LAFS SVI Level 3 - Game Design and Analysis


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Lecture for Level 3 of The Los Angeles Film School's Survey of the Videogame Industry course.

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  • Game designers take on many different roles:

    Builders make worlds to explore.
    Engineers make systems and mechanics that link together into a complete picture
    Scientists test new ways to improve the play experience
    Teachers teach players what to do and how the rules of the game work
    Dreams create new, unique, amazing experiences.
  • A game begins with a concept. Most, everybody already has lots of ideas for games they want to work on. And not just the designers. Programmers, managers, artists, executives, testers, marketers, salesmen - they ALL have game ideas. Perhaps they all chat up their ideas, perhaps some of them have written concept papers to present their ideas.

    Some examples of possible sources of game concepts:

    Brilliant inspiration - a designer or artist or someone on the team has an idea for a game, usually one that's revolutionary and not yet done to death in the marketplace. Most industry outsiders probably think this is the main source of game ideas, but that ain't necessarily so.
    The license hook - Perhaps the game company has acquired the license for (the rights to make a game based upon) a movie or personality or book or whatever. Star Wars, Tony Hawk, Hollywood Squares. Jackass, Junkyard Wars, Battlebots, Martha Stewart. (Okay, so nobody has made a Martha Stewart game yet, but you get the idea.) If the company has spent a lot of money to acquire a license, you can bet that they're going to want to make a game based on that license.
    The technology hook - Perhaps the engineers have spent a lot of time, energy, and money to create some game technology (an engine or a way of making a game machine do something new, like water or fog). Perhaps the decision makers decide they want to make a game that takes advantage of this technology.
    Filling a gap - The company's marketing wizards might analyze the market and decide that there is a genre or platform that is under-represented (either by the industry as a whole, or by the company itself) and that it would be a good idea to make that kind of game.
    Following coattails - The executives look with awe upon the success and profitability of a particular game (made and published by another company), and decide to ride the tailwind of that game by making something similar.
    Orders from above - Perhaps the boss gets an idea for a game (it might be his pet idea or it might just be a passing fancy), and the designer is set to work on the details.
    Sequels - self-explanatory.
  • Alpha Testing: Playtesting done by the designer and other members of the development team.

    Focus Group Testing: Playtesting conducted by invited potential customers, with an interview or survey conducted afterwards.

    Closed Beta: Online testing conducted by selected potential customers, usually under NDA.

    Open Beta: Online testing conducted by the general public.
  • Basic Concept -- What is the "high concept" of the game?

    Background Story -- If applicable, tell the story of the game that leads into the beginning of the game, and tell the story that unfolds during gameplay, if any (in the case of a puzzle game like SHANGHAI, for instance, this is probably unnecessary -- but it would be necessary for something like ALIENS VS. PREDATOR).

    What is the tone? What is the basic narrative? What is the "heart" of the story? Is it a linear story?

    Objective -- Describe the objective of the game.

    If the objective is simply "get as many points as possible," then state it so. But if the objective is "rescue the princess," then that's another matter. In either case, give as much detail as possible to aid the reader in having some basis in understanding the rest of the design document as he reads on. What is the player's goal and why would they want to accomplish it?

    Gameplay -- Describe the way the game works, from beginning to end.

    After powering up (or booting), is there a title screen, what does it look like, is there an options screen, what are the choices, is there an animated sequence, can it be bypassed and how...

    Then, when the game begins, we see our hero appear in a scene. Describe the scene and what happens next. If nothing happens until the user does something, describe what the user's options are and what happens as a result of all possible actions. Keep in mind that most games to some extent are controlled by the user. The hero doesn't automatically do anything; the user, when playing the game optimally, might cause the hero to do such-and-such an act, which would cause the computer-controlled enemy to do this, and the user's options are to do X and Y...

    Describe the A.I. of the computerized opponent(s), if any. It is sometimes helpful to write a "walkthrough" of the game to further enhance the reader's ability to visualize the game.

    What is the planned interface?

    What is the planned perspective (1st person vs. 3rd person)?

