The Settlers III


The Settlers III is a strategy game, the third installment in the famous Settlers series. The game was released in 1998 on PC. The Settlers III’s focus lies on controlling a settlement’s economy, which eventually enables the player to build up an army and defeat the enemies. The economy is a complex system with a long production chain. Each type of resources has its own type of building where it is produced.

Wikipedia article (no official website is currently maintained):

Gameplay video:

Analysis of the game through lenses

1: The lens of essential experience

The essential experience in Settlers III is building up the settlement’s economy through carefully balancing all elements of the production chain. Because all resources are physical objects, it is crucial to take transportation of resources into consideration when placing the buildings. An important part of the experience is being able to see a well functioning settlement, which looks like a living organism.

2: The lens of surprise

The element of surprise is a bit lacking from the game – the differences between the maps don’t introduce enough variety and the gameplay eventually boils down to the same process in every mission. The only moments when the player can be surprised are a) when the time of the opponent’s attack comes earlier / the scale of the attack is larger than expected, or b) when the player finds stacks of resources that are sometimes placed in distant locations of the map. Some elements of the map like a shipwreck on a coast are supposed to introduce more variety to the maps, but it is only an aesthetic addition and doesn’t affect the gameplay.

5: The lens of endogenous value

There are certain resources in the game that are on top of the production chain – notably gold and weapons.Thanks to the fact that all resources are physical objects, the sheer wealth of a settlement is shown not simply by a number somewhere in the UI, but by the resources one can directly see lying on the ground. This motivates players to accumulate wealth and is a rewarding sight. One of the most pleasant experiences is when after one conquers part of the opponent’s land, the carriers swarm the conquered land, collecting valuable resources and bringing them back to the main settlement. The main value in the game lies in the resources.

7: The lens of the elemental tetrad

From the tetrad, the elements that are the most important for The Settlers III are aesthetics and mechanics. The story is almost inexistent – in the campaigns there is some backstory, involving competition between ancient gods and the diaries of the nations’ leaders, but it appears only between the missions and not within the game itself. Regarding technology, the game is a classic 2D isometric view strategy game, only the elements of the world have been originally modelled in 3D and then converted to 2D images, which gives them a distinct look. The aesthetic contributes greatly to the experience of the game – the visual style is very idyllic, with bright colors and good animations. The sound design is very important, with a lot of ambient sounds of the settlement and all the performed jobs, adding to the feel of the settlement as a living organism.

The mechanics are the most important element, as the character of the game lies in the focus on managing the production and trasportation of resources – thus making the game different from most titles.

17: The lens of pleasure

A few main elements give players pleasure: the colorful graphics, vivid music and sound effects contributing to a laid-back experience; the experience of seeing the settlement live its own life; the collecting of resources; the experience of destroying the enemy’s settlement and gaining their resources.

25: The lens of goals

The goal of the game is usually to capture all the opponent’s territory. However, this tends to get a bit boring towards the end of the game, where it is clear that the player is winning. The most emotional phase of a conflict are usually the first attacks, where both parties have amassed large armies. Later on, when the main forces of the enemy have already been destroyed, the conquest stops being interesting. Sometimes the goal of a mission is to collect a certain number of resources, but this doesn’t drastically change the gameplay.

42: The lens of simplicity/complexity

The process of controlling the economy is a complex task, therefore several other elements have been simplified: all settlers move automatically, performing their tasks. The player can control the priorities – what is the most important good to be transported etc. On one hand, this lets the player to focus on a higher level of management, however this automation sometimes leads to problems, where the player would hope to have more control over the actions of the settlers. Military units are controlled manually, but the AI behind the execution of orders is not perfect and usually the only possible tactic is amassing a large number of soldiers and then sending them all to attack the opponent, hoping to succeed.

Invisible Inc [A0099858Y]

The game: Invisible Inc

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Invisible Inc is a turn-based strategy game with a heavy emphasis on stealth and infiltration. The player control a squad of spy operatives to infiltrate procedurally-generated environments to steal information, money and equipment (among other objectives) while avoiding guards and automated security. Unlike in other strategy games, players are encouraged to avoid direct confrontations at all costs because all player-controlled units “die” instantly upon being shot at. The game is still in beta phase but the gameplay is already very fleshed out and feels complete.

Game website:

A “Let’s Play” episode:

My own experience

I’d already had about 30 hours of experience with the game prior to playing the game for the sake of this assignment and was already familiar with the mechanics and most of the equipment and abilities in the game.

The lens of Essential Experience

It was immediate to me that the essential experience of this game is about being a spy (or being an operator directing a group of spies), sneaking around corporate buildings to steal secrets while evading security. It made me feel really cool when I was able to execute my tactics and overcome the security, or when I was able to evade danger just in the nick of time. This sense of accomplishment is further enhanced by the fact that the game does not allow the player to reload to an earlier point in the game (commonly known as “Ironman Mode” in turn-based games) and any mistakes will have permanent consequences, hence the game’s challenges can not be overcome by simple trial and error.

The lens of Elemental Tetrad

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Normal view vs Hacking interface

The game has very low technical requirements as it runs smoothly even on computers without discrete GPUs. However I was still very impressed by the visuals thanks to the distinct art style and very smart use of colours. Mechanics-wise, the game is very innovative as it combines elements from two very different genres (stealth and turn-based strategy) as well as bringing in twists of its own. I especially like the “hacking” interface which adds another layer of strategy on top of moving your units around on a map. The story in this game takes a backseat to the gameplay and does not appear to be significant, at least at this stage as the game is still in development and not yet fully released.

