Gaming Editor Louis Wright uses Factorio as a case study for the importance of gameplay loops in design

Gaming Editor | ( ̶T̶e̶m̶p̶) Lead Developer | MA Film & Television Research & Production | BSc Computer Science | BurnFM Deputy Station Manager | Generally Epic
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Arguably the most important design decision when making a game is defining what the core gameplay will be. Fundamentally games exist around their core gameplay, it is what provides most of the entertainment of the game, its general playability, and is what most other elements are designed around. Therefore, to keep players engaged and continually playing the game, what is known as a ‘gameplay loop’ must be developed. A gameplay loop is a repetition of actions that the player makes within the game and defines how the game is played- for example, in Pokémon: Legends Arceus, the gameplay loop consists of the player going into the game’s areas to catch Pokémon, receive rewards, and upgrade their items as to go and catch more Pokémon. 

Fundamentally games exist around their core gameplay

As the gameplay loop is the effective foundation for a game, more often than not it will be found that if a gameplay loop is well thought out and structured, the game will be, at the very least, fun. However, if the gameplay loop is sloppy and not well structured, the game will struggle to hold player interest as one of its main components is fundamentally flawed- and therefore everything built upon it will also be flawed. Gameplay loops are a crucial component in game design. 

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is an example of a game with a solid gameplay loop

A fantastic example of a solid gameplay loop that influences the entirety of the rest of its game is Factorio. Factorio is a game in which the player is stranded on an alien planet and must gather resources to build up and industrialise their surroundings to ultimately build a rocket ship and escape the planet. While the gameplay loop of Factorio may seem simple on the surface it is, in actuality, deceptively deep- the player spends the game collecting resources and then using said resources to improve their technology, which in turn allows them to gather more resources, thus creating the loop.

Factorio is a game that lives and dies by its solid foundations

Factorio is purposefully designed to hold player interest for as long as possible- at its core the game is designed to be as addictive as possible. This design is only achievable thanks to its masterfully crafted gameplay loop, as the player is constantly kept in a cycle of gathering resources which is only something they wish to do as to continue participating in the gameplay that is given to them. Factorio is effectively a game that keeps the player trapped in an endless cycle of what is effectively chores, collecting items they need through various methods and automating the world around them as they see fit.

Factorio is a game about industrialisation and improving resource production

Ultimately, Factorio is a game that lives and dies by its solid foundations. If its gameplay loop was not as well thought out, or was not as addictive in design, then the game would be nowhere near as highly received as it is presently. Without it, Factorio falls apart as a game as every other element relies upon it to properly function.

As seen via Factorio, understanding gameplay loops and ensuring that they are properly designed and polished to maximise player enjoyment and engagement is integral to creating a good game. If the gameplay loop is not good, the game is not good. Therefore, when planning a game one of the most important ideas to consider is what the gameplay loop will be, and how fun it actually is to play, as it is what takes up the majority of the player’s time with the game.

Watch the trailers for Factorio and Pokémon Legends: Arceus here:

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