Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

14 December, 2004

More Breadth vs. Depth
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 5:48 AM

After some insightful comments, I wanted to cover a bit more on breath vs. depth. For more insight, check out Jeff Freeman’s response and Damion Schubert’s further comments.

Jeff has an excellent clarification on my original post when he talks about activities in the game. He says:

Although, when I think about breadth vs. depth in games, I tend to think about it in terms of activities: A game that offers you lots of different things to do, I’d describe as a [b]broad[/b] game (of which, any single activity – or even all of them – might also be deep). Whereas a single activity that is complex, I’d consider to be adding [b]depth[/b] to a game. ([i]Emphasis in the original.[/i])

Of course, content is what provides the activities in a game. Broad content allows for more activities in the game. And depth is how complex the activities are. However, I don’t think you can apply this universally. For example, a game focused on politics might have a lot of activities in it (campaigning, deal making, voting, lawmaking, debate, etc.), but I’d hesitate to call this a “broad” game; it is almost certainly going to be a deep game, however.

Damion has a bit different concept of “broad” vs. “narrow”. He says:

A “broad” game is a game that has a lot to do, but doesn’t do them all particularly well.
[...]
By comparison, a Deep game chooses one game mechanic and bends everything to support it.

This is an interesting point of view, but a bit different than what I intended in my original post. (As a side note, it shows how the imprecise dictionary of terms we game designers use can create some confusion.) His definitions often are the reverse of mine. Whereas in my definition I consider a sprawling game to be “broad”, Damion often considers it to be “deep” since it focuses on a few features.

To summarize my definitions of deep vs. broad: creating a million single-stop “FedEx quests” is a broad (and shallow) quest system. Creating a few multi-step quests with randomized elements and world changes based on quest completion is a deep (and narrow) quest system. Creating thousands of multi-step quests that have world effects would be both deep and broad, and very, VERY expensive to implement. ;)

Some more thoughts on this topic, since it obviously struck some chords. :)


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