Game dynamics is one of the hardest parts of game design. It determins how much fun the game is, how long it stays intersting to play, what the replay value is and many other aspects of the success (or failure) of a game. Tools you have to test game dynamics are rather limited, besides your common sense (which is the best tool out there) you can use mathematics or playtest the frack out of it.
We at D’iMages focus on two player games and we feel that the game dynamics of two player games often is completely different from multi player games. This is one of the reason that the adaptations of multi player games to two player versions are often disappointing.
In two player games you only have one opponent and you focus all you energy and resources on that opponent, beat him (or her) and you win the game. In multiplayer games you have more than one opponent and the tactic “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” comes into play. This very basic and simple difference has a big impact on game mechanics.
Consider the following simplified example. Suppose we have a strategic game where the best answer to strategy A1 would be C1 and the best answer to strategy B2 would be C2. In a multiplayer game this could work. Player A plays A1 so you play C1, but your strategy will not work well agains player B playing B2 (you should have played C2, not C1). You have a dillema, you’ll need to make a choice and that is what gaming is all about, making (meaningful) choices.
Now consider this in a two player environment. Player A players A1, so you play C1 and you win. That’s not fun! There is no choice. Of course you can choose to play something different, but then you simply loose, still no fun. The simple fact that you only have one opponent makes a big difference in the viability of game mechanics.
In our games we carefully construct mechanics that force the two players to move ahead with partial strategies and need to work around limitations. There should never be an definitive answer to the other players moves. Adjusting you tactics to the development of the game should be key to success.
This is the reason we do believe that our focus on creating games in a two player environment is warrented. Of course there are examples of game mechanics that work well in both two and muliple player settings, but the number is pretty limited.