game design theory booklet teacher - wordpress.com · the four basic elements game design theory 8....

32
Game Design Theory 1 game design TEACHER

Upload: others

Post on 18-Oct-2020

8 views

Category:

Documents


0 download

TRANSCRIPT

Page 1: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Game Design Theory

1

game designTEACHER

Page 2: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Game Design Theory

2

GAME DESIGNTHEORY

Page 3: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

IntroductionBACKGROUND

Video games bolster critical thinking skills

By JASON KRELL Published April 20, 2012 at 12:00am Updated April 20, 2012 at 12:00am

http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/index.php/article/2012/04/video_games_bolster_critical_thinking_skills

As the semester winds down, students all over campus are planning how to prepare for finals. Most will put together study guides, or read the class materials they were supposed to have looked at weeks ago. I’m going to play a lot of video games.

It isn’t that my finals aren’t hard, or that I don’t have a lot of them. So how is it that I have the audacity to do something recreational instead of studying? Video games help you think critically.

Video games are seen as a diversion, but in reality, they are one of the most effective methods for getting people to think critically in today’s society.

I doubt if given the choice between having to analyze data for a paper in class and figuring out the best way to beat a video game that anyone would choose the former. It’s mostly because one is seen as a chore and the other a form of entertainment. But it doesn’t matter as long as the person in question is thinking.

Now, some video games can be tedious or mindless, but that isn’t always the case when looking at the details.

Take “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3” for example. Any idiot can jump onto the multiplayer, pick a gun, aim it and shoot. That idiot can also have some degree of success but their chances are pretty low.

To raise them, a player has to consider a lot of factors. What gun suits my play style best while being the most effective? What perks are going to complement my weapon? Are there any upgrades available which can make me more effective? How should I approach the battlefield? Do I hang back and pick people off from a distance or try to maneuver around the map and surprise other players from behind?

That’s just a sliver of the thought process for creating one class in “Call of Duty,” not to mention that there are four more classes to create and dozens of maps to be considered.

The amazing thing is that, despite how much time that might take for the untrained gamer, thousands of college students answer the above questions in minutes and do so effectively. It takes some time, sure, but after a few hours of playing, a person starts to get the idea — almost like studying.

If that example doesn’t do it for you, think about the choices made in a good role playing game.

Look at “Mass Effect 3.” If a player takes the game seriously, it can be an excellent tool in teaching the consequences of military and political decisions.

Do you cure the disease that has reduced the birth rate of a highly violent species to almost zero so that they’ll fight in your war? If you win and they survive, can you afford to risk the safety of the galaxy in peace-time? Then there’s the question of who deserves to live more — the emergent and generally peaceful artificial intelligences or the organic beings that created and subsequently tried to kill the AIs? Will your decision depend on the personalities of the two parties or do your loyalties automatically go to the organics because they’re more recognizable as alive?

Just think of what it would be like if teachers could get students to consider so many options critically in the classroom instead of in a video game. No one would fail a class again and the world would be full of geniuses.

Some might consider expecting teachers to integrate this kind of media in a college setting ahead of its time. But is it? The video game just serves as a jumping off point.

Game Design Theory

3

Page 4: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Instead of thinking of gaming as a way to distract yourself from work, think of it as a way to spark your critical thinking. If you do pick the right game — one that’s both fun and thought provoking — studying or writing a paper should be much easier. Creative ideas will appear out of nowhere and the difficulty of finals will evaporate.

At least that’s how it’s been for me the past three years. Maybe I’m on to something, I don’t know.

— Jason Krell is the assistant copy chief.

Game Design Theory

4

Page 5: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

What Makes A Great Game: Story Vs. Gameplay

What makes a great game? If forced to pick one, would it be the gameplay or the story? Before you answer, let’s back up a bit.

The Game Developers Conference is a place where game developers can gather and share ideas amongst peers and industry. Sure, there is press and off-site press events set up to hype the latest and greatest games, but GDC does a lot to stick to its roots. Between panel discussions, meetings, and chance encounters, GDC gives industry professionals many opportunities to get together and to exchange ideas.

Sometimes, however, the relationships between the interesting stories, themes, views, and philosophies that come out of totally different panels can only be seen when you are given the opportunity to step back and examine everything presented in a day. Underlying thoughts about what makes a great game is one such theme.