The lens of Surprise + The lens of Curiosity

All levels the players experience (save for the tutorial levels) are procedurally-generated so players will never see the map twice. It kept me on my toes at all times, since I never knew what to expect behind a closed door or around the next corner. Moving my units around recklessly could result in a nasty surprise for me (like barging inside a room full of armed guards and not having enough Action Points to escape). At the same time, I always felt the urge to fully explore each level, even at the risk of losing my units because I never knew if I had missed out on lootable items or money unless I searched through every corner of the map.

The lens of Chance

While the levels are automatically generated, the actual gameplay leaves almost nothing to chance (unlike the majority of strategy games which rely on probability to calculate the chance to hit or damage done). The same action will result in the same consequence every time. This is another aspect I really like about the game as it made me feel like I was in control all the time. It made the game feel fair as I never lost because of bad luck. Also as the lack of chance removes some element of unpredictability from the gameplay and it allowed me to plan and execute much more complex tactics than otherwise, which felt really satisfying.

My Friend’s experience

My friend had had no prior experience with the game, though he is familiar with video games in general. I briefly explained some of the basic mechanics to him while intentionally leaving things for him to discover on his own. He played the tutorial level and three automatically-generated levels.

The lens of Essential Experience

My friend was quickly able to figure out the objectives of the game and had a basic idea of what he had to do (use stealth and avoid front assault, etc). He remarked that the setting was “interesting”.

The lens of Elemental Tetrad

The visual style of the game seems to have made an impression on him. Not being familiar with turn-based game, he was initially confused by how the turn system worked, but was able to figure the game out after I had explained it to him. He enjoyed the game play much more as he started to figure out more of the game mechanics and was able to “properly” play the game. He did seem to be interested in the story as he took time to read through the (rather lengthy) text briefings before each mission.

The lens of Surprise + The lens of Curiosity

My friend was not aware the game levels were generated by the computer, but since it was his first time playing the game, he would still be unfamiliar with the maps anyway. He was caught by his first surprise very early into the game and lost one of his units. After that, he started playing very conservatively and tried to avoid any risk to his remaining unit. He rushed to complete each level as fast as possible, without fully exploring the map and ended up missing out on many rewards scattered across the levels, in order to protect his last unit.

The lens of Chance

My friend also realised the results of actions are not determined by chance in the game and the loss of his unit was not because of bad luck.

Comparison: familiarity makes all the difference

After comparing my friend’s experience with my own, I realised how much the difference in experience, both with the particular game and the genre, impact the gameplay. This is especially true for games that are unforgiving and have a steep learning curve like this one.

The lens of Essential Experience

The futuristic sci-fi setting is immediately familiar to most people without being too much of a cliché or feeling overdone. The gameplay however, is unforgiving and difficult and this can turn off casual players or those who are easily frustrated (dozens of hours invested into the game can be instantly lost because of a single mistake). This seems to be intentional on the developer’s part as the welcome message at the home screen mentions the game is “deep” and “hardcore” right off the bat.

The lens of Elemental Tetrad

Both my friend and I agreed the game is able to create good looking visuals without requiring high-powered hardware, which is excellent. The mechanics, however, is where the game is strongest at it feels tight, balanced and fair. However, while the game explains its unique features quite well in the tutorial, does not do a good job of explaining many of its genre mechanics to new players, and those new to turn-based games can feel lost. The story is insignificant at this point.

The lens of Surprise + The lens of Curiosity

The choice to use procedurally-generated levels instead of hand-crafted ones was an excellent choice because you can never know what to expect no matter how experienced you are with the game. This forces players to always be cautious and have a backup plan in case of unpleasant surprises. The fact that you cannot reload to an earlier point reinforces this even further as other games allow players to negate the element of surprise with trial-and-error. The level design also piques the player’s curiosity as each uneplored corner of the map could hide more treasures.

The lens of Chance

In a game where all actions have permanent consequences and the player’s units are extremely fragile, removing the element of chance works in the game’s favour as it ensures a stroke of bad luck does not ruin the experience for players. It also makes the game feel more fair as how successful a player is with the game depends only on their skill.

Theme Hospital


Theme Hospital is a business simulation game developed by Bullfrog productions and published by Electronic Arts in 1997 that tests your management skills. It is the thematic successor to Theme Park, which is also produced by Bullfrog, and was recently made free for download for the period of January 2015. The game is set in a hospital and requires players to complete levels by buying and placing rooms or facilities in the hospital with the end goal of raising its financial valuation, cure rate and reputation.



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Puzzle & Dragons

Puzzle & Dragons

Through the Lenses of Game Design

  Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 2.26.20 pm

Puzzle & Dragons (PAD) is a puzzle game created by GungHo Online Entertainment for the mobile platforms, iOS, Android OS, and Kindle Fire which combines both tile-matching puzzle elements as well as strategic elements that requires the player to acquire, train, and fight with a team of monsters that range from standard fantasy fare like dragons and fairies, mythical beasts and gods from mythologies all over the world, to even collaborations with famous entertainment series.


Gameplay Demo:

The Lens of Elemental Tetrad


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One key feature that separates it from other match-three games like Bejeweled and Candy Crush Saga is that the orb that the player picks up is allowed to move as far across the game board as the player wishes to, instead of just swapping places with one of its neighbours. This allows for a more challenging form of gameplay as it requires the player to create as many combinations of not only 3 orbs, but 4, 5 or even up to 30 orbs (the game board’s size)!

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Another feature is being able to collect, train and eventually field a team of powerful monsters to fight against the other monsters — lending a role-playing mechanic to the game. Monsters come with both skills and leader skills which add interesting twists to the game by giving bonus damage or health to the player’s team of monsters.

Aesthetics & Technology:

Contrary to the slew of mobile games out in the Apple App Store and Android Marketplace these days which boast bleeding age graphics and stunning visual effects, PAD maintains a simple form of graphics that is simple to draw and yet visually appealing with its cute cartoonish graphics. Although given that the game was released about 3 years ago, the menus do look a tad outdated. It is also apparent that many of the stages share the same background design, ranging from catacombs, forests, dungeons and even outer space. However, for collaboration events, the game’s artists tend to create unique backdrops for that particular collaboration to add a sense of exclusivity to the event.


