One of the biggest challenges in game development is to keep the players invested in the game and have them return over and over again.
This is why the so-called game loops must be engaging so the players are willing to spend more time in the game.
Loops could be called the soul of the game. Think about your favorite game. Is there an action you repeat every time during a gameplay session?
It could be anything from planting the seeds on your farm and selling the crops to buy more seeds to killing monsters to gain more powerful weapons. Repeating the same action is essentially a game loop, it's the essence that makes the game. Loops' length can be from a minute to hours. Mobile games are mostly focused on the short-term loops, whereas strategy games like "Total War" might have loops lasting for hours.
Now, let's take a closer look at the game loops.
Core loops are the specific actions, the primary game mechanics or systems, that the game is built around. These core loops usually also define what genre the game belongs to.
Doom is an excellent example of a simple core loop. You enter a room, kill all the demons, and collect the reward. After this, you enter a new room and repeat the action.
Monster Hunter World offers a huge number of different kinds of weapons.
Compulsion loops aim to create a repetitive habit, so the player comes back to the game again and again. Compulsion loops aim to build anticipation around the potentially valuable reward. In the end, the player feels satisfaction or disappointment upon receiving the reward.
Monster Hunter games include compulsion loops for hunting down monsters for getting better equipment. Sometimes, the loot from the monsters may be disappointing, which drives the player to try again until they are satisfied with the loot.
Loot boxes in different games, like Counter-Strike, are also part of compulsion loops. The players aim to get the rarest items in order to feel satisfied.
Every Pokémon game includes traveling on the routes between areas.
Simple loops are basically everything else between the core loops and the compulsion loops. Simple loops are those mundane tasks that are still necessary for the game, like walking and opening a door.
Pokémon games have lots of simple loops beside the core loop. The players are required to travel through different areas in order to advance. The players also have to visit the PokéCenters and PokéMarts to heal and buy new items. Those aren't core loops, but simple loops instead.
Stardew Valley lets you upgrade your farm which leads to better crops and better rewards.
Core loops can have little alternative gameplay on the side that aims to support the core loops. For example, in Stardew Valley's core loop you grow crops that you sell and get rewarded.
You can continue the same core loop if you want, but in the alternative gameplay loop you can upgrade your farm with the rewards that result in better crops and greater rewards in the core loop.
Answer the following questions.
Core loops make the game viable, and the compulsion loops add more challenges. With the smaller loops, games can give the player a little breather between bigger tasks.
As you just learned, there needs to be a balance within the game. The game should be demanding, but not overly difficult in order to be as appealing as possible. Not everyone likes everything, though, and there are plenty of game genres from which to choose. Next, let’s look at some of them.