While a lot of cool news items were discussed and brought up during Satoru Iwata’s Keynote, like Netflix coming to the 3DS, new The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword footage, and details on the 3DS eShop, Iwata also addressed broad themes in gaming over the past 25 years.

He talked about how when he joined Nintendo, he was sure he was the best engineer/programmer there. He stated how he thought this meant his games would be the best — better than anything Shigeru Miyamoto would develop. Iwata thought his belief would be proven in game sales. He was wrong, he admitted as much on stage, and game sales certainly proved him wrong. The lesson he learned from that experience, and others at Nintendo, was that engineering was not as important as imagination and gameplay.

Game Design Theory

5

Page 6: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Kirby’s Dreamland, one of Iwata’s early games.

Nintendo stressing gameplay over other aspects is nothing new. Nintendo has long been championing beliefs like gameplay over graphics. So having Iwata allude to as much in his GDC Keynote was no real surprise. But what about story? No Mario game has ever really given players a great, or even good, story. That was never the hook. Sure, Iwata’s Keynote was not focusing on story in games, but its absence in his discussion is interesting when compared to comments made by David Cage, Heavy Rain developer Quantic Dream’s CEO, in his GDC talk “Creating an Emotional Rollercoaster in Heavy Rain.”

As can likely be inferred from the session’s title, David Cage’s talk was focused almost entirely on story. Up front, it should be noted though that he did not flat out ever say story ruled over gameplay, but he did make other interesting comments that could possibly imply as much.

One such statement was that “[we] need to forget about game rules–bosses, missions, game over, etc…are old words of a old language.” He challenged developers to stop making games based on the old rules established 20 years ago, and even used an image of the original Pac-Man as a graphical representation for “older” games.

Cage wants developers to focus less on on creating games that require fast thumbs for success, and more on creating experiences for the minds and emotions of players. He wants to advance storytelling in games, and to move away from button memorization by using more context-specific inputs that will allow players to interact with the game’s world and connect with the story. So sure, there needs to be gameplay in a game to tell the story, but if push were to come to shove, I think Cage might very well argue story is what matters most.

Game Design Theory

6

Page 7: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Indigo Prophecy, one of Cage’s early attempts at fusing story-heavy gameplay with contextual controls.

But can one really be king? Perhaps it is a combination that creates the best games. Or maybe what makes video games so special in the first place is that they can fall everywhere in the spectrum, from something like Tetris (with no story), to Mario (very limited story), to Heavy Rain (story, story, story).

The topic of whether story or gameplay is king was certainly never addressed by Iwata or Cage directly in any manner I am aware of, but the underlying themes of their talks raised what I thought were interesting questions and perspectives on the discussion. It is big-picture points like this that make GDC so great. So many great minds and creators speaking about their passions, leaving those in attendace to draw their own broad-scale conclusions to take back to the games they are working on, and will work on in the future.

If you had to pick just one, gameplay or story, which would you say is king? What is an example of your favorite “story” video game and what is an example of your favorite “gameplay” game?

Game Design Theory

7

Page 8: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Basic of Game Design

How would you describe a “fun” game?_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Name some of the most popular games in video game history:______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Games:

- are entered willfully- have goals- have conflicts- have rules- can be won and lost- are interactive- have challenges- can create their own internal value- engage players- are closed, formal systems.

A definition covering the above qualities might be:

“A game is a problem-solving activity, approached with a playful attitude”

The Four Basic Elements

Game Design Theory

8

Page 9: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

1. MechanicsThese are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game, how players can and cannot try to achieve it, and what happens when they try. When you choose a set of mechanics as crucial to your gameplay, you will need to choose technology that can support them, aesthetics that emphasise them clearly to players, and a story that allows your (sometimes strange) game mechanics to make sense to the players.

2. StoryThis is the sequence of events that unfolds in your game, be it l inear and pre-scripted, or branching and emergent. To tell a story through your game, you have to choose mechanics that will both strengthen that story and let it emerge. This requires aesthetics that help reinforce the i d e a s o f y o u r s t o r y a n d technology that is best suited that particular story.

