Improve Your Game: Core Loop

Today, with the millions of games on the market, it can be challenging to stand out. As a consumer and a developer, I've discovered some patterns that make a game great. This tutorial will explain some of them and help you to improve your game.
Step 1

What is Core Loop?

What is the Core Loop?
The Core loop represents the game mechanics in regards to the relation between action-reward-expansion.

Action
Action represents a player part of the game, things he should do-his actions.

Reward
When a player is doing something, he expects some kind of a reaction, things he will get if he is playing the right way, that reaction represents the reward.

Expansion
Finally, expansion represents going further into the game. It represents things we can do with our rewards, and what actually rewards mean in our game.

Relations between these three parts of core loop are called interaction mechanic (action-reward), progression mechanic(reward-expansion) and expansion mechanic(expansion-action).
Now, lets go with some examples to understand better what is core loop.

Step 2

Adventure Games

Action
Pick any adventure game and think what game ask from you a plalyer to do.
It is all about searching and collecting clues.

Reward
After we get some clues, more or less, we are ready to solve puzzle, and that is our reward.

Expansion
And what after we solve puzzle, well, that will lead us to another puzzles, and new areas.

Lets now take it all together.
Our imagined game is all about leaving some building.
Imagine one room with locked doors (puzzle).
What we need to open that door is key (reward), but we cant find it.
Thats why we search for clues, like some notes left in room (action).
And finally when we find our key, we open door and enter another area, something like another biger room, again locked (expansion).
We do whole process again, untill there is no more rooms left.

Step 3

Role Playing Games

Action
This one is obvious. Fighting enemies.

Reward
And after you defeat enemies you get loot and experience. Sometimes loot can be currency of game, sometimes loot is weapon, or another item related to game.

Expansion
Expansion in RPGs is showed trough leveling up, and getting better equipment which alow you to fight stronger enemies.

Core loop in RPGs is intuitive and easy to recognize and i dont think it needs further explanations.

Step 4

Platforme Games

Action
Avoid obstacles. Run, jump, do whatever it takes to get to end of level/area.

Reward
Completing level.

Expansion
Beating level unlock you new levels/areas.

This is not such obvious core loop. Yes, you can recognize what should you do while playing platforme games, but if you ask yourself what is action-reward-expansion loop it woudn’t be so easy to tell.
Thats why you need to think about your own game and about mechanic of your game and realise these steps so you can make them perfect.

Step 5

Mutliple Loops

Most of great games have multiple loops. Lets anlyze this on one actual popular game..

As example lets take some RPG and lets recognize three loops in that game.
First one is about fighting enemies and gettin experience for it to level up, which alow us to get stronger and fight stronger enemies.
Second one is about searchin clues to acces locked areas, to find who is behind plots, solve mysteries and in that way proceed further trough story.
Third one is about achievments. Some achievments require another to be finished to be unlocked.
As example think about, “weapon master” achievment.
Lets say that this ahchievment is locked and way to unlock it to get achiement for specific type of weapon. What game ask from us is to collect all swords, or all bows in game.
Something like: “sword master”, “bow master”,…etc.
After we got “sword master”, “weapon master” unlocks and game say to us that if we get achiewments for all specific weapons we will get this one too.

One more important thing is to know what is your target audience. Who is you player, how old is he, what are his interests.
Based on that idea, you should care about it while tuning loops.
If you target audience is 6 year old kid, or 18 year old person puzzles can’t be same.
If it is puzzle game, based on diffculty of puzzles, game can be fun just for one of them.

I showed you diferent genres of games with their core loops.
These are not tuned core loop, these are just some simplified examples to help you understand what core loop is about.
This doesn’t mean you should get boxed in and copy some loop from another games. You can make your own unique, and that is the best way.

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