For a game that has over 41 million downloads, it does not have a story per se, unlike its spin-off Puzzle & Dragons Z on the Nintendo 3DS. This goes to show that a story is not always required to make a popular game.

Based on the descriptions from the 4 various elements listed above, it is apparent that Gungho is not trying to make a game that is overly complicated with fancy graphics, seat-gripping storyline, and complex gameplay mechanics. But instead, it is trying to focus on only one thing: make a simple to learn but yet difficult to master puzzle game that is appealing to all ages and make it outstanding.

The Lens of Chance

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In this puzzle game, even if the player possesses preternatural puzzle solving skills does not guarantee absolute success in the game if luck is not on his side. That is because luck is a major factor in many aspects of the game. Such as whether the orbs that drop onto the game board to replace the cleared orbs can form additional combos to increase the damage multiplier, to see if the monster that has been defeated drops as an egg to be collected by the player to add to his team, or even if the player is able to obtain rare and powerful monsters from the gachapon machine.

Through carefully observing players, it is evident that luck (chance) is a major factor in this game no matter how skilled the player is.

The Lens of Economy

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A key aspect that keeps the developers in business despite releasing the game for free is the sale of in-game currency (magic stones). In the game, magic stones are used to either restore the player’s stamina (allowing him to play more), continue a stage in which the player has died in, roll for rare monsters via a gachapon machine and many other features. Magic stones are given to the player every time he completes a dungeon as well as through events via the in-game mail system. Whilst this may seem rather contradictory — giving out free money to the players (each stone costs S$1.20, with discounts given for bulk purchases) — it is, in my book, a fantastic marketing ploy to entice players to purchase them. By giving the players a taste of what magic stones can do, they would more likely to be enticed into buying more magic stones instead of waiting for the off-chance that the daily gift for the day is a magic stone.

The Lens of Emotion

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Being a puzzle game with a major factor of randomness thrown in, it is only appropriate that we consider the emotions that a player expresses as he plays the game. When I was observing my friend who was playing the game, she displayed an outburst of emotion in the form of rage by throwing down her phone on the table when she died in the game. It wasn’t until I wore the lens of emotion that I realised that I too occasionally do the same. During my observation of the AppBank employees, it is also apparent on their faces the various types of emotions that they are going through as they were hoping for another combo via sky fall orbs or rolling the magic stone gachapon machine. From the anticipation on their faces to the prayers that they were mumbling under their breath, it is clear that through the randomness factor of the game that we experience a myriad of emotions as we play the game.

The Lens of Motivation

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The more the player plays, the more likely he would see other players whom he can add to his friend list in order to use their party’s leader monster as a member of his party. Many a times, these monsters are those whom the player has either never encountered or do not have in their team. By seeing these new and powerful monsters whom they can temporarily add to their team, players will be more motivated to try to acquire them so as to make them a permanent part of their team. This lends a sense of motivation to the game.

Collaborations with different popular entertainment franchises are, as mentioned earlier, prominently featured in the game. Bringing with it limited-time dungeons and their own unique collaboration gachapon machines on which players can spend 5 magic stones for a single roll of the machine to possibly acquire exclusive monsters. More often than not, it is unlikely that the player has enough magic stones to roll enough times to get all of the possible drops from the timed gachapon machine and/or the dungeon. Giving the player a sense of initial disappointment (as you can’t always get them all) and motivation (to acquire more magic stones and/or a stronger team of monsters).

Endless Legend

Endless Legend Title Screen

Endless Legend is a 4X turn-based fantasy strategy game.

The term 4X, coined by Alan Emrich, stands for “explore, expand, exploit and exterminate“. Perhaps the most popular example of such a game is Sid Meier’s Civilization, which just so happens to also be a turn-based strategy game. This is why, it is not exactly inaccurate to describe Endless Legend as Civilization but with a fantasy setting and environment.

The game is set in the Endless universe where other Endless games (which are of different genres) also take place. The player is in control of a faction of aliens on a planet called Auriga. The player fights both the environment and other players to satisfy one of many victory conditions before any other player.


Endless Legend Empire ScreenThe Elemental Tetrad

  • Aesthetics: set in a fantasy world, the artwork and the environment is very diverse and beautiful.
  • Mechanics: the game is turn-based and has deep strategy, with multiple ways to achieve victory.
  • Story: although there is no campaign mode, the lore in the world is very detailed, vast and immersive
  • Technology: because of the myriad of strategic options available to the player, the computer players take considerable CPU power to process. However, because it’s a turn-based game, the negative effects are minimized.
  • Overall: I feel there is a very good balance between the 4 elements. In fact, I can see how they complement each other and work in synergy to produce a well-rounded game.

The Lens of Secrets

  • Like most territorial strategy games, Endless Legend has fog of war. This means players can only see limited areas of the game map in places where the player has units or has a diplomatic agreement to share vision with another player in the map.
  • The map is in constant flux, when a player moves a unit away from an area, the area might not be the same when they regain vision by putting another unit in the area.
  • Some factions have access to more information than the others. For example, the Drakken, which is the diplomatic faction, knows the positions of the capitols of all players in map; the Roving Clans, which is the economic power faction, has insider trading information of all players in the marketplace.
  • A good balance of secrecy between players keeps the gameplay interesting.