Game Design Theory

9

Page 10: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

3. AestheticsThis is how your game looks, sounds, smells, tastes, and feels. Aesthetics are an incredibly important aspect of game design since they have the most direct relationship to a player’s experience. Providing a certain look or tone that you want players to experience and become immersed in requires a technology that will not only allow them to come through but amplify and reinforce them. They require mechanics that make players feel like they are in the world that the aesthetics have defined, and a story with a set of events that let you aesthetics emerge at the right pace with the most impact.

4. TechnologyAny materials and interactions that make your game possible. The technology you choose for your game enables it to do certain things and prohibits it from doing other things. The technology is essentially the medium in which the aesthetics take place, the mechanics occur, and through which the story will be told.

Game Design Theory

10

Page 11: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Overview of BalanceGames are expected to be sources of entertainment and delight, distracting from busy lives. The first step is to know your target audience, which grows increasingly difficult the further you get from accepted genres.

Often, certain genres have standardised control configurations (e.g. FPS uses WSAD), or expectations (e.g. RTS starting areas include resources nearby), and the end of some levels include a boss.

Game genres also include certain taboos (e.g. jumping puzzles in FPS), or random disasters in any game.

Tim Schafer, the designer behind acclaimed games including Grim Fandango and Full Throttle, once noted that all games are about wish

fulfillment (e.g. hardened commando sniper, powerful dwarven paladin, whimsically sarcastic pirate, etc.). This relates to immersion in a role the player thinks is fun and cool. The root of fun in most games however, comes down to power. Empowering a player achieves some level of competence formerly beyond them, and this is when they start having fun.

“Take me to a place I’ve never been, make me something I could never be, and let me do things I could never do”.

The balance in giving the player the right mix of power/abilities comes down to knowing your player and your genre. The player must have as much of a challenge as they want, without making the game too easy or too hard.

Creative PowerBringing something into existence, usually by combining separate, already existing objects or concepts (e.g. Sim City, Minecraft). These types of creative games have two aspects to them: a

Game Design Theory

11

Page 12: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

building aspect and a reward aspect. The building aspect includes the toolset needed to create whatever the player wants. The ward aspect of the game would issue challenges or achievements. Drawbacks are time consumption and complex learning curves, turning off players seeking instant gratification.

Destructive PowerDestructive power is the ability to uncreate or radically alter the state of something until it no longer resembles its original form. You can destroy just about anything: civilizations, rhinos, or ideas. Games like Serious Sam, Space Invaders, and other shooter-style games primarily focus on destruction.

Destruction-focused games are the most satisfying in an immediate sense (thus, quickest to empower). Games like this have the shallowest learning curve, appealing to short attention spans or limited time (e.g.

InFamous).

Manipulative PowerControl other things (argued that it could be present in all games). Examples include controlling armies in C&C, controlling various character moves in Trine 2, the birds in Angry Birds, or even the falling blocks in Tetris. Manipulative power is the most subtle, and its correct use rewards the player by making them feel clever and proud of that cleverness (e.g. Adventure games, puzzle games, RPGs, etc.). This immerses the player in your game world.

Games centering on manipulative power usually require the most thought, and can be incredibly complex. Depending on their complexity, they can be short or long experiences: a game of Tetris can be short, but a game of Civilization can take quite a long time.

Game Design Theory

12

Page 13: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Flow of PowerIn any contest, there comes a point where you have power over your opponent, or your opponent has power over you. If I jump from a step stool, I have the ability to land safely. I’ve triumphed over the adverse effects of falling. If I jump from a cliff, it’s more likely that the adverse effects of falling will overcome me.

Game Design Theory

13

Page 14: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

In the game, City of Heroes, I can jump from any height without killing my character (although he does take quite a bit of damage).

All this is part of the complex web of interrelationships between different power systems in a game. The ability to create, destroy, and manipulate often appear in the same game. Each ability can interact with the others, creating interlocking systems.

GameplayThere are many types of gameplay, but usually the challenge is the crux, with the objective and barriers that prevent the player from achieving their objective determining the challenge.Here are some of the standard challenges:

■Time Challenge: The player is allowed only a certain amount of time to complete a task. This is one of the oldest challenges, and in modern games it’s usually combined with some other challenge. A simple example is a race that must be run within a certain time. WarioWare uses time challenges in every single mini-game it presents the player.

