An experience's core loop is the central gameplay through which an entire experience is built. An experience's core loop is divided into three sections:
- Minute to minute player interaction
- Most repeated set of actions
- Progression engine
The first step in a core loop is the minute to minute player interaction. These constant actions form the baseline for the experience and vary depending on genre.
In an action RPG, exploration represents the minute to minute player interaction. The player constantly explores the world, either discovering new areas or revisiting previously explored ones.
The second step in a core loop is the most repeated set of actions. The minute to minute interaction facilitates these actions, and these are often the defining mechanic of the experience. While experiences might involve multiple action sets, the most frequently repeated actions become part of the experience's core loop.
In an action RPG, fighting is the most repeated set of actions. As they explore the world, players continually engage in combat. Though "fighting" comprises various individual actions, such as dodging, striking, and guarding, they fall under the single core mechanic.
The third step in a core loop is the progression engine, which propels players through the experience. Without a progression system, an experience becomes repetitive, boring, and shallow.
In an action RPG, the upgrade tree serves as the progression system. Once players finish exploring and fighting, they require a system to manifest these changes. This process includes leveling up and acquiring new skills, which then boost the player's future exploration and combat capabilities.
When you design a core loop effectively, you create engaging and dynamic experiences that captivate players. A well-designed core loop fosters a seamless, repeatable, enjoyable gameplay cycle.