The Process of Game Design

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March 12, 2012. Who am I. Designed my own games while a teenagerBegan playing commercial wargames in 1963Played the original Atari 2600 and have played some PC games heavily, but rarely play any video games these days; never owned a game consoleDesigner of six commercially-published board wargames (most recently February ?06)Active designer of board and card games (playtesters solicited!)My main job is teaching networking, games, Web development.
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The Process of Game Design

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1. The Process of Game Design Dr. Lewis Pulsipher

2. March 13, 2012 Who am I Designed my own games while a teenager Began playing commercial wargames in 1963 Played the original Atari 2600 and have played some PC games heavily, but rarely play any video games these days; never owned a game console Designer of six commercially-published board wargames (most recently February ?06) Active designer of board and card games (playtesters solicited!) My main job is teaching networking, games, Web development

3. March 13, 2012 Two forms of game design Video games and non-video games Scale is different ?big time? video games are produced by dozens of people, cost millions of dollars ?big time? non-video games produced by a few people with budgets in the thousands Yet a few sell more than a million copies

4. March 13, 2012 Prototypes??testing is sovereign? To best improve a game, you must have a playable prototype Firaxis? Sid Meier-Civilization series, Pirates The sooner Firaxis got a playable version of Civ 4, the more they could learn A playable prototype includes ?artwork? or physical components, and rules or programming The rules for a non-video game are the equivalent of the programming of a video game Programming must be precise and is very time consuming (game engines may help in the future) A playable set of rules can be much less precise, relying on the mind(s) of the designer(s), and notes It?s also much easier to change the non-video prototype to test different approaches It?s much easier to produce the physical prototype, than to create the artwork for a video game

5. March 13, 2012 Learning to design So we can have a playable, testable non-video game much more quickly than a computer game of similar scope or subject Consequently, it?s much easier to learn game design with physical games than with video games! Kevin O?Gorman?s concurrence

6. March 13, 2012 Art vs. Science As in many other creative endeavors, there are two ways of approach These are often called Romantic and Classical, or Dionysian and Apollonian Or: art and science Some people design games ?from the gut? Others like to use system, organization, and (when possible) calculation Mine is the ?scientific? approach, which is more likely to help new designers I think design is 10% art and 90% science

7. March 13, 2012 One way to look at the difference Art is something created by an individual, then presented to the public ?as is? There is no ?testing? or ?focus groups? Science is something subject to repeated testing And almost all good games are thoroughly playtested A sign of an ?amateur? designer is insufficient testing

8. March 13, 2012 Who is the audience? A game must have an audience What are the game-playing preferences of that audience Short or long? Chance or little chance? Lots of story or little story? ?Ruthless? or ?nice?? Simple or complex? There is no ?perfect? game

9. March 13, 2012 What makes a game ?good?? ?Fun? is hard to design And not everyone plays for fun?even if we can define what ?fun? is Educational value (history, children, crosswords) Some want laughs, not strategy (family games) Games are social occasions

10. March 13, 2012 What makes a game ?good? Some play to win Players must be able to influence the outcome of the game by their choices amongst non-obvious alternatives?otherwise it?s not a game (though it might be a story or a toy or a puzzle) ?Shark? players don?t want to be ?gypped? Will the expert win every time? Romantic vs. Classical players and games There are many, many points of view

11. March 13, 2012 Genre Video games are more limited by genre than non-video games Most video games and many others fall into a clear genre category Each genre has characteristics that come to be ?expected? by the consumer Much easier to market a video game with a clear genre

12. March 13, 2012 Typical genres Video games: FPS (first person shooter), RTS (real-time strategy), RPG (role-playing game), action, adventure, vehicle simulation, etc. Non-video: card games, board games, role-playing games, Strategy, action, ?Euro? style, and all the genres of computer games

13. March 13, 2012 How to design games Limits lead to a conclusion: Characteristics of the audience (target market) ?People don?t do math any more? Genre limitations Production-imposed limitations ?Board cannot be larger than X by Y? Self-imposed limitations ?I want a one-hour trading game?