■Dexterity Challenge: The player must accomplish some sort of feat that requires dexterity. In modern games, a dexterity challenge might be shooting a target with a pistol. It doesn’t need to be about physical

dexterity, though. It could be a mental challenge, where

Game Design Theory

14

Page 15: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

the player has to make quick decisions in order to overcome the obstacles they face.

■ Endurance Challenge: Sort of the opposite of a timed challenge. Instead of having a limited amount of t ime to complete a task, an endurance challenge tests how far the player can go before they falter. Older arcade games like Defender and Pac-Man were endurance challenges.

■ Memory/Knowledge Challenge: This type of challenge requires the player to know certain facts in order to win. Game shows like Jeopardy present this kind of challenge. In video games, usually it means teaching the player some fact, like “baboons really like barbeque chicken pizza,” and then

making them recall that fact later on in the game, like using a piece of pizza to lure a baboon guard away from the door to the treasure trove of the Baboon God. Other examples include making the player memorize certain button patterns on the controller to execute combination attacks, remember his way through mazes and difficult terrain, or remember which types of keys work in certain types of locks.

■ Cleverness/Logic Challenge: Somewhat like the knowledge challenge, the cleverness challenge requires the player to figure out a puzzle without having the answer beforehand. An example would be trying to figure out what combination of buttons to press to open a door. Games like Tomb Raider and the Indiana Jones series include cleverness puzzles.

■ Resource Control Challenge: Many games use resource control as the challenge. The player is given a certain amount of a resource. They must use that resource to overcome an objective before it runs out. Strategy games like checkers, chess, and Warcraft have finite resources that the player must use to win the game.

Challenges can be combined to increase gameplay complexity (e.g. timing challenge combined with a

dexterity challenge to create a racing game like Gran Turismo; or resource control challenges combined with a knowledge challenge to create Scrabble).

Game Design Theory

15

Page 16: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Deconstructing challenges down to their basic parts and then reassembling them in new and different ways

allows for the creation of something unique. This doesn’t mean placing a text adventure-style puzzle in a

death-match arena as it makes it hard for player immersion in the game. Keep in mind the setting of the game (e.g. challenges that fit a jungle theme in a jungle-based game, despite leading to clichés). Game

interfaces are another important aspect, because they are the main method of interaction for the player.

T h e p l a c e m e n t o f

c h a l l e n g e s i s v e r y important. The player

should not only see the c h a l l e n g e , b u t

understand it enough to

know the first step in s o l v i n g i t . A b a d

challenge would be a camouflaged pit trap that

the player can’t see until

they falls into it, leading to a game where the

player learns by dying. If

Game Design Theory

16

Page 17: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

a player cannot establish a mental link between

the puzzle and solution, they are likely to

become frustrated and quit playing your game.

Challenges should always be beatable. For example, if the player controls an adventurer

and the second level has a key placed in a

rather out-of-the-way place on top of a counter. The player breezes right past the key in level 2,

heading to level 3, confronted by a locked door, but level 2 is now inaccessible, forcing a restart

of the game. Another problem is creating a

challenge requiring expertise beyond the level of the average player (hence why testers are

required). A story problem is the designer forgetting the player doesn’t know as much

about the game world as they do, thus leaving

small bits of information out that the player needs to make sense of it all. Challenges

require lots of tweaking or iteration to get it perfect. Always try to make challenges as solid,

understandable and fun as possible.

Pacing and Flow

Game pacing uses challenges and breaks to establish a rhythm and tempo. A well-paced game has a flow to it. Tension and relaxation follow one another to draw the player through the game.

You need to give the player a chance to cool off. A lull after each challenge allows the player to take a break, marshal their resources, and go into the fray once again.

In some games, this rhythm is easy to establish. In older arcade games like Defender and Pac-Man, the player gets about 5 minutes of gameplay to complete a level, and then a short rest

Game Design Theory

17

Page 18: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

as the next level is loaded. This little break was just as important to making these games compelling as the actual gameplay. In a lot of modern games, levels take a bit longer than 5 minutes, so rest breaks have to be included within each level. In singleplayer first-person shooters, this break is usually accomplished by not respawning enemies in a certain location. After the player has finished defeating all the enemies in one location, he can remain there and feel somewhat safe

as they unwind briefly. Then they can move to the next encounter. In platform games, the end point of a difficult puzzle or challenge is usually a safe zone where the player can rest for a minute.

