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University of California Santa Cruz Gaming Ideation Refrection Essay

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Game Feel
Group 15
Kevin Chu
Alexander Kuang
Daniel Ruderman
Ahri Zheng
Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is a farming simulation game that
belongs in the role-playing genre of video games.
The game’s main narrative revolves around you as
the protagonist who just inherited your
grandfather’s old farm. Armed with
hand-me-down tools and a few coins, you set out
to begin your new life in Pelican Town. Players
must learn different skills like farming and fishing
to live off the land. A huge part of Stardew Valley
also revolves around building relationships with
NPCs. The game also includes vast caves filled
with enemies and precious materials that the
player must learn to navigate. With beautiful pixel
graphics and nuanced gameplay, the game
provides players with an unmatched level of
harmonious immersion.
Description of Game Feel
Stardew Valley provides player with a deep sense of immersion due to the depth of gameplay and beautiful
aesthetics. Swink’s principle of harmony is displayed by Stardew Valley’s resource management involving currency,
time, and relationships. These 3 aspects of gameplay combine to provide player’s with an interactive simulation of
reality where they need to carefully control how they earn and spend money, how they plan their days accordingly
to maintain and improve their land, and how they build friendships and romance with other villagers.
Due to the game’s pixelated aesthetic, organic motion is not prevalent in the gameplay. However, that is not
to say the game doesn’t provide players with intuitive and responsive movement. The game incorporates a
2-dimensional grid system of movement that reacts acutely to player input. If you want to move a certain direction
or swing your tool in another direction, the game’s visual aspect provides an instantaneous response to the player’s
specific command.
Perhaps the best part of the game is it’s replayability where you learn something new every time. The game
isn’t necessarily “easy”, but the combination of instructions and intuitive controls allows the player to learn in
minutes but only master after hours of gameplay. While certain actions may yield predictable results, the novelty of
the game lies in its unpredictability. You can fish for hours on end but each haul may be different. You can also
collect geodes to crack them open, but depending on the geode, you have a chance to find extremely rare loot.
Though the result of certain inputs may become predictable, every playthrough yields a different experience that
keeps the game fresh and interesting.
Visual Annotation
List of Similar Games
Similar Games