14. March 13, 2012 Publisher-imposed limits Some are publisher preference, some are market-dictated For example: many publishers want nothing that requires written records in a game Another example: consumers strongly prefer strong graphics, whether in a video or a non-video game

15. March 13, 2012 Self-imposed limits You have your own preferences Don?t design a game you don?t like to play yourself If you don?t like it, why should anyone else? Limits/constraints improve and focus the creative process Great art and music is much more commonly produced in eras of constraints, rather than eras without constraints Example of a limit: I want to produce a two-player game that lasts no more than 30 minutes

16. March 13, 2012 The idea is not the game Novices tend to think the idea is the important thing Ideas are ?a dime a dozen?. It?s the execution, the creation of a playable game, that?s important The ?pyramid? of game design: Lots of people get ideas Fewer try to go from general idea to a specific game idea Fewer yet try to produce a prototype Fewer yet produce a decently playable prototype Very few produce a complete game And very, very few produce a good complete game

17. March 13, 2012 The Design Pyramid: Milestones on the way to production

18. March 13, 2012 How do you get ideas? Ideas don?t ?just come? to you Thomas Edison: ?Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.? Same applies to ideas You have to work to get ideas Write everything down. It may not be used now, but may be useful later I use Info Select. Microsoft OneNote might do. Or use a word processor. Use a notebook when you don?t have a computer: but transcribe religiously! Back up!

19. March 13, 2012 Making Use of Ideas "Strictly speaking, there's no such thing as invention, you know. It's only magnifying what already exists.? - Allie Fox, The Mosquito Coast Hardly anything is new under the sun Most of the time, associations, combining aspects of several things, results in ?new? things Hence the more ?old? games and game-related material you know, the more you have to work with Play games; read game rules; talk about games; read about games; write about games

20. March 13, 2012 Sources of Ideas Other games History and other non-fiction reading Fiction People Discussions Everyday things Pictures Almost anything! I?ve designed games by starting with a particular kind of piece in mind!

21. March 13, 2012

22. March 13, 2012 Do it! Too many people like to think about designing so much, they never actually do it Until you have a playable prototype, you have nothing (Which is what makes video game design so difficult) It doesn?t have to be beautiful, just usable

23. March 13, 2012 Put yourself in the player?s shoes What do you want them to feel as they play? What decisions can they make? How do they affect the course and outcome of the game? What must they do that might not be fun (especially: recordkeeping)? So how can this be eliminated?

24. March 13, 2012 The stages of completion of a non-video game design Idea Notes about idea Detailed notes about idea Rough board/layout of pieces (if any) Detailed board/layout (if any) Prototype (pieces/cards added) Solo-played prototype Prototype played by others Full written rules (rarely done before others have played) "Settled" game Blind testing "Done" (but still subject to change, especially by manufacturer)

25. March 13, 2012 The stages of completion of a video game design Idea Notes about idea Detailed notes about idea Game treatment ?Rules? Computer Prototype (usually for show) Playable Prototype (usually new code) Development Testing ?Done?

26. March 13, 2012 Design vs. ?development? ?Development? has two meanings In video games, it means writing the program In non-video, development (often by a person other than the designer) sets the finishing touches on a game, but may include significant changes Development takes longer than design, in either case

27. March 13, 2012 The designer?s game vs. the game that?s published Video games are often overseen by the publisher, who is paying the bills; so it is modified to suit as it is developed Non-video games are often unseen by the publisher until ?done?; some publishers then modify them, often heavily

28. March 13, 2012 The fundamental structures of any game (video or non-video) The idea behind this: if you?re designing a game, you have to decide what to do within each of these categories This helps you conceptualize your game, turn it from ideas into something of substance If one of these structures isn?t involved, you probably have a toy or puzzle, not a game

29. March 13, 2012 Structures: 1. Theme/History/Story Games are usually, though not always, models of a reality 2. Objective/victory conditions If the game doesn?t end, or has no winner, it may be a toy or puzzle 3. ?Data storage?. (Information Management) How do we represent/model the state of affairs? This is often a board, pieces, cards in non-video 4. Sequencing Simultaneous movement? Turn based? ?Real-time??

30. March 13, 2012 Structures? 5. Movement/Placement How are objects translated from one place to another 6. Information availability Is all information known? Fog of war? Uncertainty? 7. Conflict resolution/interaction of game entities Can there be any conflict at all? Shooting? Swordplay? Spells? Jumping?

31. March 13, 2012 Structures? 8. "Economy" (resource acquisition) Many traditional games have little or none Money in Monopoly, ?kinging? in checkers 9. Player Interaction rules Negotiation? Trading or auctions? No direct interaction? There are many more aspects to the structures than listed here

32. March 13, 2012 Example: Tic-Tac-Toe Theme: abstract game Victory: three in a row, can be a draw Storage: the 3 by 3 array Sequencing: take turns placing one piece Movement: place one ?piece? at a time Information: all available Conflict: cannot occupy space occupied by opponent?s ?piece? Economy: unlimited pieces Player Interaction: none special

33. March 13, 2012 Example: Pac-Man Story: not much? Victory: get through all the levels Storage: square array in the computer Sequencing: simultaneous movement Movement: your single ?piece? moves to adjacent square Information: all available Conflict: depends on timing, ?death? to touch Economy: can earn additional ?pieces? (lives) Player Interaction: none special

