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  • Application of SRK Framework to Game Mechanics

    [06.17.10]
    - Paul Goodman

  • Limitations

    As potentially useful as SRK Framework may be to categorization and modification of game mechanics, however, it is not without several limitations that affect its use. Since SRK Framework was not developed with the manner in which the game industry produces games, several points need to be considered in its use.

    Primarily, SRK framework is more efficient at identifying where mistakes and problems are occurring in a system or environment that has previously been established. The studies previously conducted by Hobbs and Williamson (2002), and Saurin et al. (2008) have all used SRK framework in their studies to retroactively determine areas in which improvements could be made to increase human efficiency or reduce human errors, but in the context of examining procedures and methods already in place. SRK Framework is less efficient at proactively finding issues or areas where mistakes will be made.

    In the design and modification of game mechanics, SRK Framework would be limited to the window of time during a game's production rather than after the game has been completed and its mechanics finalized. Post-release adjustments made to a game's mechanics run the risk of causing confusion or frustration in the player; switching the primary mechanics of a large scale game such as Fallout 3 may even go so far as to 'break' the game and lead to players dropping their interest.

    Within the constraints of a game's production cycle, specifically the pre-production and quality assurance phases, SRK framework would be best applicable to assist in assessing game mechanics. As it's more efficient in retroactively finding issues then proactively, SRK Framework can be used to review the first iterations or prototypes of a game mechanic or feature to point out errors or potential problem areas to address with later iterations. Once the mechanics progress beyond the drawing board, however, SRK Framework isn't applicable until actual implementation testing of game mechanics involving players using the game. During play-testing, SRK Framework can be brought back in to develop observational and interview methods (Not unlike the study conducted by Hobbs and Williamson (2002)) to assess player interaction with the game and its mechanics.

    Conclusion

    To summarize, SRK framework, as a method of measuring human cognitive behavior and determining errors, has been of benefit to other industries present today in finding problem areas affecting performance. Many current industries have used it to assess their processes and procedures in an effort to reduce the possibilities of human errors, as well as increase efficiency.

    In its application to game design, SRK Framework can be used by designers to develop and modify game mechanics to best fit the types of cognitive behavior the player would engage in when using those mechanisms in a game. In adjusting game mechanics using SRK, it may provide solutions to the common issues of player boredom and frustration through categorization of how individuals complete tasks. It may also provide information on how to best adjust a game mechanic's difficulty, so that it remains within the boundaries of being understandable, but not too easy to grasp so as to lead to player boredom, and challenging, but not so difficult so as to lead to player frustration.

    For more research into the applications of SRK Framework to game design, a more solidified and formal definition of what game mechanics are will be required. In addition, a detailed and formal categorization of the differing types of game mechanics will assist designers in using SRK Framework to assess the functions of a game's mechanisms in comparison to the differing levels of human cognitive as well as ensuring their patterns are being effectively communicated to their players.

    You can contact the author of this piece at [email protected].  

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    Acknowledgements

    I'd like to thank my thesis committee; Malyn Segarra, Shawn Stafford, and Adams Greenwood-Erickson, for all of their help and assistance with writing and editing this paper.

     

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