in a specific place), or the player himself (unlock the success of the game or the mission while it does not affect the continuation of the game), ...
The challenge involves different game mechanics and skills, so the difficulty of the challenge must be adapted in order to be achievable but not too simple to complete in order not to lose the interest of the reward as seen above in the introduction.
It is necessary to take into account the evolution of the skills of the player facing the game and thus create a correct difficulty curve in order not to annoy the player.
In modern games, they are not extreme difficulty challenges, it is due to other skills required of the player. He will have to demonstrate curiosity and patience that will offer him an understanding of the world and some visual effects as rewards.
It is linked to the fulfillment of a challenge and must follow the previously established difficulty curve. Indeed, the same reward will not be given for the first mission and the last one.
The rewards can be different for mid and macro loops: features, skills, character reinforcements, new content (game mode, difficulty level, new missions, ...) for Gameplay rewards, but it can also be in the background (character details, new story about the environment, cinematics) or "goodies" (character suit, vehicle skin, various customizations not impacting the gameplay). The choices of these rewards will be defined by the type of the game and especially by the type of player targeted (some will play for the game history and others for the game itself).
The rewards for the micro loop can be feedbacks that make all interactions with the game satisfactory and comprehensible. These feedbacks can take the form of sounds, texts, particles, graphical alterations, animations,. . . They are often immediate and proportional to an action and will not be of the same nature for different actions. For example, XP gain following enemy(ies) elimination will be given as text and potentially sound, while the death of your character would be a graphical alteration (darkening, changing the camera location, ...) and a change in sound environment.
The OCR structure, governs the dynamism of the game on different play levels but, another similar structure exists, the CPR structure (Challenge, Process, Result) where the processes represent the possible interactions and, the result is similar to the reward.
As seen above, this structure is therefore universal, except for some types of recent games: the type Sandbox (or open world). This type of game does not escape this structure but, it is an exception in the sense that it is the player who imposes itself this structure. Other types of game still deviate from this universal model : for example the MMOs that nest the gameplay loops, one can obtain a level, the discovery of regions, armor,. . . All these loops simultaneously and each having its own micro loops nested in each of the middle loops, I let you do the math...
QTE (Quick Time Event): present in the video game, it is an element of Gameplay and is a contextual action type consisting of the execution of the indications displayed on the screen (often a series of keys) in a given time, which determines a pre-calculated issue.
Feedback: This is a kind of visual, textual feedback, which indicates whether or not a user action has been successful in the video game.
End-game: This is the end of the game determined by the player himself and not by the developers themselves. For example, a platform game can be finished by completing each level one by one (end-game player) or by completing each level and having picked up each time a special piece in each of the levels (end-game of the game).