Data_Sheet_1_External Assistance Techniques That Target Core Game Tasks for Balancing Game Difficulty.PDF

Game balancing is a time consuming and complex requirement in game design, where game mechanics and other aspects of a game are tweaked to provide the right level of challenge and play experience. One way that game designers help make challenging mechanics easier is through the use of External Assistance Techniques—a set of techniques outside of games' main mechanics. While External Assistance Techniques are well-known to game designers (like providing onscreen guides to help players push the right buttons at the right times), there are no guiding principles for how these can be applied to help balance challenge in games. In this work, we present a design framework that can guide designers in identifying and applying External Assistance Techniques from a range of existing assistance techniques. We provide a first characterization of External Assistance Techniques showing how they can be applied by first identifying a game's Core Tasks. In games that require skill mechanics, Core Tasks are the basic motor and perceptual unit tasks required to interact with a game, such as aiming at a target or remembering a detail. In this work we analyze 54 games, identifying and organizing 27 External Assistance Techniques into a descriptive framework that connects them to the ten core tasks that they assist. We then demonstrate how designers can use our framework to assist a previously understudied core task in three games. Through an evaluation, we show that the framework is an effective tool for game balancing, and provide commentary on key ways that External Assistance Techniques can affect player experience. Our work provides new directions for research into improving and maturing game balancing practices.