    What is the basic interactive structure? (e.g. Chapters vs. Great Middle Section, Levels, etc.).

    What is the "heart" of the gameplay? (e.g. speed, actions, style, continuous, turnbased, etc.?

    How does multi-player work?

    How difficult is the game?

    How long will it take the average player to complete?
  • Characters -- List and describe the characters in the game, if any. Tell something about their personalities and capabilities, and how they act in the game. Who does the player play?

    Single/multi player? Are there other key characters?

    License Exploitation -- If the characters are based on a license (such as in ALIENS VS. PREDATOR), provide some discussion of how the licensed characters will exploit the popular features of the license.

    World -- Describe the scene(s) in which the action takes place, if applicable. In the case of an adventure game (such as LEATHER GODDESSES OF PHOBOS 2), the design document should probably be organized primarily by location, showing all characters and objects there, and indicating what events occur there. If locations in the game can be visited in any order, then list them in either the optimum order or in the order one might visit them if traveling in the simplest path.

    Controls -- Describe the user interface.

    How does the user cause all game actions to occur? In the case of a cartridge game, describe all uses of the buttons on the controller. In the case of a computer game, describe which peripherals the game supports and how they are used to accomplish all game actions.

    Describe the on-screen interface (if there is a score and a life gauge... if there is an inventory icon and dialogue choices...), and how it works.

    Describe all menus in detail, and chart out the "shell" structure.

    Onscreen text messages are also part of the interface -- if not detailing all onscreen messages in this document, describe in general terms what they will be like.

    Graphics -- Describe the general style of the graphics.

    In the case of a game with multiple graphics modes, tell which one will be used. Whenever there are other games or products to which the reader can refer for a feel of the graphics style, it's a good idea to mention it.

    It is best to include some sketches of some game scenes to aid in the visualization of the game. Show a typical scene and give some indication of what we're looking at.

    Sketches should be included of what the characters (if any) will look like.

    Show what the on-screen user interface looks like, and include callouts so the reader knows what's what.

    Detailed art list will be a separate list (not part of this document).

    Sounds and Music -- Describe at least the general manner in which sound effects will be used in the game.

    Every action in the game should be accompanied by a sound, and the sounds should be prioritized so that the important sounds don't get "stepped on" by less important sounds.

    Describe how the sounds will be created. If sampled digitized sound effects or voices are to be used in the game, tell about that in some detail.

    Describe the general style of the music, with some references to other well-known music for the reader's edification. Tell how music will be used in the game.

    Detailed sound, voice, and music lists will be separate (not part of this document).
  • There are many different genres of games.
  • .
  • Video game genres are used to categorize video games based on their gameplay interaction rather than visual or narrative differences. They are classified independent of their setting or game-world content, unlike other works of fiction such as films or books. For example, an action game is still an action game, regardless of whether it takes place in a fantasy world or outer space.

    Within game studies there is a lack of consensus in reaching accepted formal definitions for game genres, some being more observed than others. Like any typical taxonomy, a video game genre requires certain constants. Most video games feature challenges to overcome, so video game genres can be defined where challenges are met in substantially similar ways.

    Most games fall within a particular category. Some bridge different gaming styles and, thus, could appear under more than one category simultaneously.
  • Every game is built around four core game elements: player format, objectives, rules, and resources.

    A fifth element, theme, is also central to many games.
  • Single-player: one player vs. game system. Most video games are of this player format.

    Head-to-head: one player vs. one player: Fighting games are an example.

    Cooperative: many players against vs. the game system. This is common in online games like World of Warcraft.

    One against many: one player vs. multiple players. In the Nintendo Land game Luigi’s Ghost Mansion for the Wii U game system, one player takes the role of a ghost trying to scare the other players while they work together to trap the ghost with their flashlights.

    Free-for-all: One player vs. one player vs. one player vs…. Perhaps the most common player structure for multiplayer games, this can be found everywhere from board games like Monopoly to the basic mode in most competitive first-person shooter games.

    Team Competition: Multiple players vs. multiple players (including pair vs. pair). This is found in most team sports games.