Endless Legend Army Battle

The Lens of Expected Value

  • When units attack, there are 4 kinds of outcomes: critical fail, fumble, normal hit and critical hit. These outcomes have odds that are shown to the player and they are different for different matchups between any 2 units.
  • Knowing the odds, the player can–for example–gamble massive damage on critical hits, or consistent normal hits without misses.
  • A good understanding of the odds is important for unit survivability.
  • Even though this introduces some random chance to the game, random chance is not overpowering because it could be calculated so as to minimize the effects of randomness on the outcome of battle.

Endless Legend Victory Screen

The Lens of Goals

  • There are several goals to the game but all the players need to do is achieve one of them before any other player.
  • The different victories are: Wonder, Conquest, Supremacy, Elimination, Scientific, Economic, Diplomatic and Score
  • Each race is geared towards a specific kind of victory, but the player is free to pursue any other kind of victory to win the game.
  • The player are free to pursue short-term goals such as quests, exploring and small battles but should make sure they also have lasting long-term benefit or they may not win the game.
  • The myriad of viable winning goals makes a flexible experience.

Endless Legend Game Map

The Lens of Functional Space

  • The game map is discrete and is in a hexagonal grid.
  • The game map is 2D. The world is cylindrical (wraparound on the east and west, but boundaries on the north and south)
  • There are smaller subspaces in the game map for military engagement. It also utilises a hexagonal grid and it is connected to the bigger game map at the hexagonal tile where two or more armies engage.
  • The two levels of spaces makes battles up-close inside closed terrain, while making plenty of room to expand and explore territory; making the best of both worlds.

Endless Legend City List

The Lens of Economy

  • The game has 7 different resources: Food, Industry, Dust, Science, Influence, Luxury Resources and Strategic Resources.
  • In general, the player has to build some buildings to generate any particular resource. Also, the type of resources are generally dependant on the terrain of the map.
  • The player can direct portions of the population of a city into either Food, Industry, Dust, Science or Influence as he pleases.
  • Units and building have a Dust operating cost. If the player runs out of Dust (essentially money), he is forced to sell off units and buildings.
  • There are diminishing returns for every resource, so a player must balance production of each resource for optimal economic performance.

 Endless Legend Score Chart

The Lens of Fairness

  • The game is asymmetrical in the sense that each race is good at certain things but bad at different things.
  • The game is also asymmetrical in the sense that terrain is randomly generated and have different properties.
  • The asymmetric gameplay makes gameplay more interesting and more fantasy-like. It opens up more possibilities of cooperation and competition between players.
  • The game feels fair and each race has similar chances of winning. The outcome is usually decided by skill and strategy rather than random chance.

Endless Legend Army Battle 2

The Lens of Balance

  • Even though the gameplay is asymmetrical, the game feels balanced.
  • Race abilities are not overpowered because they can be countered by other players.
  • Differences in abilities forces players to strategize in order to exploit own advantages and enemy’s disadvantages, a key part in many strategic games.



Game Website:
Gameplay Video:

My Experience

Lens of the Elemental Tetrad

  • Aesthetics
    • Terraria is done entirely with cute 2D sprites. It made me appreciate the beauty and simplicity of good pixel art.
    • It was refreshing to play a game with such simple graphics after having almost every other games coming out in modern 3D graphics.
  • Technology
    • As it is a 2D game, it has low system requirements and hence very accessible to most players.
    • It is also available in numerous platforms, ranging from PC to consoles and smartphones and handheld gaming devices.
  • Mechanics
    • It is a sandbox game, with elements of exploration, building and action.
  • Story
    • There is no storyline. I am free to do what I want in the game, such as choosing to go exploring and slaying monsters to gather materials or spending the day building impressive feats of architecture with basic building blocks.

Lens of Curiosity

    • The randomly generated world of Terraria was filled with numerous secret caverns and dungeons, littered with great treasures that I could use to beef up my character’s combat or exploration abilities, or with rare materials to use to craft them myself.
A Beehive! Underground? Wait, what? I hope I get the gun that shoot bees at my enemies!

A Beehive! Underground? Wait, what? I hope I get the gun that shoot bees at my enemies!

  • When I dug deep enough, I discovered the existence of the Underworld. It resided some of the strongest monsters I have encountered at this point, as well as a boss I had to defeat which triggered the world to go into ‘Hard Mode’, spawning even stronger monsters and rarer materials for me to discover.
This must be how the creators envisioned hell to look like

This must be how the creators envisioned hell to look like

Lens of the Toy

  • I was obsessed with building things, so the ability to freely build stuff is a huge bonus to extend the gameplay length. I clocked 148 hours spent mostly on building stuff.
This is what 148 hours of work look like

This is what 148 hours of work look like

  • After gathering enough materials, I was able to create a giant floating fortress that has:
    • Death traps to kill invaders
    • Sky bridge across the entire world for fast access
    • Teleporters to teleport to the ground floor or Underworld
    • Arena to summon and fight bosses
    • Pixel art of Charizard and Blastoise (sorry I stopped before I did Venusaur)
    • Battery powered by enslaving animals to jump on buttons repeatedly
    • A failed attempt to make an aquarium
A glass dome in a glass dome with a lifeless aquarium

A glass dome in a glass dome with a lifeless aquarium

Sorry Venusaur, I ran out of green tiles

Sorry Venusaur, I ran out of green tiles

Lens of Time

  • The duration of the game is entirely dependent on the player. There is no ‘story’ for you to complete, so the game only ends when you believe you have ran out of things to do.
  • I have reached a point where I have explored the entire world and exhausted most resources. I will have to move to a new world to find more materials or challenges.

Lens of Chance

  • To increase replayability, the developers have implemented the world in such a way that not all materials or events can be found in a single world. You will have to replay on new worlds and hope that the thing you need will spawn there by chance.
  • Rare equipments also drop by chance from specific bosses which will take time to summon and farm.