Animal Crossing
Farming Simulator
I categorized these games as similar, because they all fall
under the genre of simulation games. Similar to how
Stardew Valley focuses on building up your inherited farm,
Animal Crossing, Minecraft, and Terraria all allow you to
build up your “home” or island (in the case of Animal
Crossing) using resources foraged from the game
environment. Players are also able to roleplay in each one of
these games, simulating relatively realistic experiences like
farming, eating, and currency management just to name a
Games with Similar Game Feel
The game that resembles Stardew Valley’s game feel the most is probably Minecraft. Similar to
Stardew Valley’s retro graphics, Minecraft has blocky, low resolution graphics as well that also prevents the
game from mimicking organic movement. However, Minecraft’s movement system provides player with
instantaneous response. If you press the shift key while walking, the player will instantly start running or if you
left click, the player will instantly move their right hand or use any tools being held by the right hand. The
controls of the game are very intuitive and results from player input are very predictable. When the players
inputs a certain command, they get the response they expect.
Minecraft is actually well known for being notoriously simple to understand. Once you play for a few
minutes, you start to understand how to control your avatar as well as crafting, an essential aspect of
gameplay. However, minecraft actually has a circuitry system that allows you to build some crazy things inside
the virtual world. This complex circuitry system actually takes many hours of gameplay to master since
beginner players wouldn’t be able to whip up complex contraptions mastered by veteran players.
An important part of the game’s mechanics is hunger management, where if your character gets
hungry, you slowly lose health until you die. This forces the player to forage for food or create a farm. These
elements of construction and health management replicates certain real life behaviors that provide players
with a unique physical reality.
Game feel sounds like a really non-specific, and a not very helpful, description of what it takes to make games
appeal to players. However, game feel actually encapsulates a wide array of useful and academic definitions to
accurately identify why a game is particularly inviting. What’s especially interesting is the interconnectedness
of the various principles are and how one aspect directly compliments one another. In fact the more we each
played these games the more the reading began to connect to the tangible game’s we interact with. I’ve never
thought too much about the controls in a game being part of an established gamer culture, until I thought back
to all the times I’ve seen non-gamers try and play something and attempt to understand a well established
control like WASD or joystick controls. Being comfortable with those controls, being able to move around with
them, and at the same time using tools in any direction, around my character in Stardew Valley, allowed for the
myself, the player, to instantaneously in an appealing motion move and click in a harmonious form as I
collected items around the map. – Daniel Ruderman, Alexander Kuang
Takeaways (Cont.)
Determining the quality of a game has always been relatively subjective depending on
who is reviewing the game. However, Swink’s criteria of game feel has provided me with a
clearer understanding of what goes into making a universally enjoyable game. By having a
better understanding of the standards behind good game design, I’ll be able to implement
these practices into my future game design projects.
However, I believe this criteria provided by Swink’s can even be implemented towards
different digital mediums. I can see myself transitioning standards like responsiveness and
harmony to digital products like mobile applications and websites. I thoroughly enjoyed how
this design exercise was able to teach me important values applicable to various creative
practices. – Kevin Chu
Takeaways (Cont.)
Stardew Valley is a treasure. As long as you pursue it with your heart, you will live the life you
want. It turns out that the treasure of Stardew Valley is a positive heart. My dying heart rose
in the noise of the city in the valley of stardew. The city sometimes makes people forget the
truth, but you don’t have the courage to leave the city. You don’t have hundreds of acres of
farmland left by grandpa, and you have to huddle in a rented house to worry about the future.
You think of Stardew Valley, but you worry about whether it really exists? It’s really cool to
walk away, but we have no safe way out. So, when your heart is covered with dust, take a
long vacation. There is no Stardew Valley in real life, but I heard that people who have the
courage to change the status have been there.
As a highly interactive subculture, game evaluation really involves all aspects of it – whether it
is fun, whether it can continue to attract players to play and so on. But for a special game like
Stardew Valley, I want to write something special. Why is the simulation game so popular?
We don’t analysis of the game system, the art style and the mechanics, think about what the
author wants to express by the game. Game designers want players to have a relaxed and
pleasant experience, memory, or a pure and beautiful dream. -Ahri Zheng
Kevin Chu
Alexander Kuang
Daniel Ruderman
Ahri Zheng
GAMES: Polar Pop Mania, Stardew Valley, Warframe
Stage #3: Individual Writeup
– Polar Pop Mania​: I believe this game has a pretty good game feel. It’s very
responsive and relatively accurate, which gives me a great feeling of reliability.
The game is super easy to pick up, but I don’t think it becomes very deep. The
difficulty comes about through the, seemingly, random output of the balls. Also,
the line that tracks the shot doesn’t go very far, making it a bit frustrating as the
levels get taller. However, I do think everything comes together nicely enough.
– Stardew Valley​: Stardew Valley is a game I love and have sunk hundreds of hours
into, but I can’t say the game has the greatest game feel. First off, the act of
actually doing something that interacts with the grid based system, like planting
and watering vegetables, is difficult because the player isn’t restricted to the grid
in terms of movement. So, it feels imprecise at times. Also, attacking enemies, like
bats, is difficult because their movement path is even less beholden to the grid
system, so I don’t really receive an appealing response. And while the game isn’t
difficult, inherently, it isn’t the easiest to get into when your mistakes can cost so
much in the beginning.
– Warframe: ​I haven’t done too deep a dive into this game, but at first glance it
seems very responsive, almost to a fault. The actual controlling of the player
character is very responsive and sometimes it can make the player look a little
herky-jerky. The pace of the game overall is very manic, so I guess the movement
of the player matches that. As far as an appealing response, though, it’s not the
greatest. Without the context of the game’s actual core gameplay, it doesn’t look
very satisfying. I haven’t played too much, but it does seem to get much more
difficult, which makes it lean towards the easy-but-deep side, but I can’t say with
I nominate Stardew Valley.