Some games, though, use different means to create a rhythm. Most real-time strategy games don’t have a rest component until the end of each level, which can sometimes take over an hour! The pacing is in the rhythm of managing each battle and then maintaining the growth of your forces and moving them into position for the next fray. In games like this, having a pause function can help the player generate their own rhythm. However, pausing can also disrupt the player’s immersion in the game and make it hard to get back into it.

Game Design Theory

18

Page 19: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

First Impressions

The most important part of any game is the first 10 minutes. Unless you make them so compelling that the player can’t put down the controls, he’ll find it very easy to quit and never touch your game again. After all, they have very little emotional investment and a plethora of other games to choose from. As the game designer, you have to teach the player about his new environment, while entertaining them enough to keep them playing.

Game Design Theory

19

Page 20: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Most games start with an introductory movie. Al though the player doesn’t get to interact w i t h t h i s m o v i e , i t introduces them to the game-world and their character’s place in it. G e n e r a l l y , t h i s introductory movie is the best-looking thing in the game. The developers know that they need to capture the player, so they throw the whole works at them: flashy explosions, beautiful vistas, etc.

The introductory movie explains the setting of the game and shows off some of the gameplay that the p layer wi l l experience, whether it’s racing cars, battl ing aliens, playing a sport, or placing blocks on top of one another. It briefly lays out the story of the game, giving the player enough knowledge that t h e y d o n ’ t f e e l completely confused when they finally gets to play.

After the introductory movie is over and the player gets to start playing, the designer’s next step is to start feeding information to the player. You want them to feel confident about playing this game with something resembling competence.

Game Design Theory

20

Page 21: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

In most games, the solution is a thinly-veiled training session. This usually takes the form of a few very basic encounters where the player is taken from simple lesson to simple lesson. Teach them a skill, let them play with it for a bit, and then take them to the next lesson. Teach them what various UI elements do (such as status bars), how to use the UI, and how to use the different menus and what the options on each menu do. Then teach them how to interact with the game, such as combat strategies or the core gameplay itself.

This is actually a powerful, efficient way to teach. However, since you’re in that dreaded first 10 minutes, your lessons also have to be fun. In many story-based games, these lessons are taught by a non-player character, someone who speaks clearly and is amusing. That way, the player is entertained while they practice using the A button to open doors.

During this training, especially in story-based games, you may want to shove a bunch of exposition down the player’s throat. “As you know, the Elder Muskrats besieged the town of Dryer in 1528, which was when your grandfather, who was Dryer’s greatest smith, created the Tongs of Eldwere when he found getting hot dogs out of boiling water to be too painful...” Bad idea. Try to avoid doing too much exposition at once.

If you can make all of this training fun and transparent, those first 10 minutes will fly by. The player will think, “I am awesome at this game!” They’ll feel like they’ve discovered some sort of hidden talent they never knew they had until they started playing your game.

Game Design Theory

21

Page 22: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Game Design Theory

22

Page 23: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

In the Middle

The middle of your game will contain the bulk of your gameplay. This is where you put all the levels, plot twists, cool items, and everything else you want to stuff into your game.

The most important two concepts for the middle of y o u r g a m e a r e consistency and growth. Your game world, whether it’s a boxing game or a kart racer, has to have an internal consistency. If the player can pick up one

vase, they expect to be able to pick up all vases from that point on. Even if the physical laws of your game are nothing like real life—let’s say that cats are now frictionless and dogs are superconductors—once the player immerses themself in your world, they’ll be very disappointed if they suddenly find a cat they can’t use as a hockey puck.

Game Design Theory

23

Page 24: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Consistency is very hard to maintain when you decide to balance your game. For instance, if you’re finding it too simple to get through certain parts of your game, you might be tempted to adjust how much damage the enemy’s weapons inflict, or to make them harder to hurt.

Even if the change is subtle, players will notice immediately. They might not count how many laser blasts it takes to destroy a Snarg Interceptor, but they’ll feel a sense of disempowerment when it suddenly takes four instead of three.

Growth is the second most important concept in most games. As the player progresses through your game, they’ll get better at playing it. In today’s games, the standard method of keeping the player from getting bored is to ramp up the level of challenge incrementally, keeping them on their toes as they face greater and greater adversity.