  • Strategic (mental) and reflex (physical) gameplay are different expressions of player skill. In both cases, the player has control over the outcome through his decisions and actions.

    By contrast, chance-based mechanics have a randomized outcome. Chance adds uncertainty to a game, which can create tension and make it more exciting. Too much randomness can be frustrating. Players want to make meaningful decisions, but decisions lose meaning if the outcomes are decided solely by dice rolls or card shuffles.

    Chance-based mechanics also come in different flavors with different mathematical characteristics. Determining the right type and amount of chance-based mechanics is a big part of being a game designer.
  • There are three categories of rules, all important to a successful play experience:

    Setup involves things you do once at the beginning of a game
    Progression entails what happens during a game
    Resolution indicates the conditions that cause the game to end and how an outcome is determined based on the game state.

    Mechanics are a collection of rules that form a discrete chunk of gameplay.

    Systems are collections of mechanics that make up the biggest chunks of the game.

  • Thematic elements – stories, settings, characters – give games topics. They answer the question, “What is this game about?”, which is different from the question, “What is this gameplay about?”

    Not every game has a theme, and not every game needs a theme. However, a well-chosen theme can have a big impact on a game.

    Thematic elements have three primary purposes:

    Help players become more engaged. Players personalize the game experience if they identify with the character. Similarly, an interesting setting can add emotional weight. A game set in a fantasy realm will cause a different response from one set in World War II, even with the same game mechanics.
    Make the game easier to learn. Players in a racing game, for example, expect mechanics for accelerating, braking and steering because that’s how real vehicles work.
    Tell a compelling story. Games can be used to convey interesting stories, just like other media.

    Themes can also create expectations. Such expectations can create unwritten rules for how a player or designer thinks a game “should” be played.

  • Games can be difficult, but not so punishing that they turn the player away.

    Rules should be consistent. Examples of inconsistency are monsters that are killable in some situations but not in others. In general, the more difficult a game is, the less it can change its rules on the fly.

    For something to be enjoyably difficult rather than punishing, it has to give the player an outlet to resolve problems in new ways. When the player fails at overcoming an option, he needs alternate choices so that he has an opportunity to succeed.

    The player needs the ability to make informed choices about the game, even if they are split second ones.. Everything needs to hint at its consequences in some small way.

  • Randomness should only be used for variety and uncertainty (replay value), not for determining the achievement of goals.

    When the player fails at meeting an challenge, lower the iteration time when he can do that challenge over again and try something new. Get the player back into the action right way.

    Game controls should be usable. Don’t set up complex keyboard or controller combos that are difficult to manipulate.

    Whe a player fails, you want them to always feel that they could have done better. You want them to have that “aha” moment when they realize there was some small thing they could have done differently.

  • Balance is a description of the relative strength of different resources, mechanics, objectives and starting states.

    At its highest level, a balanced game does not give an unequal advantage or disadvantage to any player (or to the game system itself).

    Consider the classic rock-paper-scissors game. One player might win more often because of skill or luck but not because the game mechanics favored him or her.

    Similarly, balance applies to decisions within a game. If a player can choose between two different paths but one or two is always better, the game is not balanced.
  • When determining whether several different options are balanced, the designer needs to consider all the factors. A fighter may do much more damage in one attack than an archer, but the archer can do many attacks before the figher approaches to attack range.
  • You don’t always want things to be perfectly balanced. In fact, in most games, you want to make sure there are some inbalances in your system. Not big ones, but carefully crafted subtle ones.

    A perfectly balanced game can actually reduce the number of meaningful choices a player can make and the strategies for winning a game can eventually be mapped out, making it difficult to devise new strategies. Chess is an example of this.

    A slightly imprefectly balanced game can create a metagame in which there is no one definitive play style for winning. With subtle deviations from perfect balance, part of the game is to figure out what actions will give the player an edge.

    In Cyclical Imbalance:
    Each game element has some sort of weakness
    Players need a wide range of options to handle any obastacle

  • The highest level of strategy in many complex games, metagame refers to any aspect of strategy that involves thinking about what your opponent is thinking you are thinking.