Polar Pop Mania​: First off, the colors visually ​POP.​ The game is exploding with
color and bubbles. In fact weirdly enough I felt almost no negative feedback on
the first several levels. If you miss and throw a bubble in the wrong place and then
pop​ the bubbles above it and that single bubble falls into the water, what I thought
would get me negative points, instead enforced a positive feedback loop of
intentionally placing a pile of bubbles in the wrong place and causing them to fall,
without wasting too much ​popping​ ammo in the process. And your baby seals are
trapped in some of the bubbles so you have to snap, crackle, and ​pop​ them out.
The sound effects of the bubbles ​popping​ are quite satisfying and connect visually
with them bursting. The aiming is really smooth as you can simply tap the screen
where you want to shoot and ​pop​ or you can hold down your finger to aim you
shot. Overall, I’d give this game a ⅘. It’s about as much fun as clubbing some baby
Stardew Valley​: This game feels way more open since it’s camera is shifted pretty
far above the character who sits in the middle of the screen. Moving around is as
simple as WASD and clicking to use different tools. This game takes better use of
the mouse being used. You can use items in all directions around them. Clicking
to chop would or pick at a stone is connected with the visual queue of the object
moving, parts falling off of it, as well as it bursting into little pieces. There is also
auditory feedback with every object you interact with. The player can allow the
games UI to show the hit location when using tools. When this is turned on it’ll be
green when they can use their tool on and object and red when they can’t. As the
player collects game items and stores them in their inventory they see what new
game objects they can create so the game teaches from the beginning to collect
new items for the deep pay off of creating new in game items.
Warframe​: This game allows the player to swap between different warframes
which makes it so it’s difficult for them to lose their novelty as you’re always
swapping between them. The game not only has different attack styles players
can learn about, but there are mod cards they can add onto their weapons and
warframes that add a lot of depth for the player. It’s a third person game so you
can see your character, but the animations as you quickly slide around the map
make you feel very swift and more physically able. Different mods have damage
effects that when shot at enemies affect them differently physically, as well as it
being visually shown. Different weapons also have a very enjoyable effect as well,
as an example one of them shoots at a slower rate, but the bullets also travel
slower and when you figure out the timing on it, it has a very appealing effect
when they connect with an enemy.
I nominate Warframe.
– Polar Pop Mania​: The biggest selling point of this game to me was how easy it
was to pick up. The game utilizes the first few stages to instruct the user on core
mechanics of the game that are repeated for the rest of the stages. However, this
game quickly ramps up the difficulty to keep things fresh. In the beginning, all you
have to do are obvious lineups by matching specific color orbs to the right group.
As the levels progress, the orbs are matched up in a more difficult pattern
requiring more advanced techniques like wall bouncing or “sewing” the orb
through tight spaces. The game feels responsive due to immediate feedback from
actions the player chooses to take such as releasing the orb from the seal’s hand.
This mobile experience also satisfies the criteria of predictable results where you
know what will happen as long as you are able to execute correctly. In terms of
aesthetics, this game is visually satisfying as you watch orbs match with other orbs
and collectively “pop” together. It also provides the player with a simple narrative
of a mother seal saving her baby seals trapped in orbs. This game is quite simple
yet effective in terms of fun due to its scaling levels of complexity and
development of playstyle.
– Stardew Valley​: This highly-rated game provides players with the freedom to
explore so many different aspects of gameplay. The amount of activities to do in
Stardew Valley is endless, from fishing and farming to fighting monsters and
mining minerals. When starting a playthrough, it’s easy to immediately pickup
certain core functions like movement and asset management, but the level of
depth in this game is amazing. Players can allocate skill points into different
branches to receive different in-game benefits. While players can play for hours
and quickly pick up tips and tricks, mastering the game requires multiple
playthroughs. The appeal of the game lies in simulation, where the player can
fabricate a home, relationships, items, etc. and all these elements of gameplay
result in a satisfying and harmonious experience. From things like tending to crops
to socializing with neighbors, every element of gameplay makes the player feel
immersed in a pixelated world. While certain inputs from the player can feel
repetitive, like mining or fishing, you never know what may result from that input in
regards to loot. Depending on what you’re mining, you can receive different
minerals and craft different weapons. This unpredictable loot system provides
players with a sense of novelty where things are consistently fresh. The
developers also play a great role in pushing out free updates that come with
levels and levels of new content.
– Warframe: ​Warframe is a free-to-play game that offers jaw-dropping graphics and
an unbridled movement system. The emphasis of this game is on combat and
exploration so movement is essential to a visceral experience. Players are able to
select different avatars, “Warframes”, that come with unique skillsets and operate
best with specific weapons. While you can quickly pick up basic controls like
movement and attacks, it takes hours of gameplay to truly master combinations of
input and maximize one’s damage output. This high skill cap makes the game
easy to understand but definitely hard to master and the gameplay is kept fresh
through community involvement. Players are constantly discovering new
combinations of skills and weapons, resulting in a plethora of alternatives to
gameplay. Whether you want to be a ranger that sits in the back shooting electric
arrows or you want to be upfront slashing away with your katana, players are able
to spend countless hours learning and mastering new and different playstyles.
Combining amazing graphics with high-intensity mechanics results in a futuristic,
yet visceral experience where players can sink hours and hours of gameplay into.
I nominate Stardew Valley

Polar Pop Mania​: The whole picture of the game is bright in color and cheerful in
sound effect. Although it is a plane game, the interface of the whole game gives
people a sense of q-cute. Whether it’s the gate design or the icon design of the
main interface, it’s a vivid and cute little pet image with big eyes, which also
accumulates a lot of female user groups.
In terms of music, the game is also very happy to fit the interface, which makes the
players feel relaxed and fresh. But the whole game is just background music, it will
be a little boring after a long time. As for the sound effect, almost every
combination has its corresponding sound effect, as well as the cue sound of the
sprouting system.
Stardew Valley​: The biggest feature of Stardew Valley is “freedom”. Barone wants
to immerse players in Stardew Valley, so it’s not enough to just manage the farm.
Players can even choose not to be a farmer, and after simply operating the farm,
they can go fishing, mining and harassing NPC day and night. There is no fixed
main line in the game, and all of them must be dug by the players themselves.
Players can develop modern agriculture of market economy to every corner of the
town, or they can roam for three years without success. The choice of players will
determine the direction of the game. There are three years of the main line in the
game, three years later to make a summary for the players, and then is the free
play mode.

