Refining is a key term of Game Design. Sometimes also called Juice. The common understand is that Refining is to work at something with extra care enhancing the perceived value of each game element.
Martin Jonasson and Petri Purho from Grapefrukt at Nordic Game. Using an example they did a progressive refinament over an Breakout-like game enhancing the perceived value to something amazing.
A similar talk was done by Jan Willem Nijman at Indigo Classes 2013.
That's exactly what refining is all about. Most authors describe this concept focusing on feedback for player's action. Sometimes rewards are also mentioned, often, as you should reward everything a playes does what is very very questionable.
Popcap games like peggle, IGF winners and some enhanced versions of old games are very used to illustrate that concept. I love to use Nintendo's games to do that.
Interesting and polished are the key words at those definiitions but let's see some more useful stuff here.
In Rules of Play, Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen brings an awesome definition of integrability and discernibility. I really love this definition and I like to extrapolate the meaning proposed into Rules of Play into something more useful.
Integrability answer by how much something have an impact over the entire game. More integrated means more impact on the actual game status. Bringing this definition into Refinning context, it means, each element more linked to other elements of the game.
Discernibility is make more perceived, or by any means, more unique and clear. Again, if we look into discernibility by the refining lens, this means to reinforce each signal emitted by improving feedback.
If we put everything together, a good game element should:
- Pop and act
- Use color, scale, position, rotation, texture, overlays, animation, sounds, particles and everything else to be noticed
- Impact something else. More impact, cooler.
- Have the right feel.
Iwata-sama, said at 2011 GDC that the biggest thing he learned by working with Shigeru Miyamoto is the real importance of content. This can sound a little weird and generic to some ears but it makes all the sense if we look to how the enemies or environments reacts to music, how much animation is presented into Nintendo's GUI/HUD or if we take a closer atention to the non-core features released on each Nintendo game.
Least but not last, some tricks can enhance the perceived value of something.
Anthropomorphize (more baby face, better) an element is a way to bring new psichological aspects to your game. Put an eye into a cloud or into a bush and you have just shaked the emotional status of your player. Put some emotions on that element and you just had turned an affective trigger to simpaty. Creates an emotional link between player and game element and anything can be perceived from the emotional side of your player.
Yes, you can take a week or more to make a single button but your player will be grateful for this awesome experience. Improve experience is design and good design is a refined design.
"Leggimi lettore se ti diletti di me, perché son rarissime volte rinato al mondo."