    Metagame comes into play in any game where no single strategy is dominant and opposing sides are aware of multiple strategies that can succeed dependent upon opponents' actions. In order to perform at the highest level, it then becomes necessary to think about what your opponent thinks you will do (which may depend on what he thinks you think he thinks he will do, etc.) and to make decisions based on clues regarding what level they are working on.
  • Pace describes the speed of play. Specifically, it is how quickly the player receives information and makes decisions or takes action.

    Consider two strategy games, StarCraft and Risk. Both games are about controlling territory and resources, winning battles, and defeating an opponent. In Risk, play is not simultaneous – only one player takes a turn at a time – and turns have no time limits. By contrast, StarCraft play is simultaneous and real-time.
  • Star Wares: A New hope instantly grabs the viewer’s attention with the opening scene of the Rebel ship being capture. The engagement sequence then progresses in a series of hills and valleys, building higher and higher until the climacitic destruction of the Death Star.

    Virtually all good entertainment has a similar pacing curve.
  • If play value is the reason someone plays a game, then replay value is the reason someone plays a game over and over again.

    Designers increase replay value by introducing choices of characters, difficulties, starting positions, maps, levels, storylines and more. All of these options add novelty to additional play sessions. Increasing gameplay depth also increases replay value. Lastly, mutltiplayer games generally have more replay value than single-player games.
  • Like with movies and music, games can have subjects that are not suitable for all ages. Age appropriateness refers to the age or maturity level of a game’s intended audience. For example, a game with minimal cartoon violence might be suitable for young children, but a game with frequent, graphic violence would be more appropriate for a much older audience.
  • LAFS SVI Level 3 - Game Design and Analysis

