So I finally got around to watching the trailers for Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3. Just about everyone who has played RTS games since the genre's earliest days knows that Red Alert is one of the gems in the RTS crown, so hopes are high for any game that seeks to recapture that experience.
In RA3 (gamers love acronyms, right?), the graphical quality and visual detail are very impressive, the story sounds intriguing, and the scale of combat seems right for a Red Alert game. But you know what really grabbed me in the trailers?
That classic Red Alert music! Heavy metal guitar mixed with marching orders and a touch of techno. Oh yes. It's time to rock!
Music, more than any other artform, acts as inspiration. And inspiration is vital to any player experience. It's not enough to provide goals and some challenges to overcome.
It basically boils down to this: human beings are not defined merely by logic, by our capacity for reasoning. Emotion is every bit as vital to our being, and the purpose of emotion is to motivate. Every one of us sometimes fails to act in accordance with our own reasoning, and that is because logic is simply not enough.
Great music inspires. Wondrous and beautiful visions inspire. Deep and larger-than-life characters inspire.
Mathematical formulations fail to produce great works of art because art is math yet it is more than math... just as humans are logical, but we are more than logic. Calculations are often accurate, but they are not enough. A good game designer studies the science behind the systems, he pays attention to demographics and other statistical feedback, but he also steps back from all the numbers and the figures to look at his work with a child's eyes and a loving heart. He takes a moment to regain that child-like sense of wonder and asks simply, "Now, what would be cool?".
A wise man once said that anything worth knowing can be explained to a child. If you can't explain to a child why your game is worth playing, why your game is "cool", then it's time to start over. Goals and challenges are nothing without inspiration to pursue and conquer them.