Super Meat Boy the use of Flow and Low Entry Barriers
Flow as described by (Csikzentmihalyi, 1990) is the idea of a state where nothing else but the current goal or game is important or noticed and could be considered a golden state for the player in games design.
A Low Entry Barrier (L.E.B) is a term used in games design that allows for players from a wide range of experiences to be able to easily pick up and play a game without having to go through a large expansive tutorial or have prior knowledge before being able to play the game in question.
Aesthetics (Schell, 2008) are often used to support Flow within a game to easily draw player’s into the world as well as to help give support to the Mechanics and rules within the game world.
This Analysis Will Cover the application of Flow (Schell, 2008, Csikzentmihalyi, 1990 ) and Low Entry barriers and how these are combined within Super Meat Boy to create a fun and entertaining experience for a wide audience of players varying from introductory level to veteran level.
Super Meat Boy is to be considered immensely successful amongst its peers and it can be assumed that it has been largely because of its relatively simplistic mechanics and rules, As well as providing the player with a basic objective that follows through in every level “finish the level by getting to the girl”, the games core controls are very basic as you’re only given control of the character by use of W,A,S,D, shift for sprint and spacebar for jump allowing the player to navigate each level’s gamespace in a seemingly fast and stylized manner, all of this is used to perpetuate the feeling of Flow.
For Super Meat boy to be able to successfully immerse the player into the gameworld to the point of achieving Flow it uses a mixture of Aesthetics and Mechanics, Aesthetically the game has been designed using a grid system for level design (as well as graphical design) which in turn then allows the player to visually break the game apart into smaller more manageable chunks, which can make the game more mechanically easy to play for Low Entry players, while still keeping a high level of entertainment.
Aesthetically speaking the game has three main characters the Protagonist Super Meat Boy, the Antagonist Dr. Fetus and Bandage Girl, the story revolves around Super Meat boy attempting to save his girlfriend Bandage Girl while Dr. Fetus continues to kidnap Bandage Girl, although a very simple story this can be considered adequate as the game is centered mainly around Flow and uses the story as a simple progression method between level’s and chapters..
To Conclude Super Meat boy has successfully used it’s Mechanics, Rules and Aesthetics with the aid of Flow and Low entry barriers to create to a massively popular game which is accessible by a wide audience.
McMillen, E. Refenes, T. (2010). Super Meat Boy [Computer Game].Asheville: Team Meat.
Schell, J. (2008).Jesse Schell The Art of Game Design. Burlington: Morgan Kaufman Publishers.
Fullerton, T. & Swain, S. & Hoffman, S.S.H (2008) Tracy Fullerton Game Design 2nd Edition. Burlington: Morgan Kaufman Publishers.
This paper on Star Control 2 will be focusing mainly on the sub game systems, rules and mechanics inside the main game and how many (not all) work together to make a consistently fun game all the way to the end, you can skip this first page if you only want to read about the sub game as this is just talking about the ordered world mechanic of the game and also the rule system for using Quasi-space compared to Hyper Space.
When the player first enters the game they will be “welcomed” to an Ordered world were the Ur Quan are the dominant force keeping order in the universe, Over the course of the game the player will play as a Chaotic Force and fly around the system’s shifting the balance of the ordered world from the Ur Quan’s version of an ordered world to the player’s version of an ordered world, for a more simple version think of it like this (See below).
Ur Quan Ordered World -> Player enters as a Chaotic Force -> End Game Player Ordered World
To do this the Player is given a series of rules and want tokens there are to be considered three major want tokens which are needed to complete the game and the rest of the tokens/rules are considered advisory were by getting them it makes getting the three major Tokens easier to obtain.
The win condition for the entire game is to Collect the taloo shield and the utwig bomb then use them against the Ur Quan ship, without this the game is not completable.
For Example when you are flying through the universe you will most likely encounter a race of people called the Arilou who send you on an advisory rule (side quest) to get a token which allows you to enter Quasi-space, Quasi-Space is a is a hub and spoke system for Hyperspace (such as how Hyperspace is a hub and spoke system for Planet Hubs) which allows you to jump to distance parts of the universe in exchange for an incredibly small amount of fuel, this makes it feel like a Major want token but is not considered one as it is not vital to the Rules for finishing the game, For a simple version see below.
Overall I perceive this to be one of the three major want tokens as it significantly decreases the length of the game and also make’s traveling safer.
The game will now be broken down into its sub games before continuing on, all sub games will be listed below and will provide reference’s to them later, there will be one list this list contains every sub game that was found (This is an unordered List) but will be explained as to how they work together later on.
HyperSpace and Planet Hub
Within Hyperspace and Planet Hubs you will come across want and repulsive tokens but before you discover wether or not they are in fact a want or repulsive token they are first considered a risk versus Reward in the fact that you don’t know if they’re against you or not, For example the the image to the right in hyperspace, that black dot on my radar (bottom right) could be an enemy or it coud be a Melnorme trader wishing to sell me thing’s, so in this way it is considered a risk versus reward until it make’s contact with you.
Quasi-Space,Star Map,Hyper-Space and Planet Hub.
These four sub games have been fitted together as they work in conjuction with each other ( but there is a secondary paragraph below this one to help explain parts of hyperspace and the planet hub more), over all these four sub games serve as navigation games which work on a hub and spoke system,the star map serves as a hub and spoke for Quasi and Hyper Space while Quasi Space works as a hub and spoke for hyperspace and finally hyper space serves as a hub and spoke system for the planet Hub.
As you can see from the image above the star map can interact with the Quasi space and Hyper space, then Hyper space can finally be used to interact with the Planet Hub, Once you’re at the planet hub sub game you will then be able to interact with the planet scanning and planet scavenging game (which will be talked about later in another paragraph).
