Goals and a sense of accomplishment
When designing Chasmic Rush I did quite a lot of research once I knew I wanted to design the “perfect” level. So where else to start than Super Mario? After digging out various interviews of Shigeru Miyamoto to understand what would make a really great level, I found this interview with a wonderful quote (which should start at 0:44 in)
“the first thing a game needs is a sense of accomplishment so that you get a sense of satisfaction of completing something”.
Having a goal in a game helps to provide motivation and an aspiration to complete it, which helps to build this sense of achievement and accomplishment. This lack of a climax is missing from Infinite Runner games because how far you fly or run, or how many coins you collect is in the shadow of a goalless quest – it’s meaningless because it has no context.
A good example here of a clear goal is Mr Jump, where I failed hundreds of time to reach 100% only to curse the game for being so unforgiving. Irrespective, the thought/aspiration stuck in my head that “one day I’ll complete the whole level and get to 100%”, and it did, until of course I completed it; only to be disappointed by the second level because it was 10x more difficult than the first 😉
I guess the lesson here is it helps to have a clear goal, but also to have a plan for what players can do after they complete it i.e. specifically don’t ramp up the difficulty curve too much that it simply alienates them, otherwise they are lost forever.