Gameplay loops are a staple in video games. They’re mappable areas in a game that are repeated over and over again. They contain important content, as well as locations, enemies, and items. The gameplay loop breaks down a video game into these pre-defined areas, and they play a key role in gameplay.
The concept of a gameplay loop is one of the most important aspects of a game to understand. It’s the mechanism that keeps the game from becoming stale and makes it feel like a living, breathing thing. The best games have one or two decisive moments that kick off the gameplay loop, and it’s these moments that keep the player coming back for more—for hours, if not days.
“Gameplay Loop” is a term coined by game designers to explain how a game progresses from one state to another. A gameplay loop is a process in which a game goes from one state to another, often back and forth, in an infinite cycle. The best gameplay loops are fun, engaging, and satisfying, but also compelling enough to keep players returning to them.
If you’re new with the phrase “playtime loop,” it simply means that you’ve ever spent hours and hours playing a game only to discover that it essentially boils down to the same few minutes to an hour of gameplay repeated over and over again? Yes, it is the fundamental idea. We’ve all been there; whether it’s a deal breaker or not is up to you. Some might say that every game is that on the most basic levels, and those people would be partly correct, but today I’d want to concentrate on single player games and the more positive ones, the games that made us not think about it until we were already involved or until a long time afterwards.
To be totally honest, I was motivated to write this since I just finished Crackdown 3 and realized this same idea towards the conclusion of the game. To avoid seeming arrogant, I had heard of the concept before, but it was like putting on a pair of glasses to see the writing on the walls, or in this instance, the game I was playing. Crackdown 3 is one of the most gratifying instances of a good gameplay cycle in recent memory, with its basic gameplay loop of go to location, blow up person/object, gather orbs, large person gets angry, blow up big person, get more orbs, wash, rinse, repeat. The key to making their loop so enjoyable is the tiny changes made to the gameplay, to the point that if you handed a player who had completed the game a new character, not only would they be losing out on major improvements, but the whole game would feel different. Everything would feel off, from your running pace to the strength of your weaponry, and this is because the game changes and develops without directly stating it, leading the player to look back and hardly notice the difference. It’s the small details like these, subtle changes in gameplay while still pushing the player toward a goal, that make a game stand out, but let’s take a look at some of the titles that fall short.
Image courtesy of the official Twitter account for Shadow of War.
The Destiny franchise and the Shadow of Mordor series, in my opinion, are the two most famous instances of this in recent years. While these games aren’t inherently terrible, they do attempt to incorporate a gameplay loop that doesn’t work out the way it was planned. Starting with a game that many people like, including myself, but which failed to captivate me with its gameplay loop, but I’ll get there. Let me start by breaking out the main loop in the Shadow of Mordor series, which is to locate a person, kill or recruit him, repeat, then take over a fort, repeat. Of course, this is the simplest explanation, and there is a lot to like about this game, but they made a cardinal fault with their pattern: the cycle went on for much too long. When you have a gameplay loop, it’s critical to keep the player engaged in the loop, and what may and will break that commitment is stretching the cycles out for too long, which in this case means you’d have to participate in this cycle indefinitely to finish the game! You had to keep recruiting and recruiting to get to the last fight, and it wore me out before I got there. As I already said, I enjoyed the game, but it was tough.
Now for the more…………. intriguing example that I’ll be discussing here, Destiny. The shoot and loot system is a traditional gaming staple, with Borderlands serving as a great example of a functioning game loop, but we’re talking about one that doesn’t work here, so let’s get back to Destiny. The game’s loop mechanism gets messed up when it stagnates, trapping the player in a single task or region. What I mean is that the game compels you to accomplish goals in specific missions, but the missions railroad you into the same confrontations and bosses again and over, making the battles seem as monotonous as possible. Not only that, but the “open” maps seem extremely confined in terms of encounters and resources, and timed goals consistently fall in the same handful of locations, so rather than feeling like you’re returning old regions, you feel like you’re repeating the same areas again and over. In comparison, Borderlands changes up the maps and makes them feel much more than that, hiding secrets along the way, and while there is a grind, Borderlands both hides and flaunts it, whereas Destiny pretends it doesn’t exist.
The above image was taken from the official Destiny website.
So, what might really derail a fun gaming loop? The one thing that sticks out to me the most is pace, or going too slowly, whether it’s keeping the player in the same location for too long or repeating the same procedure too many times. Take notice, game development companies: speed is essential. While you don’t want to hurry a player through a game, taking too long or imposing too much repetition may and will stifle the player’s experience, and while a game may do well, the key issue is whether they will stay engaged until the finish.
In the competitive gaming scene, there are some who would argue that the “best” game is the one that they personally play over and over again. Whether it is the player who is incredibly adept at the game or the one who can master every nuance, there are those who can keep coming back to the same game even after it has been released. Some games, however, are so compelling, so engaging, so memorable that they become a new experience each time you pick it up. We call these games “Gameplay Loops”, and they are the best examples of why gamers make time to play them again and again.. Read more about types of gameplay loops and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes a good gameplay loop?
A good gameplay loop is one that has a beginning, middle, and end. Its also important to have a variety of different levels in the game so there is always something new to do.
How do you describe a game loop?
A game loop is the pattern of actions that a player performs within a game.
How do you explain gameplay?
The game is played by swinging a saber in time with the music.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
- gameplay loop theory
- best gameplay loops
- gameplay loop diagram
- rpg gameplay loop
- types of gameplay loops