Within all of these sub games you are able to tell the game to automatically fly you to the system you need to go to which works like a steiner tree flying you to it via the shortest route possible, but this is a risk versus reward system as you may fly straight through enemy territory to save fuel and probably get blown up, Or you can plot your own course around enemy territory and significantly lessen the risk factor, but this will also cost more fuel.
As a rule you need fuel to move the ship so potentially you can run out of fuel before reaching your destination.
In this example i have taken a small piece of the star map and drawn a steiner tree on it, from this the player need’s to work out for themselves which is the safest and most fuel efficient way to get from point A to point B, Point A can be any gree dot and point B can be any blue dot.
This can now be percieved as a puzzle as the player now needs to get to the blue don’t from the green dot while also avoiding the enemies, that and also the player need’s to take into account fuel aswell.
The orange line is the optimum route.
The space combat game can be activated within any part of the game except quasi space, planet scanning and planet scavenging.
Before entering space combat you will be shown a screen of how many enemies ships there are and what type they are, this allows you to choose ships accordingly, personal study has shown that the combat works on a Triangularity (self-Balancing relationship) system, for example think of the game Tom Clancy’s End war which works on a scissors paper rock mechanic were tanks always beat APC’s and APC’s always beat helicopter’s and lastly helicopters always beat tanks, however the mechanics of the game also apply Plastic Symmetry for an example see below.
A Khor-Ah dreadnought will almost always be beaten by a Pkunk ship as it is faster and thus can dodge almost all of the lumbering dreadnought’s attacks
Then again this could just be considered an advisory rule but by reading several walkthrough’s this appears to be the dominant strategy to defeating this ship, however later on in the game you are able to unlock “over powered” weaponry for your flagship which dramatically changes the balance of all space combat to your favor (in most cases you are now able to wipe of most enemies in 2 shots or less).
Planet scanning would have to be considered one of the major sub games, as it is necessary to completing the game (without it you won’t get very far), Planet scanning can be considered the main way of discovering RU (Resource Units) within the game, RU is used for purchasing almost everything in the game (except for credits but these will be talked about in Planet Scavenging), Ultimately all planet scanning allows you to do is scan a planet’s surface for Resources, Energy and Biological life forms.
From this image you can see that the planet scanned is called a ruby world, ruby worlds and all other planets can be considered advisory rule’s because they give massive resource benefits ( Please also note in the bottom of the image the purple dot’s and their different size )but may be dangerous to land on.
You can also use the image of the planet to plot the optimum course (Steiner tree) to take the lander for maximum reward out of risk.
Once you have found an acceptable world in the planet scanning sub game you will then have to option to “dispatch” a ship to the planet’s surface were you can then fly around on the ground and collect Resources, Energy, and Biological Life forms, For this section it will be broken down into three components Resources, Energy, and Biological Life forms, but first you need to know about the repulsive tokens.
Sometimes when you scan a planet you will discover that it has class eight weather and class eight tectonics, this is ultimately considered the difficulty scale for a world, the higher the number the higher the difficulty (ergo the higher the difficulty the more dangerous it is going to be to get the resources from that planet, also that more dangerous planets have rarer resources ), this can be considered a major repulsive token and may persuade players with only one or two landers to avoid them at all costs, however successfully completing a lander mission could leave you rich.
Finding a planet with biological life forms on it means that you can then collect data on them, this is done by shooting them and picking up their remains, coincidentally collecting the remains fills up your data meter (the blue bar on the bottom right), this at early stage’s is very easy but soon becomes much harder as the life form’s will start chasing you and try to destroy your lander and the rule with the lander is that if it has no people then it can’t exists, so it blows up and you lose a lander, this is one of the major repulsive tokens of planet scavenging along with the classing system (explained in above paragraph).
Also this sub game also incorporates a mineral bar which when falls implements and advisory rule that makes you want to leave because if you blow up you lose all the minerals and driving around on a planet with a full cargo bay is a risk versus reward system but without the reward.
Lastly collecting data allows you to trade it for Credit’s (see Sales Vendor).
The Dialogue tree is used to advance the story of the game and nothing else by giving you three or four text option’s to pick from, the obvious rule in the Dialogue system is that you must pick one of the options to continue or else you are stuck there.
In some cases the Dialogue tree becomes a Local Sinks were the conversation can loop if you choose the right dialogue options.
Within the Ship Yard you are able to sell and buy various pieces of your ship some of these being modules, Landers, Thrusters and turning thrusters, this sub game really only contains two distinct rule’s, One you can only purchase something if you have RU of equal or greater value and Two you can only fit something to its designated area. The ship Yard is also used to purchase more fuel. From my own research this is called a set packing problem.
Out Fit Ship
From the outfit ship sub game you are able to buy crew and ships, within this menu your rules are that you cannot purchase anything that you cannot afford and that you cannot purchase more than 12 ships at a time, know this what you can try to do is remove all the crew from each ship except for one, but this is a risk versus reward system as with only 1 crew member in each ship it then make’s each ship very easy to destroy but the reward is that you can save a lot of money.
The last sub game you have is the sales vendor, the sales vendor can be used to purchase “over powered” weaponry and upgrades for your lander, the catch is that the sales vendor will only accept credits not RU, making this a rule that if you do not have credits he will not talk to you about the item’s
Getting the sale’s vendor is a major advisory rule as he, like Quasi-space make’s the game significantly easier to complete.
Lastly he will sell fuel to you in exchange for credits which you can then sell for 20 RU per piece, some may perceive this so be very over powered but in actual fact it even’s itself out as buying thing’s from the sale’s vendor is usually quit expensive.