    1. 1. Level 3 David Mullich Survey of the Videogame Industry The Los Angeles Film School
    2. 2. Players vs. Designers Players want the fun of playing a game as well as the enjoyment of being with their friends. Game designers are focused on how the game works:  How do you make it, and how to you break it?  What are the different elements and how do they fit together?  What skill level does a player need to successfully play and win?  Does each player have an equal chance of winning and a fair chance of experiencing all that the game has to offer?
    3. 3. Main Role The game designer’s main role is to be an advocate for the player. In some ways, designing a game is like being the host of a party. It’s your job to get everything ready and then open your doors to guests to see what happens.
    4. 4. Other Roles  Builder  Engineer  Scientist  Dreamer  Teacher  But NOT Boss
    5. 5. Designer Skills  Inspiration  Creativity  Process  Teamwork and most importantly,  Communication
    6. 6. The Designer’s Journey  Stage 1: Consumer  Stage 2: Tinkerer  Stage 3: Masher  Stage 4: Creator Teale Fristoe
    7. 7. Stage 1: Consumer We all begin our game designer lives as game consumers. To consumers, game design is pure magic. Consumers believe that a game designer imagines a game, then creates it exactly as he or she envisioned it.
    8. 8. Stage 2: Tinkerer Tinkerers tend to imagine new games in terms of modifications (often additions) to existing games, sticking closely to their underlying rule sets. Or by making game levels. However, Tinkerers begin to realize that game design is not magic, but it is a lot of work.
    9. 9. Stage 3: Masher Mashers envision new games as collages of existing game genres, mechanics and themes. They tend to focus on these elements rather than on the player experience.
    10. 10. Stage 4: Creator Before long, a game designer will shift his or her focus and work style. Instead of having visions of a specific game, the designer will be interested in exploring broad or incomplete ideas. Designers at this stage approach new games with a healthy emotional distance. They know that the initial idea is very rarely the best implementation, so keeping an open mind and keeping nothing sacred will tend to result in better final games.
    11. 11. Design Specialties  Lead Designer  System Designer  User Interface Designer  Technical Designer  Level Designer  Content Designer  Game Writer
    12. 12. Extra Credits, Season 1, Episode 16 - So You Want To Be A Game Designer (7:36)
    13. 13. Discussion  Why is communication the game designer’s core skill?  What other skills does a game designer need?  Why is “idea guy” a poor definition for what a game designer does?  Why shouldn’t game designers get too attached to their ideas?  What is the number one cause of failed games?
    14. 14. The Iterative Design Process Every game takes its own journey from concept to product, but skilled designers use the iterative design process Teale Fristoe
    15. 15. Ideas All games start out as ideas. It’s very possible that initial ideas will be (or should be) abandoned, and lots of new ideas will be considered during the process.
    16. 16. Inspiration Ideas don’t come out of thin air. Game designers are influenced by personal interests and hobbies. Spend a significant part of every day doing something other than playing games:  Read a book  Go see a play  Listen to music  Exercise, draw or sketch  Take a class  Volunteer at a neighborhood organization
    17. 17. Game Designer’s Notebook Many designers carry a notebook for jotting down their ideas.
    18. 18. Stages of Creativity Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the classic stages of creativity:  Preparation: Becoming interested in a topic  Incubation: Period where ideas “churn around” in your subconscious  Insight: The “aha!” moment, where an idea comes together  Evaluation: Deciding whether the insight is worth pursuing  Elaboration: Fleshing out the idea
    19. 19. Game Idea Sources  Brilliant Inspiration  Licensing Hook  Technology Hook  Filling A Gap  Following Coattails  Orders From Above  Sequels
    20. 20. Brainstorming A group creativity technique to find a solution to a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members. In games, brainstorming is used to generate a large number of ideas about game's concept, mechanics, setting, characters, etc.
    21. 21. Brainstorming Osborn’s method of brainstorming has four general rules:  Focus on quantity  Withhold criticism  Welcome unusual ideas  Combine and improve ideas Alex F. Osborn
    22. 22. Advice About Ideas  Come up with more ideas than you’ll need  Never rule out an idea as bad until you’ve tested it  Never accept an idea as good until you’ve tested it  Do not get emotionally attached to ideas
    23. 23. Planning Once a designer has promising ideas, it’s time to test them. Here, the keys are minimalism and focus. Identify what the most important questions you want to answer are and figure out the quickest way of discovering those answers.
    24. 24. Prototype Create a prototype that answers the questions at hand. A prototype is an early playable version of the game, section of game, or game system. A prototype, whether paper or electronic, should be: • Playable • Quick to Make • Easy to Change
    25. 25. Playtesters Playtesters are the people who play your game and provide feedback on the experience.  Observe their experience  Pay attention to what interests or frustrates them  They are your guide and it’s your mission to let them lead you
