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Metrics of Gaming

Game design requires heavy focus on different aspects of the game. The metrics of the design measure the quality of the game. Six Metric categories help break down the construction of the game. These categories are: Input Metrics, Response Metrics, Context Metrics, Polish Metrics, Metaphor Metrics, and Rules Metrics. Here is a closer look at each category.

Input Metrics

Input Metrics measures the actual interaction a player has, with the game. This is measured by the number of buttons, joysticks, and other control options the player has. It is also measured by the motion prospects of each option. How far does the joystick move? What is the range of the cursor or mouse? These are fundamental questions when looking at input metrics.

A common example of this, is in point and click computer games, such as League of Legends. In these games, there are more than twenty (20) input options: number keys (1-7) use items bought, QWE are used for skills, P opens the store, as well as numerous other inputs. The mouse, being the main input, can move as far as the end of the screen. This means that the motion prospect of the mouse is limited to the size of the screen, and the size of the space (mousepad) around the mouse.

Response Metrics

Response Metrics measure how the inputs, and player’s interactions affect the universe, within the game. These measurements are measured with time. How long after the input is triggered, does the game take to respond? How long after the input is released, does the action slow, or halt? What are the effects of each input, and how do they relate to the environment? These measurements are potentially one of the easier measurements to obtain and adjust.

A common example of response metrics is in games with horseback levels. While the player’s character is afoot, moving the joystick forward causes immediate acceleration to a specific speed. Upon releasing the joystick there is a short delay before the character stands idle. However, while riding on horseback there is an extended acceleration period, where the horse will walk, trot, then gallop before reaching the maximum speed. When the joystick is released, the horse will reverse through these steps, going from gallop, to trop, down to a walk, before finally becoming idle. The response times vary, and the horseback rider will often travel further than the avatar on foot, before coming to a stop.

Context Metrics

Context Metrics is the measurement of the environment and how it affects the interaction with the player. From the high-level context, like the speed of a mount, to the low-level context such as a block that can be moved, these affect the rest of the game, and how the player can interact.

A great example of context metrics is the different blocks in Minecraft. Each block can be deconstructed, then reconstructed somewhere else, allowing the player to jump on it. When a block is destroyed near water, or lava, they flow through the rest of the area, changing the environment. Each interaction with the blocks changes the environment and what interactions the player can have from there.

Polish Metrics

Polish Metrics measures the attributes of the game, such as the textures, sizes, animations, and other artistic aspects which change the perceptions of the player during interactions. These perceptions are often relative, meaning there are no specific measurements. Things like blue meaning cold, and red meaning hot, can often change how a player will view and interact with parts of the game.

A different example of this, is in Star Wars: the Old Republic. During most gameplay, the star wars theme, or a variation of easy-going music is playing. However, once a dangerous zone is entered, or the character enters combat, the music changes to a more menacing sound. This change in music creates a new sensation for the player, and changes how they perceive the game’s environment.

Metaphor Metrics

Metaphor Metrics measures the representation of an idea or object, within a game’s environment. What does the player perceive this object as? What attributes would the player expect this object to have, based on those perceptions? These preconceived notions of how an object will behave will have an effect on how the player interacts with them. A bird is expected to spread it’s wings and fly, a bomb is expected to have a loud bang, and bright flash when it explodes. These are realistic expectations, as compared to iconic expectations found in superhero games, or cartoon-based games. In these scenarios the player might expect a less realistic effect, but will still have some kind of notion, as to how that environment will behave.

A general example of this, is in Legend of Zelda games. When walking along a wall, and there is a slight crack, or discoloring of the wall, the player will immediately perceive something behind the wall, such as treasure or a secret entrance. That wall is expected to be destructible, unlike the other sections of the wall, throughout that scene. There are not many games that do not rely heavily on these preconceived ideas and inceptions.

Rules Metrics

Rules Metrics measure the general mechanics within a game. Ranging from high to low, much like the context metrics, these define the goals set in place, providing incentives for the player to keep going. High-level rules are the primary objective goals, killing the boss or destroying a specified structure such as a castle. Mid-level rules are based around in-game objectives, which provide instant rewards, pushing towards the main goal. These can be taking or building outposts or finding a key in a dungeon. Low-level rules are general attributes of individual objects. The health of an enemy soldier or the cost of an upgrade to the character’s damage.

A detailed example, of these rules, can be found in Heroes of the Storm. Each map has the same high-level rule, to take out the enemy’s core (base). The mid-level rules will vary based on each map, whether it’s turning in gems, to grant powerful mercenaries, or taking over objectives that damage the enemy’s towers and gates. Low-level rules will vary with each hero, as certain talents will provide quests for damaging or killing enemy heroes to gain bonuses. The balance with these rules provides incentives each match. The low-level rules provide an advantage when fighting for the mid-level rules, which provide an advantage towards the high-level rules.

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