Friend’s Experience

Lens of the Elemental Tetrad

  • Aesthetics
    • He had less appreciation of such art styles, preferring art that is more detailed.
  • Technology
    • He was able to install Terraria on his computer without any system requirement problems.
    • It has high compatibility as expected.
  • Mechanics
    • He was more in tuned with the combat gameplay of the game, seemingly more aggressive and wants to kill stuff.
  • Story
    • To be the very best, like no one ever was. This also meant destroying every living soul he encountered.

Lens of Interest Curve

  • His interest was drawn towards exploration and peaked when he discovered the existence of bosses hidden underground or summoned.
  • Time was spent researching on how to tackle the next bosses and finding better equipment.
  • Conversely, he did minimal building before running off to explore again.
  • His interest in the game was short-lived and stopped when he ran out of bosses or opponents to beat.
Bosses from your nightmares

Bosses from your nightmares

Lens of Skill

  • Despite being underequipped for some challenges, he still attempted them head on, sometimes emerging victorious through clever strategies or skill.
  • His mastery of his arsenal of equipment was also pivotal to his success. E.g. Skilfully using grappling hooks to manoeuvre out of tight spots, using ranged weapons to put distance between him and the enemy.

Lens of Competition

  • When he lost interest in the bosses, he turned to online servers to do PvP against other skilled players.
  • Fights were fast paced and challenging if both sides have equally overpowered equipment.
  • However, the gap created by different level of equipment was quite impossible to be bridged by skill alone.

Cant hit me bro


Lens of Balance

  • Through collecting an arsenal of equipment, it is apparent that there are some with overpowered and game-breaking effects. E.g. Life steal, homing projectiles, insane damage, etc.
  • Combat becomes a lot easier upon possession of such weapons and game becomes less challenging.
  • You stand no chance against opponents with these weapons, unless you have these as well.
I guess I spoke too soon

I guess I spoke too soon


It is very apparent that my friend and I have very differing play style, with me being drawn towards the sandbox building aspect of the game, while my friend was more inclined towards the challenge-oriented aspect of defeating bosses and PvP fights. It is impressive how a game can cover these two seemingly disjoint aspects and mechanic and allow them to complement each other.

The lack of story did not affect either of our enjoyment. In fact, in such open-world sand box games, the players are free to create their own story. For me, I played like an architect relishing in the freedom to create what I envisioned and designing complex mechanisms from simple technology to power my flying fortress home. As for my friend, he played like an adventurer venturing out to slay all evil to become the strongest character. In this game, you are what you want to be.

Because of such differing gameplay styles, we found that there were also multiple different lenses that described our different experience. This shows that much effort went into making both the creation and adventuring aspect of the game fun for the players.

Dota 2 again :)

Brief Description
Dota 2 is an online multiplayer battle arena game in a 3D environment, presented from a high-angle 3rd person perspective. Dota 2 is played in matches involving two teams of five players, each occupies a stronghold at opposite corners of the map. Each stronghold contains a central building called the “Ancient”, which the opposite team must destroy to win the match. Each player controls a “Hero” character and he is able to level up his/her character by gaining experience from killing “creeps” or enemy heroes and collecting gold, acquiring items to strengthen the abilities of his/her character and eventually destroy the opponent team’s “Ancient” to achieve victory.

Website :

Preview :

My Experience when I am playing

I am an experienced player of the game hence I am already well aware of the goals and objectives of the game, however this game never fails to bring the element of surprise up onto the table. Analysing with the Lens of Surprise (#4), the surprise element in the game is mainly due to the unpredictable element that other players may bring into the game and with the many different “heroes”/ characters, different variations and combination of skills which makes each gaming experience unique.

The in game mechanics is also very interesting as the game always takes place in the same landscape but by inserting a new hero/character, it introduce another set of new challenges. Using the Lens of Challenge (#38), the challenging aspect of the game comes from two components; firstly, understanding the skill mechanics of your chosen hero/ character and next is the skill level of your opponents and their ability to utilize the skills of their heroes/ characters. Although there may be a different set of mechanics for a different hero/ character, the goal remains unchanged, which is to destroy the opponents’ “Ancient” before the opponent destroy yours; By the Lens of Goals (#32), the goal of the game is simple and concrete.

The game requires good judgement and good choices to be made by the players, from item builds for your hero/ character to decision making during battles and these choices made throughout the game may affect the eventual result of the game. Using the Lens of Meaningful Choice (#39), these choices indeed makes the game more complex and difficult for newcomers to pick up right away.

What frustrates me the most while I was playing the game is the lack of teamwork during team battles and lack of communication within the team, regardless playing with strangers or with friends; this usually leads to a one-sided game that is in favour of the opponent’s team. Analysing this using the Lens of Cooperation (#44), the only mode communication the game offers is a chat box which requires you to take your hands off the things you are currently doing and put the effort into translating the things you want to tell your teammates into chat messages and your teammate on the other hand has to also take his/her time off to read your message. This task becomes too demanding when you are at crucial moments of the game, especially during battles. Other alternatives are to get 3rd party softwares that provide you with the platform to make verbal communication with your friends during the game or shout across the room to pass the message to your friend. However, these other alternatives do not apply when you are playing with strangers on the other side of the planet.

Last but not least, I would like to credit the game’s graphic and artwork. The game has very responsive animation feedbacks when a player clicks on a location to move his/her hero to as well as clicks on the hero skills to cast them. This certainly is a plus point for the aesthetics of the game.

Observing a friend play

In this observation, I find a friend who is new to the game to obtain results that have more contrast to what have been obtained earlier.  My friend had a hard time choosing a hero to start with; this is due to the many options available and reading through the skills of each hero takes a huge amount of time, eventually, he used up all the time given during the hero selection phase. After taking a long time picking his hero of choice, he ended up taking even a longer time to look at the item shops to purchase items for his hero. By using the Lens of Meaningful Choice (#39), the game has failed to provide him a more beginner friendly approach to making these choices.