34. March 13, 2012 Example: Chess Theme: abstract but used to represent warfare Victory: checkmate opposing king, can be draw Storage: the 8 by 8 array Sequencing: take turns moving one piece Movement: one ?piece? at a time, varying movement capabilities (and: castling and promotion) Information: all available Conflict: occupy opponent?s space to eliminate it Economy: promotion only Player Interaction: none special

35. March 13, 2012 Example: Doom (video version) Theme: Mayhem! Victory: survive and reach a goal Storage: some kind of array in the computer Sequencing: real-time Movement: More or less as a person would Information: ?Fog of War?, much uncertainty Conflict: shooting of various types, melee Economy: can earn additional lives Player Interaction: none special

36. March 13, 2012 Example: Axis & Allies (board) Theme: World War II worldwide Victory: take and hold enemy capitals Storage: area map Sequencing: take turns Movement: move all pieces each turn, land-sea-air limitations Information: all information known Conflict: move into enemy area, dice rolling varying with attacker and target unit types Economy: use industrial points to purchase new units, technology Player Interaction: none special

37. March 13, 2012 Example: Civil. III (Computer) Theme: Growth of civilization through the ages (historical, more or less) Victory: Reach the stars (technological development), conquest, or other means Storage: square array in the computer Sequencing: turn based Movement: move all your pieces/do all your actions each turn Information: ?Fog of War?, much uncertainty Conflict: Enter enemy unit?s square, rules for firing, technology determines units you may construct Economy: very complex resource management, pollution, taxes, etc. Player Interaction: Via diplomacy rules

38. March 13, 2012 Example: Britannia revised Theme: History of Britain 44 AD-1085 AD Victory: Accumulate more points than anyone else, score in a variety of ways such as holding certain areas Storage: board, 37 land areas, 5 seas Sequencing: turn based by nation, not by player Movement: move all your pieces/do all your actions each turn, move two areas usually, overruns Information: all information available Conflict: Enter enemy unit?s area, dice rolling after movement modified by terrain, leaders Economy: Increase of forces based on number of areas held and terrain; additional units arrive from overseas Player Interaction: Negotiation only allowed at the table

39. March 13, 2012 Brief ?what?s important? Know your audience! What do they like? No game can satisfy all tastes. Know your objectives! What are you trying to achieve? Design is ?10% inspiration and 90% perspiration?, especially if you also develop the non-video game. Writing usable rules (or doing the programming) is the hardest part. Write everything down (and back it up). Playtesting is ?sovereign?. No matter what you think about how the game will work, only efficient playtesting will actually show how it works. Without a playable prototype, you have *nothing*! (That?s only a slight exaggeration.)

40. March 13, 2012 Ideas are cheap (easy); a playable game is much harder to create. Players must be able to influence the outcome of the game by their choices amongst non-obvious alternatives?otherwise it?s not a game (though it might be a story or a toy or a puzzle). . Be willing to change the game again and again. Hardly any idea is original...but ideas can be used in new ways. And there?s almost always a new way to treat any subject (many, many ways to do real estate?Monopoly is only one). Games are supposed to be fun. But ?fun? means different things to different people. Keep in mind the nine fundamental structures of games: The road to the complete game: 1. Ideas, 2. Playable ideas, 3. Prototypes, 4. Play solo, 5. Playtest, 6. Fully written rules, 6. Keep experimenting. 7. ?Blind? test.

41. March 13, 2012 Example: the progress of a design . . . Design constraint: I wanted a game that primarily used colored glass beads (?stones?)?elegant, visual effect Likely to be abstract, then?not enough variety for anything ?realistic? But how much variety can you get with one kind of piece (even chess has many kinds); how could I provide variety? Introduce a random but somewhat controllable element Dice undesirable to publishers nowadays Why not use cards to change the rules (from Fluxx, CCG)

42. March 13, 2012 ?Law & Chaos? What to change? Victory conditions (pattern of stones needed) Capture methods

43. March 13, 2012 Books about game design Academic More about game analysis than about design Rules of Play by Salen and Zimmerman, MIT Press (game design as ?Art??very academic) Video-game oriented Tends to platitudes and generalities, because it?s so hard to create and try a video game Rollings and Adams on Game Design, New Riders Marketing oriented Primarily about how to get the attention of publishers Game Inventor?s Guidebook by Brian Tinsman How-to Well, there aren?t any! for boardgames; a few being done for video games now

44. March 13, 2012 Some Web resources IGDA (Game developers) Boardgamegeek.com Boardgamedesign Yahoo Group rec.game.design (limited) Board Game Designers Forum (online) Sloperama.com Gamespot.com, gamewire.com Gamesjournal.com (no longer published, but read the archives)

45. Questions?


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