Unintended Consequences

I’m back from my trip, which was great (yay!) but while away I seem to have picked up the worst cold I’ve experienced in quite some time (boo!). It has, however, made me think about unintended consequences.

Expect the Unexpected

A Game Designer is tasked with figuring out the rules to a game (among other things). They have to in a way expect the unexpected-  think about how their rules limit the players’ choices, whether this creates a fun experience and also whether there is some loophole in the rules that players could exploit.

Of course, no one person can predict exactly how a player will act and this can lead to some comic, or potentially disastrous outcomes the designer did not expect.

One of the most famous and potent examples of this occurred back in the halcyon days of 2005 in Blizzard‘s incredibly successful MMORPG World of Warcraft.

The Corrupted Blood Incident

A glitch in the design of one of the then newly added boss’s abilities, Corrupted Blood (an attack which constantly drained the health of players affected by it, and was highly contagious – jumping from player to player), allowed the ability to spread beyond the instance (a dungeon created for a group of players separate from the rest of the game world) into the main world – causing a widespread pandemic that killed thousands of characters in the game’s major cities and severely affected the gameplay of millions of players. Eventually, the game had to be taken down for maintenance and patched. So pronounced was the incident, it proved useful as a case study for modelling real-world pandemic incidents such as Bird-Flu and SARS.

Unintended Awesome

Unintended consequences are not always a bad thing, however. In fact, some games rely on them for their actual gameplay value. Take, for example, Garry’s Mod or Minecraft. A player is set loose in a game world with a unique set of rules and left to create, explore and craft their own gameplay around those rules. Some truly novel gaming experiences can come from manipulating the rules of a game in unintended ways. New gameplay modes have arisen in games, sometimes even being incorporated into the game officially (for example League of Legends official support for A.R.A.M – All Random, All Mid).

While staring out the window on the train journey home, I saw something that sparked a concept for a separate project that could incorporate elements of the system I was working on before I left. I now intend to further explore and flesh out the concept and potentially develop it further. I’ve now got an entirely new project idea from staring out a window. I think it’s pretty crazy just how things can evolve from the unexpected!

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