Despite being new to the game, he is still able to manoeuvre his hero to the place he wanted and targeting his enemies successfully. By the Lens of Control (#59), the game is able to provide him with the ability to control his character the way he wanted to.

However, being put up with players that have experience, he is at a great disadvantage. One huge factor that contributes to that, is the rate where the players are earning the in-game resources; to accurately deal the last damage to the enemy units will earn the player a certain amount of in-game resource and with his experience, he barely gets some with a bit of luck. This can be a big deciding factor to who have the upper hand during a clash between the teams. With the Lens of Skill (#34), this game certainly demands a certain level of skill, concentration and training from the players.

Although the goal of the game is simple and clear, my friend is unable to grasp the different in-game mechanics even at the end of the game. The complexity of the game attributes from the wide variety of items available and their combinations to form a stronger item and the skills of the heroes, the opponents’, his teammates’ and his, by analysing with The Lens of SimplicityComplexity (#48).

However, my friend do find the interface being intuitive, he knows where his health indicator is, where to find the amount of in-game resources he has, where to locate his heroes’ skills and he knows which are the enemy units and which are his allied units. By using the Lens of Transparency (#62), the game did a fairly good job designing an intuitive interface.


Both observations reaps very different results, however, one very obvious fact is that experience definitely plays a big role in this game. And by the Lens of Skill vs Chance (#41), the scale heavily leans towards the skill side. It demands quite an amount of skill and high level of concentration from the player in their ability to make good decisions during the game. I being an experience player definitely enjoyed the game more as compared to my friend, being new to the game.

Hence by using the Lens of Interest Curve (#69), in this comparison, is an exponential upward curve when you plot the level of interest against the experience level of the player.

Looking at the Lens of Meaningful Choices (#39), the amount of choices to make in the game is too much to handle for a beginner, in my friend’s case whereas for a more experience player, these meaningful decisions makes the game more interesting and enjoyable as a whole.

The game considers the fact that players may not be able get any in-game resources throughout the game and thus implemented the feature where the players are able to gain the in-game resources periodically with time. This feature at the very least gives my friend to ability to buy items from the item shops despite the fact that he is unable to gain the in-game resources by other means. Using the Lens of Economy (#52), the game has kept his economy rather balanced.


Bio Inc.

Game analysed: Bio Inc.

While the goal of most doctor games is to save the patient, Bio Inc.’s objective is the exact opposite – to ensure that the patient dies, be it through giving diseases to the patient, increasing his risk factors, or hindering his recovery. Players collect viruses and bacteria which convert to “bio points”, which pay for the diseases, risk factors, or other things preventing his recovery. It is a race against time as players must kill the patient before recovery reaches 100%.


My experiences and actions

Bio Inc. is very refreshing, as the player is playing the role of a villain, making it the opposite of most games, where the player is a good person (Lens 2 – Surprise).

I played it on my Android phone with a touch screen. The controls are simple, only needing single taps (Elemental Tetrad – Technology).

There is a short description of my patient – “Overweight, sedentary, junk food addict and smoker”. The game has 12 stages, and each stage offers slightly different scenarios, allowing players to adopt different strategies to win (Lens 6 – Problem Solving).

Bio Inc. SS 1

A short tutorial made with overlays introduced me to the various aspects of the game – the body systems, where to spend my bio points, etc. (Elemental Tetrad – Mechanics)

The game pauses when I enter the page where I can spend my bio points, allowing me to slowly read through the descriptions and plan my next course of action – I was relieved that I won’t be missing out on any bio points while on this page. Since the only way to worsen the patient’s situation is to spend bio points on illnesses, risk factors, or other negative effects, the collection of bio points is crucial to winning the game (Lens 5 – Endogenous Value). The pause also allows me to read the details and various options thoroughly, without worrying that the patient may recover while I make my decisions.

As the game progressed, I realised that I am actually shaping the story of my patient, through the various diseases or characteristics that I am giving him. I can choose for my patient to be a senior citizen with a sedentary lifestyle and heart problems, or an asthmatic who suffers from severe nervous breakdowns (Elemental tetrad – Story). This is also what made the game fun for me, as I am able to give my patient different illnesses, rather than just killing him the same way every time (Lens 3 – Fun).

There are also sound effects – each time I give the patient a new illness, the patient will respond accordingly (e.g. coughing, wheezing). Graphics show a simulation of real human body systems, and more viruses and bacteria appear as the patient’s immune system weakens. There are bars to show the health of each system, and also an electrocardiogram monitor. These contribute to theme and creates an immersive experience for the player (Elemental Tetrad – Aesthetics, Lens 9 – Unification Theme).


Watching a friend play the game

Friend comments that the game does not explain why his character wants to kill the patient, nor does it cover the back-story of his character (Elemental Tetrad – Story).

Bio Inc. starts slow, with viruses/bacteria spawning only once every few seconds. Friend appears bored as he waits for them to appear. As the game progresses and the patient’s condition deteriorates, viruses/bacteria spawn faster, and friend seems to get more excited about the game (Elemental Tetrad – Mechanics, Lens 3 – Fun).

Friend gets more concerned as the patient’s recovery increases drastically after being sent to the emergency room, and he frantically tries to figure out how best to worsen the patient’s condition (Lens 6 – Problem Solving, Lens 2 – Surprise). As he formulates his strategy to win the game, he appears to be enjoying himself, telling me how he will make his patient die from stress (Lens 3 – Fun).

He managed to kill the patient when he was at 84% recovery, and he was visibly relieved and pleased. Upon seeing that he only got 2 stars (out of 3) for this game, he wanted to replay it to get 3 stars (Lens 5 – Endogenous Value). He also asked if it was possible to let the patient commit suicide and win the game, something I had not tried before (Lens 4 – Curiosity).