In many games, growth in the player’s abilities is aided artificially as the player’s character grows more powerful. In many FPS games, the player gets access to more and more powerful weapons and armor as the game goes on. RPGs do this as well, and they also allow character growth, making the character progressively stronger and more resistant to damage. RTS games give access to new units, fighting games unlock new moves, and racing games allow the player to drive better cars.

Throughout a game, the level of difficulty should be incremental. A game that has sudden surges in difficulty can frustrate the player, causing them to quit. A game that suddenly becomes too easy will bore the player, who might move on to something more entertaining. To ensure a gradual increase in difficulty, you need to test the game over and over to make sure it’s consistent. Then have other people test it, just to make sure you haven’t become blind to your game’s weaknesses, or to unforeseen ways of finishing it. Believe me, there will be ways of playing your game that you never imagined, often bypassing much of the content you’ve slaved over.

The Finale

Game Design Theory

24

Page 25: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

The end of a game is both the easiest and hardest part to design. It’s easy because you no longer have to train the player. They already know how to play your game as well as can be expected. You don’t need to pull your punches anymore, or worry about how you’re going to top that last challenge. It’s kind of a freeing experience, not having to worry about babying the player along anymore.

It’s also hard, because the end needs to be satisfying. The player needs to feel that they have overcome the best you could throw at them (which isn’t true... but they have to think that.) The finale needs to wrap up any plot hooks that might be laying about, all the bad guys who retreated earlier in the game need to show up, and you need to give out any quest items that the player needs before they fight the big bad boss.

Game Design Theory

25

Page 26: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Making a Game Better

1. Respect the player: they are as smart as you are, with similar goals and dreams, so they deserve your respect and thanks. Let them quit at any time without losing their place. Don’t make them redo things they’ve already done. Give them as much choice as you can allow. Let them choose how their character looks, the gender, and how their character deals with the various challenges you present them. Always make your game’s rules and laws consistent. The player must know the consequences of failure, and it must be dealt with swiftly so they can start playing again as soon as possible.

2. Avoid hubris: excessive pride and presumption. You can tell if you have hubris if you suffer from the following symptoms:

- A general dislike or hatred for your audience. You feel as if your players are intellectually stunted children and annoying, unworthy opponents.

- You easily become upset when you see someone playing your game in a way that you didn’t mean it to be played.

- You begin to take delight in thinking of ways to punish players for doing stupid or objectionable things within your game, like using cheat codes or acting in anti-social ways toward friendly non-player characters.

- You begin to take bad reviews or insulting internet posts as personal attacks on your character.

Hubris can make you forget to try to make a fun game, and will cause you to be blind to obvious faults within your creations. It will give you easy excuses to salve your ego as you start thinking of anyone who doesn’t like your game as a jealous low-brow troglodyte maliciously trying to tear your game down. Basically, hubris will make you a bad game designer, so avoid it.

If You Aren’t Having Fun, the Game Won’t Be Fun

You can’t make a worthwhile game unless you’re having fun doing it. If you dread working on your game, it probably won’t be very fun. Even if you do manage to finish it, what’s the point?

This isn’t to say you have to be giggling with glee through every step in the process, or that you shouldn’t take the game seriously. But people tend to be more creative when there’s laughter involved. Advertising tycoon David Ogilvy once said, “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.” He also said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” Fun helps spark creativity, and creativity helps sell your game.

Summary:

■ Games are for entertaining people.

Game Design Theory

26

Page 27: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

■ To come up with clear ideas about what does and doesn’t work in games, you should study three things: your audience, other games in your chosen genre, and your own gaming preferences.

■ Games should empower their players.

■ A game’s challenges make up its gameplay.

■ Breaking down challenges into their most basic forms allows you to use a mix-and-match method to create new, innovative challenges.

■ Give the player rest breaks between challenges. This helps to create a good pace, which keeps them playing your game.

■ The first 10 minutes of your game are the most important.

■ Consistency and growth are the two main concepts that keep your game interesting and playable.

■ At the end of your game, give the player a good sense of closure. Also, reward the player who finishes your game.

■ Respect your player.

■ Don’t fall into an “Us vs. Them” mindset.

■ Give your game as much polish as possible, and have fun doing it, but don’t forget your family and friends in the process.

