Emergent Strategies

http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20010627/rouse_02.htm (free registration required)



Jean-Paul LeBreton sez:

In one sense, I've heard it used to mean "something the developers quite literally did not anticipate". This always perplexes me, especially when this meaning of the word is held up, in the same breath, as a quality that developers should strive for... at that point you're basically admitting that you don't know how to do your job and are throwing up your arms and leaving the success of the gameplay to chance. "Wow, look at that, we totally didn't understand our own damn game well enough to figure out something a player did!". Geh.
The other meaning of emergence that's a lot more agreeable to me is "a phenomenon that emerges from the natural interaction of simpler constituent systems". So the developers set up simple rules that produce complex results when the player interacts with / combines them. (MechanicsThatCombine) Some of the more obscure possible interactions (such as using tiny wall-mounted bombs to climb up sheer surfaces in Deus Ex) *might* slip past the developers but really these things should be understood and planned for. If an emergent mechanic is interesting and rewarding, maybe work it into the goal structure or acknowledge it in some way... players enjoy having their cleverness recognized.
I guess some designers might shrink from the "recognize emergence and incorporate it iteratively" approach because they feel it might "destroy the magic" (by de-constructing it) but they deserve whatever pot-luck simplistic gameplay they get.

Jamie Fristrom adds:

Testing being as expensive as it is, and the fact that it takes so many years to discover all the...emergencies...in a game, I'm surprised developers aren't struggling to keep the emergence out.

EmergentStrategies and DegenerateStrategy?

Sometimes, relying on EmergentStrategies, you end up with a DegenerateStrategy?. The solution is frequently to RemoveExploits.

Not all games that bring about Emergent``Strategies have a Degenerate``Strategy. For example, chess has been through so many 'designers' through it's long history that all of the degenerate strategies have been found and removed.