Bio Inc. SS 2

Overall, he said that the game mechanics were simple and easy to understand, the graphics were of good quality, but there is a lack of a good back story. However, the fun part of the game was being able to decide how to kill the patient, and the adrenaline rush he got as the patient’s recovery increased and had to hurry to collect bio points to buy more diseases (Lens 1 – Essential Experience).

Comparison and Analysis

My friend and I shared a lot of similar views about the game, but from observing my friend, I realised that different people will have different experiences based on how they play the game and their own personalities.

I had played through the front part of the game without complain, and only realised that it was quite slow in the beginning when my friend looked bored at the start of the game. While this is part of the game mechanics, it might cause less patient players to abandon the game before being able to experience the whole game. I feel that Bio Inc. can also improve by having a back story for the character the player is playing to improve the Story aspect of the Elemental Tetrad. We both found the aesthetics to be pleasing, and given the simple technology employed, the game comes together as an entertaining casual game. (Lens 7 – Elemental Tetrad)

While there is some endogenous value in the game, such as the bio points we need to collect, and the star rating for each stage (with a maximum of 3 stars), I found that Bio Inc. can attract players to play the game more by having endogenous value that can be sustained – the current design does not allow any cumulative benefits between stages, and while the stages feature patients with slightly different conditions, they may seem repetitive and players may be less inclined to play through the different stages. (Lens 5 – Endogenous Value, affecting Lens 3 – Fun)

Also, the game does not any type of interaction between players (it is purely a single player game). I feel that not being able to play with friends may lower the pull of the game, as having social elements in the game will help make it more fun to play as players either help one another to achieve a goal, or compete against each other to see who has better skills. (Lens 3 – Fun)

However, I find that the game does well in balancing the different illnesses and risk factors, as I always find it a challenge to kill the patient in time, since the patient will be sent to the emergency room once his condition deteriorates to a certain extent, increasing the recovery rate greatly. (Lens 6 – Problem Solving, Lens 3 – Fun)

The random events in the game also add to the experience, making it less predictable. A flu epidemic once helped me to turn the tables on the patient, helping me win the game when I would have lost. (Lens 2 – Surprise, Lens 3 – Fun)

All in all, the game provides a fun and refreshing perspective and serves well as a casual game that can be picked up quickly, but needs some work to increase its replay value since the stages are quite similar and actions are repetitive, and there is a lack of a social component. (Lens 1 – Essential Experience)




Tap Titans

Name of Game: Tap Titans

Name of Developer: Game Hive Corp


The game revolves around tapping. The player is represented by a single warrior at the center of the screen. Each tap by the player corresponds with a slash of the warrior’s sword. The player has to defeat several rounds of monsters, which increase in difficulty as the level increases. Every ten monsters, there will be a slightly harder boss monster, that the player would have to beat within a set amount of time. You can always leave a boss battle to stay at the level to ‘grind’ more gold.

The player receives resources in the form of gold each time he defeats a monster. Players can choose to invest gold in the following three things:

– Skills, which enable the player to have certain skills that will assist him in defeating the monsters.

– Level of the Warrior, which increases the base damage that each tap by the player does

– Heroes, who can assist the player by dealing a constant stream of damage and providing the player with a steady income of gold.



Link to game website:


Self Observation:

My own play style reflected my natural tendency to be laid back. I invested in leveling my Heroes for the constant stream of damage. This made my progress in the game rather slow, as my raw ‘tap damage’ was always rather low and it took quite some time for me to take down each monster.


Elemental Tetrad


The mechanics of this game aren’t too complex. The main form of player interaction is in the tapping. For each tap, the player deals damage to the monster. The mechanics make it such that the monster’s health increases at a rate slightly faster than the player’s damage, so that they player will have to spend time ‘grinding’ every so often.

There is also a late game ‘prestige’ mechanic, which allows the player to reset his game, but will be awarded relics which provide for artifacts that can award the player a permanent boost. This allows for a faster playthrough of the earlier stages and allows the player to be stronger than he originally was when he arrives back at the same level.


The 2D look and feel of the game falls in well with the entire theme of simplicity. The smoothness of the damage numbers popping out as the player taps helps the player to visually see his attack speed. The large numbers that pop out as you achieve a critical hit gives the users a sense of satisfaction as well. The ever changing background (it changes after each boss killed) gives the game a change to what might be otherwise considered very monotonous.


There is hardly any story linked to the game. The player is simply introduced to his character, told to tap on the screen to defeat the enemy, and the game just continues from there.


The game utilizes the technology of touch screen phones efficiently, by minimizing the need for buttons and multiple inputs.


Lens 6 – Problem Solving

Despite being a very straightforward game, the lens of problem solving arises at regular intervals throughout the gameplay. This occurs when the boss begins to get too difficult to beat, and I have to make the decision: Do I stay at the current level for a longer period of time, or fight the boss in order to get to a higher level and earn gold more efficiently?


Lens 9 – Unification

The whole theme of simplicity is clear throughout the game. The visual designs are simplistic 2D models, while the mechanics of the game call for a rather simple tap only input. Every thing the player has to do, including leveling and gaining gold, requires the simple action of tapping on the screen.


Lens 18 – Flow

The goals of the game are simple: Defeat the current monster.

The flow of the goals from one monster to another is very clear, as only one monster appears at a time. I don’t feel like I am distracted from the goals, and the goals are generic enough so that the I have the ability to complete the goals in my own way.


Lens 29 – Chance

At random points in time, a fairy would fly in, and tapping on the fairy would provide me with a random boost. Sometimes, the boost is even beneficial enough for me to defeat a boss I previously could not. This causes me to wait in anticipation for the fairy, or even have my experience of the game changed by a timely arrival of a boost from the fairy.


