In Capstone/Intercorp’s Search for the Titanic, the player reenacts the discovery of the Titanic.
One of the gimmick features of the game was that the first player to solve the adventure would win a valuable prize. Obviously, the designer didn’t want players winning too soon, so the game was made with one extremely difficult level of play.
Just before the game’s release, the licensor, upon learning of the “prize” gimmick, demanded that it be removed. The game was released as a tough, almost impossible adventure to solve.
Reaction: Think of designing a Titanic game with multiple levels from novice (easy) to championship (prize-worthy tough). Perhaps the player can master the controls and map out the underwater terrain in the easier levels. In the harder levels, new areas of exploration open up and there are new objects to discover.
This multilevel design approach would work whether the “prize” gimmick was offered or not. For a player to purchase and spend time playing an extremely tough game is just frustrating and wrong. Players who have conquered lower levels of play and then are elevated to an extremely tough level feel they have earned the right to be frustrated.
Design multiple levels and options of play in your game. When heading toward an iceberg, avail yourself of multiple options well in advance. Having only one option, just a straight path through the iceberg, may leave you with a “sink or swim” result.
Lesson: Design multiple scenarios for playing and winning the game. Don’t let gimmicks sell the game, let good gameplay sell it.