As consultants we choose to do client work. The client has the idea (complete or vague), and the budget, and we help them realize their dream. With game projects, determining what will be engaging and fun is a welcome challenge. Many game developing consultants also create their own internal projects. In both cases understanding the principles of good game design can turn a good idea into a great game.
What is Game Design?
Game design is the game development process of designing the content and rules of a game in the pre-production stage and design of gameplay, environment, storyline, and characters during production stage. The designer of a game is very much like the director of a film; the designer is the visionary of the game and controls the artistic and technical elements of the game in fulfillment of their vision. Game design requires artistic and technical competence as well as writing skills.
Game designers will use a Game Design Document. The GDD will be the bible which your team follows during pre-production and production of the game.
Update: My new article launched on “Game Design Document Theory” and sample templates
Separate from games and game design is gamification. Its a newer buzzword in the industry and many clients, big and small are clamoring for this ‘new shiny thing.’ Gamification is the use of game design techniques, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts.
Update: My new articles launched on “What is Gamification?“.
Have Fun With It!
I am constantly dreaming up new ideas for games. Sometimes I think about it for just 5 minutes, and then the itch goes away. Other times an idea stays with me for years. I’m often just as excited to see someone else create the game (so I can play it!) as I am to create the game myself.
In the near future, I’ll publish a few of my game idea prototypes to share my concise process game game design.
Update: My new articles launched on “Game Design Prototypes“.
Game designer John Adamus describes the The Three Act Exercise For Game Design.
You’re going to want a piece of paper for this. I like legal pads, but you’ll definitely want to see the work outside of a monitor. Divide the paper into thirds (horizontally); Act 1, Act 2, & Act 3. Start simple.
We’re going to chart the basic player’s (ideal) experience in-game.
- Act 1 – This is all things creation and introductory. Players should in theory develop themselves (conceptually, and mechanically) and learn about the basics of the world. Immersion here is critical, as no one wants to play a game where the rules are either too vague, too restrictive or too discouraging (i.e. railroading). In story context, this is where adventure/campaign plots are hatched and world-base concepts (“the feel of the world”) is born. Act 1 ends when the Players enter the most intense and forward-progressive drive in the plot.
- Act 2 – Characters by this point are INTO a plot/campaign, and are developing forward according to their brought-in goals (things they brought to the table) as well as open-goals (things the game offers). Combat here is more common, and risk is also introduced. This is also the largest Act of play, generally being 1.5 or 2 times larger than Act 1. Should the game be episodic, serialized or weekly, it will be so because of a long Act 2 that offers either complexity (lots of small steps put together) or intensity (there’s so much to do and it takes time) or potential (lots to do, of mixed length). Act 2 ends when they feel prepared to finish the plot or wrap up significant material in the campaign.
- Act 3 – This endgame is the shortest but is often the most mechanically driven of all the acts. It begins when the characters make that final push towards resolution, and ends when the conflict(s) introduced in Act 1 are resolved. They may not, and need not be resolved in a way satisfying to the character, (although the player will be satisfied in all but the most power-gamer circumstances).
Like any good creative process, we work iteratively with these ideas. Create TONS of ideas. Some are best fit to stay on the drawing board. Other ideas show enough promise to be prototyped. With limited time budget a small team can communicate the bare essence of the game in a simple, concise, playable demo.
Ludum Dare is a well known incubator for game designers to brainstorm AND implement new game ideas. It is a regular accelerated game development Event. Participants develop games from scratch in a weekend, based on a theme suggested by community. Ludum Dare was founded by Geoff Howland, and held it’s first competition in April of 2002. Since then the community has run more than 22 regular Events, several dozens of practice competitions, collectively creating many thousands of games in just a weekend each. The event attracts developers from all sides of the industry. Students, hobbyists, industry professionals from many well respected game studios, as well as many independent game developers. For many people, it can be difficult to find or make the time create a game or prototype for yourself. We’re here to be your excuse.
Here is an AMAZING COLLECTION of game design information. It is very thorough. Start there.
And here are some helpful links courtesy of The Upside Learning.
- Learning From Game Design: 11 Gambits For Influencing User Behaviour
Dan Lockton about 11 ways to increase engagement using ‘gamey’ ways.
- Katie Salen on Game Design and Learning
Here is Katie Salen speaking about how game design can be applied in the classroom.
- Learning The Rules
An older but still relevant article about learning curves in games.
- Thoughts On Learning In Games And Designing Educational Computer Games
Again an older but comprehensive article that gives great ideas on where to use learning games. Note the references.
- An excellent article on Creating Flow, Motivation and Fun in Learning Games.
Was printed as a chapter in The Design of Learning Games Springer-Verlag, 2011
- Educational Game Design Model (NMSU Learning Games Lab)
Barbara Chamberlin, with the NMSU Learning Games Lab, shares the Educational Game Design Model developed at NMSU. Addresses various aspects of the process of game development.
- Improving The Way We Design Games For Learning By Examining How Popular Video Games Teach
This paper from UCLA focuses on how to effectively integrate teaching “how to play a game” with teaching an “instructional domain” within a game for learning. Has many interesting details relevant to game design, recommended reading.
- ‘Narrative’ in Serious or Learning Game Design Research
This is a great article on the use of narrative in learning games. Describes narrative approaches, some of which are appropriate to learning.
- Feedback Loops in Games and Learning
This is a nice paper on feedback loops in learning by Bert Snow and Matt Seegmiller. There is a bit of a marketing slant, but interesting points about which technology to support a feedback approach.
- Learning Game Design: Lessons From The Trenches
An interesting presentation from Sharon Boller, great advice from the trenches of gamification.