What Barone brings is not a kind of life, but a world. Pelican town’s rookie NPC is
different from other games, they have very complex interpersonal relationships,
they will change their attitude in contact with the players, and will mention the
world view of the game. At this time, we know that the background of this game is
not the earth we are familiar with, but another world with big wars, which is in
sharp contrast to the stability and harmony of Stardew valley. In fact, Stardew
Valley is not peaceful. Barone likes to blur the information. Some immoral
behaviors of NPC will be implied (such as drug taking and cheating), but he will
not tell us the truth. So in many forums, you can see the guesses about the
complex relationship of the small town residents.

Warframe:​ “Warframe” is undoubtedly an excellent third person shooting online
game. In PVP, three modes are added: annihilation, team annihilation and capture
center. No matter which PVP mode, it has done a very good job in balance. The
armor, firearms, melee weapons and skills used in PVP need to be configured
separately. Many powerful weapons that can be used in Scenario mode will be
disabled, which also ensures the fairness and competitiveness of the game to the
greatest extent.
I nominate Stardew Valley.
Video intro: ​
Related reading: swink-game-feel.pdf
In this exercise you will practice becoming an astute critic of ​game feel. ​You will do this
by focusing your attention on game feel of others’ games, to continually improve your
senses about game feel. We can think of this exercise as doing a close read of games,
this sort of exercise helps designers understand their art more deeply by engaging and
analyzing the specifics and details.
We would like you to try to go as deep as you can in your analysis, and make sure to tie it
back to the reading to support your close read of the game feel. You will make a pdf
presentation with annotated screenshots of one game to visually communicate your
game feel critique. We encourage you to also think aesthetically about your presentation
and try to convey your point of view in a way that would be clearly understood by the
people who engage with your work (e.g. your graders and us).
Reminder: Game Feel Principles
1. Predictable results
2. Instantaneous response
3. Easy but deep
4. Novelty
5. Appealing response
6. Organic motion
7. Harmony
8. (Ownership)
Stage #1: Discuss
How do you get to create a game with a great ​game feel​, what do you think? Write down
a few thoughts.
Stage #2: Play
As a group, choose 3 games to play (at least one game should be from the following list),
and spend some time playing it individually
Stage #3: Individual writeup
1) Each member of the group should write a short summary of their reactions to
playing the 3 game, in terms of their game feel.
2) Nominate one game that you decide has the best game feel.
Stage #4: Meet
Discuss the game feel of the 3 games you’ve played. Based on your individual
nomination of the best game feel in the previous stage, choose one you ​collectively w
​ ill
look at in more detail. Join the notes you’ve taken in the previous stage to discuss how it
felt to play the chosen game, use Swank’s 7 principles to guide your discussion.
Stage #5: Describe and Annotate
1) Create a slideshow to export as a pdf file (name the file: Group#xx(your group
number)_GameFeel.pdf). Please make sure that your group member’s names are
written on it AND your group number.
2) Slide #1​: Name and brief description of the game that your group thought had the
best game feel (~150 words).
3) Slide #2​: Your description of its game feel, based on all the group members’
notes. Include why it has a good game feel (use at least some of the 7 qualities
Swink includes in his chapter) (~150-250 words).
4) Slide #3​ and on (depending on your need): Demonstrate your thoughts visually.
Create visual annotations (aesthetically appealing is a bonus!) of the game’s
screenshots to demonstrate your point of view on its game feel. To do this,
compile all your main points, and include screenshots that can represent at least a
few of the concepts. Try to create some that visually would be clear and easy to
comprehend, and enjoyable to look at. Here are some ideas of formatting, note
that they are messier than would be ideal: ​Annotated Moodboards Examples​,
Annotated Movie Frames Examples​. Get creative, for inspiration you can look for
ideas ​here​.
Note that you can work with whichever tools you’re comfortable with.
5) Extra Credit – Include slides with:
1. Include a list of games this game reminds you of, and tell us why. + 1pt
2. Does this game’s feel remind you of other games? Which ones, and why?
3. What team members take away from this exercise in thinking about their
own game design and development? +1pt
2 pdf files to Canvas that includes:
● Stage #3 – appendix: all group members’ individual write-ups in one single pdf
● Stage #5 – slideshow presentation with the annotated screenshots

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