The Coefficient of Clean pt.6
Monday, February 14, 2011 at 10:38PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Clean Design, Mechanics, Super Mario Bros.

To conclude I'll explain why I named this article series The Coefficient of Clean. But first, I'll recap. Interactivity is very important in the video games medium. All interactivity starts on the mechanical level. This includes how player states are designed, what moves cancel into other moves, and whether or not you can perform two or more actions at once. Put mechanics and level design together and the gameplay emerges. Because there can be countless emergent possibilities in a game, it's important for players to receive feedback from the game system to make informed decisions. Whether through sight, sound, or touch the communication channels must remain open and clear. After consider the cleanness of the emergent gameplay, one can consider if the actual challenges and optional content are focused and meaningful. All of these layers determine how clean a game is. 

The coefficient of clean is a phrase that describes the uneven, hierarchical relationship between the elements of design that make up the clean/cluttering emergent result. Basically, it's what I just explained above. To convey exactly how these layers factor together I created the following equation. (The coefficients are F and C).


C*(F*M) - S = clean#



The take away from the math is how important feedback and camera design is to game's cleanness. As a designer, even if you're stuck with some odd, quirky, and somewhat cluttered core mechanics, the main thing to focus on from here is designing the rest of the game to bring out the most of what you have. Also, if you have to alter your design for the sake of cleanness, you should add more arbitrary limitations, which only subtract from the final score, to increase any other variable (especially C and F).


Station 38

I've written about this game before. But I submit it again as an example of a 100% clean game. 

1*(1*1) - 0 = 1



Contrast Station 38 with Super Mario Bros., the game I've investigated in the majority of my game design articles here at Critical-Gaming.   

.9*(.95*.92) - .04 = .7466


It's obvious that it's far easier to make a clean game that has very few gameplay elements and mechanics. Also notice that it's much more difficult for 3D games to be as clean as 2D games because of the nature 3D. Objects further away from the point of view are much more likely to be obscured by closer objects. And with an extra dimension of space, more elements can be positioned together with no overlap. And let's not forget about ba3D.

Keep in mind a game's clean# doesn't indicate how complex a game is. It merely measures how clean the elements are in the emergent whole. The cleanness of a game also doesn't describe how fun, deep, complex, skillful, narratively coherent, or how mature the content is in a game. Cleanness doesn't refer to the aesthetic "business" of the game art. Cleanness starts objectively by considering gameplay mechanics, and the functional focus organizes the entire investigation. So only if the art direction clashes with the visual feedback design would the artistic vision affect cleanness. 

Clutter is something developers can work very hard to prevent. At every turn the smallest design decisions can make a game more cluttered. As you can see from the formula, the cleanness that you start out with (mechanical level) can only be maintained or diminished. Also, the more subjective assessments are subtracted as the final step because this seems to be the best way to approach the evaluation. In other words, after you've measured and thought everything through objectively, the final factor to consider is largely determined by how you feel. 


And I feel like that about cleans up this topic. Expect a few addendums in the future. 

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