Cyberdear ULin’s view: Enrich possibilities carried by gaming mechanism
I disagree with BBKinG’s “subtraction theory”, because pure simplification of gaming mechanism in an attempt to please every player will end up with no pleased players. Just check and see how disgusting the botting system of home-made online games is.
The most important thing for a longlasting game is various possibilities carried by the game itself. Such possibilities come from variable room reserved by game developer and should be discovered by players themselves through reasonable gaming mechanism instead of disclosed in writing by game developer.
The most typical case is Go. As one of the oldest board games, Go has unlimited possibilities though its mechanism looks simple and reasonable. So far for most board games, top human players cannot beat top computer players, but for Go, the best computer player can only reach the amateur 4th-dan rank (A cyberdear told me this). This is the power of infinite possibilities.
Likewise, let’s take a look at Minecraft. Although this game is designed with unbelievably lousy graphics and hard-to-remember numerous crafting formulas, it has successfully gained its worldwide popularity. Many players are crazy about it every day thanks to its rich possibilities.
Many other games tried to duplicate such possibilities by inserting more playable elements, such as mounts, pets, gear upgrader, wedding system, stock market and farm. It eventually turned out that they were nothing but awful designs. Arbitrary addition of such elements simply narrowed down the variable room for players.
So was DotA a complex game in those days? Absolutely! A freshman player had to invest considerable time and efforts in studying the DotA map and other maps of Warcraft 3 if he did this on his own. In spite of this, DotA still won the favor of countless players thanks in large part to its flexible designs of heroes, gears, forests and even bugs from which players can discover infinite possibilities. LOL as the latest craze, on the other hand, might be much more interesting if the roles of its champions and the uses of gears are not defined so clearly in addition to already lowered gaming threshold.
Moreover, I personally think that there is no positive connection either between game complexity and playability, or between successful game and number of players. In the modern world, a game is not only a commercial product, but also a combination of various arts, sciences, technologies and businesses. This is pretty much like movies. We can neither assert that some movies are trash just because of their narrow audience, nor think that some popcorn movies have high artistic value due to their stunning box offices.
In simple terms,
Complex gaming mechanism + Poor possibilities = Boring
Simple gaming mechanism + Poor possibilities = Mindless
Complex gaming mechanism + Rich possibilities = High-end
Simple gaming mechanism + Rich possibilities = Popular