Game Design Theory

27

Page 28: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Review Questions:

1. As a game maker, your primary duty is to do what?

2. What are the three types of power?

3. Where can you go to find opinions and thoughts about games so you can find out what works and what doesn’t?

4. Name three types of challenges:

5. What is hubris?

6. Go to Gamerankings.com or Metacritic.com and look for your favorite game. Read the best review, the worst review, and a preview.

a. Did the preview have any information about the game that was just plain wrong? If so, what was it? Also, how do you think the players felt when they found out this facet of the game wasn’t in the final version?

b. What did the worst review and the best review disagree on? Did you feel one of them was wrong? Why?

7. Pick a game that you’ve finished and write a mini-review of it. (This shouldn’t be the same game that you looked at in the previous exercise.) This mini-review should cover the following:

a. The game’s greatest strengths.

b. Its greatest weaknesses.

c. The most compelling moment of that game, the part that you remember best.

d. The user interface, including which keys or buttons performed which actions, what the screen looked like when you were playing, and what the menu system looked like. Include a paragraph on what they could have done to make it better.

8. Write down five different ideas for games. They can be silly or serious. Using what you know about how games are developed, identify the game that would be the easiest to create, and the one that would be hardest to create.

Game Design Theory

28

Page 29: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Iteration

1. Player experience goals are set

2. An idea or system is conceived

3. An idea or system is formalised (i.e. written down or prototyped).

4. An idea or system is tested against player experience goals (i.e. play-tested or exhibited for feedback).

5. Results are evaluated and prioritised.

6. If results are negative and the idea or system appears to be fundamentally flawed, go back to the first step.

7. If results point to improvements, modify and test again.

8. If results are positive and the idea or system appears to be successful, the iterative process has been completed.

Step 1: Brainstorming

- Set player experience goals

- Come up with game concepts or mechanics you think might achieve your player experience goals.

- Narrow down the list to the top three.

- Write up a short, one-page description each of these ideas, sometimes called a treatment or concept document.

- Test your written concepts with potential players (you might also want to create visual mockups of your ideas at this stage to help communicate the ideas).

Step 2: Physical Prototype

- Create a playable prototype using pen and paper or other craft materials

- Play-test the physical prototype

- When the physical prototype demonstrates working gameplay that achieves your player experience goals, write a 3-6 page gameplay treatment describing how the game functions.

Step 3: Presentation

- Should include demo artwork and a solid gameplay treatment.

Game Design Theory

29

Page 30: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Step 4: Software Prototypes

- Begin creating rough computer models of the core gameplay. Often several prototypes made, each focusing on different aspects of the system.

- Play-test the prototype

Step 5: Design Documentation

- Notes and ideas compiled for ‘real’ game whilst working on prototype gameplay. Use the knowledge gained to write the first draft of a document that outlines every aspect of the game and how it functions.

- This document is usually called the design document, but a design wiki is a great collaboration tool and living document that changes and grows with the production.

Step 6: Production

- Make sure each aspect of the design is achievable and correctly described in the design document.

- When an initial draft of the design document is completed, move on to the production.

- Production is the time to begin the creation of real artwork and programming.

- Don’t lose sight of the play-centric process during production— test your artwork, gameplay, characters, etc. as you move along. As you continue to perform iterative cycles throughout the production phase, the problems you find and the changes you make should get smaller and smaller. This is because you solved your major issues during the prototyping phases.

- Unfortunately, this is the time when most game designers actually wind up designing their games, and this can lead to numerous problems of time, money, and frustration.

Step 7: Quality Assurance

- By the time the project is ready for QA testing, you should be very sure that your gameplay is solid. There can still be some issues, so continue play-testing with an eye to usability. Now is the time to make sure your game is accessible to your entire target audience.

- The play-centric approach involves player feedback throughout the production process, which means you’ll be doing lots of prototyping and play-testing at every stage of your game’s development. You can’t be the advocate for the player if you don’t want to know what the player is thinking, and play-testing is the best mechanism by which to elicit feedback and gain insight into your game.

Game Design Theory

30

Page 31: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Game Design Theory

31

Page 32: Game Design Theory Booklet Teacher - WordPress.com · The Four Basic Elements Game Design Theory 8. 1. Mechanics These are the procedures and rules, describing the goal of your game,

Game Design Theory

32