    26. 26. Playtesting OTHER TESTING  Alpha Testing  Focus Group Testing  Closed Beta  Open Beta Playtesting is an iterative process where the game is tested, the designer makes changes based on feedback, and the game is retested, over and over.
    27. 27. Playtesting Extra Credits: Playtesting (6:55)
    28. 28. Discussion  How soon should you begin playtesting your game?  Why is listening so important during playtesting?  How much talking should a designer do with playtesters?  Who is the worst playtester? Who is the best?
    29. 29. Evaluate After you playtest, consider your data.  How does it answer your questions?  If you were testing the quality of an idea, did it pass the test, or should it be thrown out?  If you saw problems, what caused the problems, and what can you do to fix them?
    30. 30. Done? Knowing when a game is finished can be even more difficult. A game is never finished, it’s just due. But you often won’t have external due dates, so it can be tempting to go on making tiny tweaks ad infinitum. Eventually, you’ll have to accept that a game is as good as it’s going to get.
    31. 31. Game Concept Defined by four elements:  Hardware Platform: Determines the controller configuration and technical limitations  Genre: Determines what the gameplay will feel like. Genres can be categorized by along two dimensions: Action vs. Strategy and Exploration vs. Conflict  Core Mechanic: Determines what the player will actually do in the game  Key Features: Determines what makes the game different or better than other games in that genre
    32. 32. Pitch Presentation A pitch is a concise verbal (and sometimes visual) presentation for a film, TV series, or game, made by the producer to an executive in the hope of getting the financing to do development. "Pitch" is a contraction of "sales pitch."
    33. 33. Elevator Pitch An elevator pitch is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product and its value. The name "elevator pitch" reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes. The term itself comes from the scenario of accidentally meeting someone important in an elevator. If the conversation inside the elevator in those few seconds is interesting and value adding, then the conversation will continue after the elevator ride or end in the exchange of a business card or a scheduled meeting.
    34. 34. Example Pitch Somehow it always falls to Mustachio to rally his friends for their many adventures. Run and jump through a side- scrolling world made of and inhabited by blocks. With mustaches. A world full of action, puzzles and arbitrary danger that Mustachio faces boldly with his mustache-fueled power to make block duplicates of himself. What? Cloning AND mustaches?! You betcha! Elements: • Game Title • Genre • Target Customer • Play Value • Competition • Differentiation
    35. 35. Mood Board A Mood Board is a type of collage that may consist of images and text that graphic designers use to visually illustrate the style they are pursuing. Mood Boards can also be used to visually explain a style of writing or an imaginary setting for a storyline. They serve as a visual tool to quickly inform others of the overall "feel" (or "flow") that a designer is trying to achieve.
    36. 36. Greenlighting To green-light is to give permission to go ahead to move forward with a project. In the game industry, to green-light something is to formally approve its production finance, and to commit to this financing, thereby allowing the project to move forward from pre- production to production.
    37. 37. Game Design Document (GDD)  The lead designer is the principle author of all the game design document.  To a programmer and artist, it is the instructions for implementation.  However, design documentation should be a team effort, because almost everyone on the team plays games and can make great contributions to the design.
    38. 38. GDD Topics  High Concept  Background Story  Tone  Objective  Gameplay  Interface  Camera Perspective  Story Structure  Multiplayer  Difficulty  Completion Time  AI
    39. 39. GDD – Other Topics  Characters  License  World  Controls  Menu Structure  Levels  Graphics  Cut Scenes  Music  Sound Effects
    40. 40. The Soul of the Game A good GDD describes not just the Body but the Soul of the game. It should convey the feel that the game should have, the purpose behind each element, the experience each user will have, and any other aspects of the game's look and feel the designer can envision and describe.
    41. 41. Game Genres  Action  Ball and Paddle  Beat’em Up  Fighting Game  Maze Game  Pinball Game  Platform Game  Shooter ○ First Person Shooter ○ MMO FPS ○ Light Gun Shooter ○ Shoot ‘Em Up ○ Tactical Shooter ○ Rail Shooter ○ Third Person Shooter  Action-Adventure  Stealth Game  Survival Horror  Adventure  Real-Time 3D Adventure  Text Adventure  Graphic Adventure  Visual Novel  Role-Playing  Western/Japanese RPGs  Fantasy RPGs  Sandbox RPGs  Action RPGs  MMORPGs  Rogue RPGs  Tactical RPGS  Simulation  Construction/Management  Life  Vehicle  Strategy  4X Game  Artillery Game  Real-time Strategy  Real-time Tactics  Tower Defense  Turn-based Strategy  Turn-based Tactics  Wargame  Other  Casual Game  Music Game  Party Game  Programming Game  Puzzle Game  Sprots Game  Trivia Game  Board Game
    42. 42. Game Genres
