Game DESIGN is far harder than game TECH!

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by zoombapup, Oct 1, 2010.

  1. vjvj

    Indie Author

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    Yup, this is exactly what I was getting at in my first post, and I've only realized this because I've been through similar experiences. I'd proudly send my "awesome fun game" builds over to my partner (who is a designer by trade), expecting to receive accolades for my genius. Instead, I was met with grimaces and laundry lists of general design rules I had naively broken.

    When you break these rules without realizing it (or understanding why the rules are there in the first place), it becomes a slippery slope. You end up shipping a game with pacing/flow problems, metric problems, a lack of clear affordances, etc. When the general gaming populace interprets these problems as a lack of polish and responds negatively, the excuses start rolling in. Clearly, it's the market's fault! Gamers are just graphic whores. Gamers don't want anything new. Gamers don't appreciate innovation. Which is why IMHO so many indie games are never able to break out of the "sympathetic indie gamer" market, because the only audience they can reach are the people willing to look past these mistakes.

    Even worse, when you try to encourage more due diligence, yet more dubious rhetoric sets in. Design rules inhibit my creativity. My game doesn't need mechanics, because it's "art". Which is why you see so many games hailed as having "emergent gameplay" that are really just a clusterfuck of unrelated mechanics lacking a cohesive whole.

    Working with a designer has been a gloriously humbling experience. I've made it a personal goal to no longer use "indie innovation" as an excuse to underdesign my games. It sucks for my ego, but maybe our customers will win out in the end?

    For anyone wondering/caring, one design book I highly recommend is Level Up! by Scott Rogers. It's not a treatise on human psychology or mathematical models, but rather a reference for what constitutes the heart of game design: Mechanics, metrics, and the user experience. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to sharpen their design chops!
     
  2. zoombapup

    Moderator Original Member

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    Thanks for the book link, I'll check it out next week. Hope its better than most game design books I've read.

    I'll offer:

    Batemans "21st Century Game Design" which is average/ok

    Shells: Game Design - a book of lenses, which is pretty good.

    Most other game design books suck.
     
  3. Vino

    Vino New Member

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    "Indie innovation" is why you have to overdesign your games. You need to live up to that title.
     
  4. Jasmine

    Jasmine New Member

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    If I ever get negative feedback, it tends to be the opposite, that my powerups require too much work for what little powerupness they give.

    Kids today don't know what hard work is; they want games that more or less play themselves.
     
  5. vjvj

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    Yeah, I haven't finished Book of Lenses, yet, but so far I like it a lot too. It's really good about giving you a proper framework to derive a clean design from.

    Level Up! is a relatively new book that just came out a couple months ago. What I find most interesting about it is that it's very "meat and potatoes", and gives you tools that you can immediately use in your games. Things like "if focus testers keep trying to jump on a platform that shouldn't be accessible, make it THIS tall", followed by a diagram showing the ratio.

    His website has a few snippets from the book, like "Everything I Learned About Game Design, I Learned From Disneyland" (which is an adapation from a talk he gave at GDC this year; if you have access to the GDC Vault videos, I recommend watching it). Really great stuff.

    http://mrbossdesign.blogspot.com/2009/03/everything-i-learned-about-game-design.html

    One interesting highlight being how the line for the Indiana Jones ride (yes, not the ride itself, but the LINE to get to the ride!) actually employs many game design elements.
     
    #45 vjvj, Oct 4, 2010
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2010
  6. Vino

    Vino New Member

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    Naw that wasn't this year it was last year, and I actually attended the latter half of that seminar. I managed to sneak in even though it was full with people lining the back wall and fire codes nearly violated. It was a fantastic presentation though.
     
  7. vjvj

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    This is pretty much what I was getting at. You're taking the feedback and then blaming the customer. There are two problems with this:

    1. It doesn't help your business at all.
    2. You may be overlooking a really great opportunity to boost the polish of your games.

    On point #2, the thing to realize about gamers is that most of them don't make games. So they are good at describing their "feelings", but are often terrible about root causing the problems. The problem with your game may have nothing to do with too much work or too little powerupness; that's just how they "feel".

    There was an article on Gamasutra that went into how gamers complained that enemies in Uncharted took too long to kill. So how did they fix it for Uncharted 2? Did they increase gun damage or lower the hitpoints? NO. In fact, they actually RAISED the hit points.

    The problem had nothing to do with the actual time it took to kill enemies, the problem was that the weapon hit/miss visual feedback was poor. Once they made that feedback more clear, boom, problem solved.

    Try to root cause their feelings. You may be really surprised by what you find!
     
  8. Jasmine

    Jasmine New Member

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    "Kids not knowing what hard work is" was actually just my sense of humour :)

    I agree with what you wrote below that the problems with the game may have nothing to do with too much work or too little powerupness . :)
     
  9. BarrySlisk

    Original Member

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    How do you know? Are you a designer? :D
     
  10. vjvj

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    Ah, gotcha! I apologize for taking it too literally :)
     
  11. Merx

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    So is game design the scoping and setting up of the game mechanics before development or the iteration and polish in the development phase?
     
  12. Jasmine

    Jasmine New Member

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    I think that depends on whether you're a top-down or a bottom-up person.

    "scoping and setting up of the game mechanics before development" fits with top-down methods, while "iteration and polish in the development phase" is more akin with bottom-up methods.

    With top-down design you have a good idea of what you're creating early on, and bring that into sharper focus as the project progresses by "filling in details" of an overarching logical structure. At the highest level your design will consist of several "black boxes", each of which need to be designed in themselves. Divide and conquer until the smallest black boxes are trivial.

    With bottom-up design, you don't necessarily know what you're creating. You build things up brick by brick, seeing what works and what doesn't, adapting and moving forward.

    I prefer top-down methods because they fit with my idealism and my way of looking at things. But I'm prone to break that methodology and design things from the bottom-up too, because I also feel a need to be flexible and adaptive. :)
     
  13. vjvj

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    I think it's both, though the iteration and polish stage (e.g. metrics and affordances) ends up being most of the work IMHO... And can affect your initial mechanics.

    Of course, just getting a new designer to think in terms of mechanics in the first place is a big breakthrough in itself, from what I've seen and heard.
     
  14. GDI

    GDI New Member

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    Almost every AAA game is top-down, and almost every not-commercially-feasible indie freeware experimental forum game is bottom-up. Not that one is better than the other.

    I'm utilizing top-down for my current project because
    *I already know the genre I'm working in,
    *it's a story-based game
    *I already allocated budget for the art assets and need to evenly distribute them among chapters

    Bottom-up design for me is risky since even if I were to create some new emergent mechanics, Nintendo will always do a better job just by adding polish. Companies can always steal gameplay mechanics, but they cannot steal characters. It would be great if the creator of the original gameplay concept gets employed by a company who is producing the polished execution, but that isn't always the case.
     

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