Cursed Problems in Game Design

In this 2019 GDC session, Riot Games’ Alex Jaffe presents a theory of cursed game design problems and explores the four design paradigms that have helped developers face these problems and survive.

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  • I believe 22:30 is a hard problem because the promise of rewards at specific times and places does not require to play anywhere and any time. In fact quite the opposite. That's what the word specific means. Choose specific locations and times or allow the player to choose them which ensure the player's safety and these two things can be solved together.

    stonium June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • I love how Fromsoft subverts this whole theory by sublining a game: "Prepare to Die Edition." Like, "we don't promise that you'll succeed. If you do, well, good for you I guess, but that wasn't the goal."
    Similar: Dwarf Fortress. Progenitor of the term, "losing is fun!"

    RamadaArtist June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • Cursed problems about Riot balance team.

    ChiKler June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • Okay I gotta disagree with Diablo being a "cursed" problem.
    You have to kinds of players: Player A wants to loot and farm and grind and find awesome stuff. Player B wants to have awesome stuff and loot, but does not want to grind for ages with finding the same thing 20 times and the one they were looking for not a single time. So Player B wants to trade the stuff they'd consider crap and get soemthign they cosider valuable and cool instead. Player A still has the incredible loot experience, Player B can trade. How are these incompatible? Player A isn't forced to use the action house at all, so nobody is taking away the looting-fantasy off Player A at all, they still can grind and farm and loot their way to the desired equipment. don't like the action house, don't use it. Or am I missing a fundamental issue within Diablo here?

    Glaceix June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • that first example perfectly explains why most games these days are trash. seems like 9 out of ten games are just combinations of two or more genres. think of how many developers describe their game as a "(genre x) (genre y) (genre z) game"

    Atomicmonkey June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • It would be so much more interesting if he worked on balance problems for Pokemon games at GameFreak lol

    zztzgza June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • Here's another cursed problem. You don't want politics in your games, but you want to tell Nazis to get the fuck out of your games? That's politics

    GRORIOUS PS5 SSD MASTER RACE June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • What did the Smash Bros designers do to decrease the influence of politics?

    Jeff Zivkovic June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • A riot games game designer mocking 90 day balancing on a shotgun? Ha you've played yourself!

    PS good talk lol

    Claris Richter June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • I wonder what a s'more solution to player abuse would be…4chan?

    Kaif-Tube June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • It's like watching a blind man lecture an audience of art critics on how to paint.

    GRORIOUS PS5 SSD MASTER RACE June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • It really bothers me that his arguments include hiding information and forcing players to play the way you want them to play. This entire talk boils down to two sentences:

    "Want to make a game that is impossible by design? Make a totally different game lol"

    Dathaen June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • Destiny 2 Year 1 suffered from a failed solution to a cursed problem.

    Newchannel haha June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • 19:57
    I don't think I agree with this. World of Warcraft had a pretty good marketplace, with great loot from Dungeons, and they worked together. I suppose it depends on the extent of the amount of unique loot you want to have and how much of it to be viable for trading.

    Chad Vulpes June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • The solution is easy: don't make competative games. All problems come from "payers play game to win". And if you do – forget about "stable, vibrant community", hahaha. It's a competative multiplayer, lol) Players hate each other – and it's fine, it's their choice to play these games

    Артём Лузик June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • I was promised a Skinner box that would deliver a random interval dopamine hit to my brains when I rub this game controller on my face… and an auction house! *uninstalls*

    Space Without Distance June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • market vs loot solved by crafting system with as good as or better products that need monster loot and mining etc to beat the boss drops at least slightly. Augmented reality solved by filters that translate real people and objects into game themed content so you don't ignore them, but interact with from a different perspective. Separate noob town and pro town and put in place restrictions on abuse and safety nets for noobs and little to no skill and level experience gain from low level targets/materials with constant growth available to both noobs and pros through a seemingly excessively large world or universe to play around in. Just don't promise tactics is king by itself while making intense PvE that blends over into PvP seemlessly in a yet again massive world, which also solved the central controller vs interdependence rpg stuff. Basically Virtual Reality RPG with a giant world solved all your issues.

    Randomcity 2 June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • I think on the coop abuse, RPG MMOs handle it well. Guilds can help the social, and yet you work as a team (belonging) to take over land or key things, so high stakes. But in a game that has a short gameplay cycle, it can easily be a problem.

    bluefootedpig June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • Forgive me if I sound clueless, but do people really play coop games to make friends?

    Robert Bloom June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • There are some underlying needs of the Developer(or AAA Publisher) themselves that make these cursed problems.
    1) Devs need the game to be profitable: push for features like online multiplayer interaction, huge player base, casual/low effort appeal and "surprise mechanics".
    2) Devs need to avoid legal backlash for stupid player behavior: remove game features from all players for the reckless actions of a few.
    3) Devs have a vision for how the game SHOULD be played, often related to their public image, even if players find emergent game play loops.

    Disruptive_Innovator June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • Quest marker are stupid. it makes games boring.

    El Calvin June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • Video game philosophy

    Andy June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • Does anyone have a source for Jaffe's comment that "Humans believe a game is fair when they win 70% of the time"?

    Carl Klutzke June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • This truly was one of the best talk I've seen !..
    Actually sad there were not more questions at the end…

    DarkThomy June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • Redefine winning away from 'being the last man standing' and emphasise things like percentage shots on target, add multipliers for 2 people attacking you at once, etc.

    Lizard King June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • A big problem I had listening to the guy was when I heard about him talking about Playstation all-stars. He went into the technical aspect of how he solved an issue, but forgot the core reason we play games – to have fun.

    Like, great suggestion I guess, but like is what you're supposed to suggest gonna make the experience fun in the first place? Something for developers to think about: your attempt at solving a problem and recreating the wheel will just end up giving you squared tires.

    sangminyi93 June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • This guy's metaphor for wandering A desert solving a cursed problem explains Death Stranding better than anything else I have ever heard.

    Josh Forgie June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • Useful tools for verbalizing and thinking about lots of design problems/tensions – thank you. Makes me think of the conflict between the promises of epic drama (and the narrative momentum and pacing that requires) and narrative richness and variety (in the form of side quests that distract from the main story and threaten to break up the pacing in unpredictable ways) in open world games.

    Ilya Zarembsky June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply
  • I just watched the bit about the Commodified Reward Problem, and there's actually an interesting solution to it in Wizard101 of all games. The game has a Bazaar for players to sell items and buy items other players have sold with the prices varying based on the number available, simulating supply and demand. The solution to the problem the game uses is some items can be bought and sold in the Bazaar while other items can't, allowing players to get money for loot they don't need and buy other items other players don't while some of the most noteworthy drops can't be bought there, such as Olympus and Waterworks gear.

    Aikologic June 27, 2020 6:52 am Reply

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