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Designing Games by Tynan Sylvester

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Chapter 5. Decisions

The brains sat around the dinner table, their moist neocortical folds glistening in the candlelight.

“What about you, Albert?” asked the narrow, gray brain. “What are your tastes these days?”

Albert, a wide, pink brain, quivered. “I like them big, and not too often. I want something that takes time to digest.”

“Pah,” said Isaac, a long, cylindrical brain. “Who wants to chew that long? I prefer a rapid series of tiny pieces. Bite-sized morsels.”

The table exploded in debate—many, few, varied, consistent, big, small—as the waiters served the brains their individually preferred meals.

SEEN AS A WHOLE, an interactive experience is an inscrutable tangle of interactions, thoughts, and emotions. To understand interactivity well enough to craft it, we need to examine the individual units of interactivity. Those units are decisions.

In some games, the decisions are easy to see. In a poker hand, a player must decide whether to fold or call. In Civilization V, the player must decide whether to invade the Babylonians now, or wait another turn. Games like this hand decisions to us, one by one, each a unique and perfectly formed puzzle.

Other games don’t make it so easy. In real-time, multilayered games, decisions flow together like bubbles in a straw. They overlap, merge, and divide in a continuous dance of perception and thought. In StarCraft II, a professional player manages one attack while defending against another, guiding a scout, and growing his economy. In boxing, a fighter ...

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