⚙️ Game Loop - Beginner's Guide to Core Gameplay Loop

Game Loops - Beginner’s Guide to Core Gameplay Loop

A structured and well defined Game Loop is crucial for the success of the game. It’s the primary iteration that players will repeat over and over in order to complete the game. The clearer and well define it is, the easier will be for Players to understand.

Without a structured Game Loop, players will feel hopeless as there isn’t a main goal to accomplish in the game. This will generate frustration and will make players leave the game.

How do we build/design a Core Game Loop?

A Game Loop can be described in 3 stages:

  • The Challenge.
  • The Solution.
  • The Reward.

As an example, we’ll create a fictional Carrot harvesting survival game called “Carrot Crops”.

On “Carrot Crops”, the Players are invited to Plant and Harvest Carrots on their farm as long as they can. - Sounds a simple idea, right?

I’m confused, so what is the Core Gameplay Loop after all?

This is just the basic premisse of what players need to do to achieve the goal of the game:

  • Challenge: Plant and Water your Carrots.
  • Solution: Harvest your Carrots.
  • Reward: Sell your Carrots and buy better tools expand your farm.

A game can already be made now, but is it enough to be fun?

To ensure that the gameplay is engaging and fun, we will now add depth and mechanics to happen during the 3 stages.

The game’s core gameplay loop is built of many loops, each of which feeds into the next.

Each Stage will have now a smaller loop with the same structure: Challenge, Solution and Reward.

Let’s break each stage down to steps.

The Challenge:

As stated earlier, the challenge of “Carrot Crops” is to plant Carrot seeds and water them.

Can we make a mini game out of this Stage and include it in the bigger Core Gameplay loop?

Let’s apply the same 3 principles, but this time, we’ll do a Strategy type of game:

  • Challenge: Deciding which type of seed to plant - Each type of Carrot needs a different amount of water, you can only carry a limited amount of water.
  • Solution: Match types of seeds to plant with the amount of water that a Player can carry.
  • Reward: Less Carrots will perish due to lack of Water. The player has optimized its outcome by creating an efficient strategy.

While creating a smaller game loop around the Challenge Stage, we added a new layer of depth to the game and introduced to the Player that his decision will have an impact on the result of the game.

This opens a wide range of possibilities for the Solution phase.

The Solution

The Solution phase is where the player will see the results of his actions. Usually this part is where the Player gets his most active role in the game.

In our example, the Solution is to harvest the crop. Sounds simple enough, as long we water the Carrots, they should be fine, right?

That’s why we’ll apply the same principle again. This time we’ll add a Tower Defense type of mini game:

  • Challenge: Water and Protect the Carrots.
  • Solution: Save the Carrots from thirst and from being eaten.
  • Reward: Harvest the surviving Carrots.

While during the Challenge Stage, we introduced the need for Carrots to be watered, this is an action the Player already needs to do. Now we added more conflicts for the Player to manage, such as placing barriers and scare predators away. While the Player has 3 possible actions, he can only do one task at a time.

This creates a tense and thriling moment, where Players get to put their experience and skill in action, their gameplay output will affect the final Rewards.

The Reward

The Reward Stage is like a resolution phase, where the Player internalize his personal experience at the game and how much fun he had inside the main Core Gameplay Loop.
If the outcome is a positive emotion/feeling, its very likely that he will repeat or continue to play the game.

The Reward should meet the expectations of the Player for the time thet spent completing the game and for the degree of difficulty to complete the game.

During the Reward Stage, it could either be seen as the actual end of the game or the beginning of a new game.

On our example with “Carrot Crops”, we’ll add a Shop on the Reward Stage, still using the same 3 principles:

  • Challenge: Sell your Carrots
  • Solution: Buy Seeds, Tools or Fertilizers.
  • Reward: Final Result or Progression.

During this stage, Players can earn the Reward for their efforts by selling the Carrots. This can result in a final highscore, pushing the Player to play again and try to climb in the leaderbord.

On this case, we added a Shop layer at the end, that invites Players to repeat the Core Gameplay Loop without closing their game. With the Shop, we can add the possibility for the Player purchase:

  • Different seeds to plant: Challenge Stage.
  • Tools to carry more water: Challenge Stage.
  • Barriers to protect from predators: Solution Stage.
  • Fertilizers to cure Carrot illness: Solution Stage.
  • Level Locked Items: Reward Stage.

By enriching existing gameloops, it adds depth and complexity to the already existing features and mechanics. It’s an opportunity to create Player progression through the game, every time he repeats the Game Gameplay Loop.

We hope this guide was helpful to you. Don’t hesitate to contribute on this topic.

If you want to learn more about Game Economy Design and how to balance it, check out this guide too: ⚙️ Game Economy - Faucets and Sinks