Lens 31 – Challenge

I found the game to have good intervals of challenges. Due to the increase in the health of the bosses, I often end up barely defeating the bosses within the time limit. This allows me to feel a strong sense of challenge when I have to tap as fast as I can to ensure I beat the boss with mere seconds to spare.



Observations when another person is playing:

The person I was observing took a different approach to handling the game. He preferred to invest points into raw power, and coupled with his ability to tap faster, was able to push past bosses without having to rely on his helper heroes.

This play style relied a lot on the player having to use his own effort to deal more damage, and resulted in him having to play the game at a more intensive pace then I had.


Lens 42 – Simplicity/Complexity

My friend’s play style made the game even more simple. He focused singly on his tap damage, and made the game a race between his tapping abilities, and the exponential increase in boss health.


Lens 3 – Fun

My friend found the game to be fun, especially in the ever increasing damage numbers. He paralleled the game to pressing bubble wrap, a way for him to distress through having fun.


Lens 49 – Visible Progress

As he played through the game a lot faster than I had, my friend’s playthrough had a strong aspect of visible progress. You could see his damage done increase from the thousands, to millions, to billions, allowing for a visible sign of his progress in the game.

Personally, he found it very satisfying to look at the damage per second counter, which is affected by both the damage level, and the number of taps per second he could tap. He was able to set his own personal goals at each interval.


Lens 57 – Feedback

My friend noticed a form of feedback that I had neglected earlier.

Under each boss’ health, there is also a small bar that depletes in relation to the amount of time you have left to beat the boss. This provides a visual feedback to players, to help them to see how fast they are managing to whittle away the boss’ health in relation to the time left.

Both he and I felt this was a vital form of feedback, as it gave us the ability to visualize if we would be able to win the boss, especially if it would have been a close call.


Comparison Analysis


Due to our two different playing styles, I was able to observe two completely different ways that the game evolved. In my game, I spent more time waiting for my heroes to attack and generate gold, whilst my friend spent most of his playing time tapping away furiously.

From this, I learnt that a good game should allow the player to dictate the pace (to a certain extent), in order for players to have a unique experience of their own.

In addition, I was able to see how players place their priorities when given a limited resource. My aim was to level my heroes, while my friend’s goal was to level his raw damage.

As we were playing, I realized that an aspect missing from the game is a multiplayer function. A social aspect may help players to renew their interest in the game, and provide a completely different game experience to the players. It can also help with the more frustrating points of the game, as it would allow players to help one another through the harder intervals.

On the whole, my friend and I agreed that the game was one that could clearly fill the role of a ‘casual game’, one that could be picked up – and stopped – at the convenience of the player. The game in itself provides an unexplainable addictive playing experience, which makes players like my friend and I return to beat up the next boss every time we pick up our phones.


League of Legends

The game that I will talk about is League of Legends. This is a free online game and everyone who has a garena account can easily access to this game. There are five players each team. Each player can choose a champion to join the fight. To play this game well, players need to have good sense of how to make combination of their champions’ abilities. During the game, players can kill players and minions of the other team and monsters in the jungle to get level up and earn money to buy items. Once being killed, players need to wait for respawning. The goal of the game is to destroy enemies’ turrets. Teamwork plays an important role in the game. Here is the link to the website:


I play the game:

When I first play this game, I find it easy to handle. I think this game provide me a chance to be a fighter and happy with that I have the ability to lead my teammates to victory. There is a period in this game that we have to fight one to one. This is the time that we can show our individual talent to play certain champion and this is also the time challenge our skills. There are three lines in the game, I always like to play in one line alone, so that gives chance to those players who are called jungler to gank me. When I stand in line alone, I will be very curious about when and where the jungler will appear. This makes me in tense and in this situation I can always perform better. There is another situation that will make players surprise, we can it critical attack. When we hit others there is a chance that we can make critical attack which will make huge damage. Everytime I see I make a critical attack I will be very excited because that will be a very good chance to kill the enemy. I think the critical attack make the game fun. Overall I like this game because this game provides me good experience. Playing the game we can have fun and there are full of surprise and curious mechanism in the game.


My friend plays the game:

He seldom play games like this, he likes RPG better. When I first ask him to play the game, he is not interested in it. However, finally he tries it. His first feeling is that there are too many champions and every champion has different abilities so that he is not able to memories those. I ask him play with AI first because he is a beginner.When he play the game, this game seems to be more fun because he does not know what ability the enemy has, he is always curious about them and new abilities can make him surprise. After a while, he seems to be OK to handle one champion. Therefore, I ask him to play with players. Bad things happen. He is not performing well and his teammates blame on him. He is unhappy about that. However, he is still willing to play again. “I will prove that I can play better than them after some practice” he says. And after some more practice he gradually learns the method to battle with people and finally he wins a game and becomes extremely happy. He says he is going to download the game on his own computer and play it. Battle with people is more challenge than play with AI and challenge makes this game fun.


What I learn:

A good game should provide people good experience such as I am very happy to be the fighter in League of Legends. Game should have a mode which is easy for beginner so that there will always be new players. Moreover, game should be challenge and interactive. I believe the right amount of challenge can make a game fun. After we play the game several times, we will be better and better. However, there is a limit in game AI; thus, we need other players to be the challenge, which is battle among players. Good mechanisms make a game fun. In League of Legends, I like the critical attack part because this provides unpredictable results of a battle, which makes the game more interesting. Furthermore, I think a good game should have a good goal. In League of Legends, there is an explicitly goal that we have to destroy all turrets and win a game. Moreover, there is another implicitly goal that we want to be the best player among all players. I want to win more so I have to practice more. As a result, players will not leave the game when a game ends; they will be willing to start a new game.