Mini game tips

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I was thinking the other day, how I could I make some quick little wins for some eLearning solutions, so I could maybe modulise and integrate into some solutions. I thought of minigames.

For those that don’t know, a minigame is a simple game created to provide variety and represent simple activities. From my research many minigames are based on or are variations of classic arcade and classic home console games. Let me clarify, a microgame is a minigame that takes seconds to play. Half of the challenge of microgames is learning how to play them within the short time allotted. Warioware and the likes in Mario Party are compilations of microgames.

Minigames offer many advantages to game developers. They are quick to create and test, they are easy to play, and they can be used as metaphors for complex player activities. I truly believe ANY activity can be represented by a minigame. For example:

• Lockpicking: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2K, 2006)
• Hacking electronics: Batman: Arkham Asylum (WBI, 2009)
• Portrait painting: Spongebob Atlantis Squarepantis (THQ, 2008)
• Tagging walls: The Warriors (Rockstar, 2005)
• Cooking dinner: Cooking Mama (Majesco, 2006)
• Serving dinner: Diner Dash (Playfirst, 2003)

When designing a minigame, make sure to:

• Keep the controls simple. Minigames by their nature imply easy- to – learn
gameplay.
• Keep the gameplay sessions short. No longer than 5 to 10 minutes. Microgames can last only a few seconds long.
• How does progression work? It is designed or random? Ramp the difficulty gently. Minigames are meant to provide variety, not torture the player.
• Add new elements with each progression. Progression doesn’t mean every level: it can be a grouping of levels. Progression can represent a major element like a new weapon or enemy or minor like a change in an enemy’s movement pattern or bonus modifier. Even a different background art, sound effect, or song keeps the game from getting stale or repetitive.
• Consider limiting the minigame’s controls to only a few buttons. Assign only one action per button or control stick to keep control schemes simple.
• If possible, allow for player customization. The web – based minigame Upgrade Complete (Kongregate, 2009) allows the player to upgrade EVERYTHING, including the player’s ship, the background graphics, and even the copyright screen!
• How does your minigame end? Does it have an end? Make sure the victory condition is clear to the player. Some games can be played “forever” — or at least until the kill screen appears.

Minigames don’t even need to be segregated from the core game. The platformer/puzzle game Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (EA Games, 2009) and the RPG/puzzle game Puzzle Quest (D3, 2007) combine two styles of gameplay; platforming and puzzle. If you do this in your own game, just make sure you allow time for the player to make a “brain shift” between the two gaming styles; give them a second to reorient themselves with a “ready” screen or pause in the action.

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