    43. 43. Game Genres
    44. 44. Game Genres  Defined by gameplay interaction  Classified independent of their setting  Most fall within one genre but some are a combination of two or more genres
    45. 45. Combining Genres Extra Credits: Combining Genres (4:52)
    46. 46. Discussion  When combining genres, what should you focus on?  What is wrong with the hacking minigame in BioShock?  What’s right with the combat in PuzzleQuest?
    47. 47. Core Game Elements  Player Format  Objectives  Procedures  Rules  Resources  Theme (for some games)
    48. 48. Player Format  Single Player vs. Game (Player vs. Environment)  Player vs. Player (Head-to-Head)  Multiple Individual Players vs. Game  Unilateral Multiplayer (One vs. Many)  Multilateral Competition (One vs. One vs. One… or Free-For-All)  Cooperative Play  Team Competition
    49. 49. Player Format
    50. 50. Player Roles  Sports: Team Leader vs. Team Mate  Mastermind: Codemaker vs. Codebreaker  D&D: Fighter, Magic User, Cleric or Thief  MUD: Achievers, Socializers, Explorers or Killers
    51. 51. Objectives (or Goals) Objectives give players something to strive for. They define what players are attempting to accomplish within the rules of the game. Ideally, they should be:  Obtainable, but challenging to reach  Worthy of obtaining  Immediately replaced by new goals
    52. 52. Examples of Objectives  Capture  Chase  Race  Alignment  Rescue  Escape  Solve  Outwit  Beat the Clock  Collect  Build  Destroy  Explore  Advance Story
    53. 53. Types of Goals STRATEGIC (Mental) REFLEX (Physical) CHANCE (Random)
    54. 54. Procedures Procedures are the methods of play and the actions players can take to achieve them. One way to think about procedures is: Who does what, when, where and how.
    55. 55. Types of Procedures  Set Up or Starting Action: How to put the game into play.  Progression: Ongoing procedures after the starting action.  Special Actions: Available conditional to other elements or game state.  Resolution, or Resolving Actions: Bring gameplay to a close.
    56. 56. Rules Rules define game objects and allowable actions by the players. In digital games, rules can be explained in the manual or they can be explicit in the game itself. Too many rules might make make the game too complicated for the players to understand. Leaving rules unstated or poorly communicating them might make players feel confused or alienated. Rules should be consistent with the game’s theme.
    57. 57. Rule Hierarchy  Rules  Mechanics  Systems  Scoring  Progression  Economics Examples of Systems  Combat  Artificial Intelligence  Multiplayer
    58. 58. Resources Resources are assets that are used to accomplish the game’s goals. Resources must both be useful and be scarce (or they lose their value). Managing resources and determining how and when to control player access to them is a key part of a game designer’s job.
    59. 59. Examples of Resources  Lives  Health  Currency  Actions  Energy  Mana  Time  Moves  Turns  Power-Ups  Building Materials  Combat Units  Inventory Items  Spells  Territory  Special Terrain  Information
    60. 60. Theme  Setting: The time and/or place where a game takes place  Characters: The people in the game setting whose actions cause the game (or game story) to progress  Story: A series of game events related to the game’s setting or characters that presents the player with an initial problem to solve near the game’s start and brings closure near the game’s end  Helps players become engaged  Makes game easier to learn  Tells a compelling story
    61. 61. Abstract Games While many games are thematic, some are abstract, meaning that they don’t have a theme.
    62. 62. The process of creating content and rules for games.
    63. 63. The Player’s Journey “Great games are compelling because the player’s experience and expertise changes over time in meaningful ways.” – Amy Jo Kim
    64. 64. Experience Phases Therefore, a good game designer will look at one game as 4 different games, which emphasizes on the 4 Experience Phases of a game, as defined by Professor Kevin Werbach:  Discovery  Onboarding  Scaffolding  Endgame
    65. 65. Discovery Phase  This is when people first discover your game.  How did they find it? Was it from a friend? Through the news? Or a clever marketing campaign?  How do we entice players to enter the Magic Circle and experience the other phases?
    66. 66. Onboarding Phase  This is when you train them to become familiar with the rules of the game, options, mechanics, and the win state.  This is what most designers focus on because everyone thinks once a player plays their game for some time, they will fall in love with it.  Mastering the Onboarding Process can get your users to start participate in your game with excitement and interest.
    67. 67. Scaffolding Phase  This is the phase where players use all the rules and options they learned during onboarding to try to achieve the win- state.  This is where the most “fun” should happen.  Once you have a well designed win state in scaffolding, you will start to see player engagement and motivation.
    68. 68. Endgame Phase  This is when players have done everything there is to do at least once and are starting to see more repetitive actions to get to the win-state.  In this phase, if the designer didn’t create a good endgame, people easily get bored and quit the game.  But a good endgame can be achieved through evergreen mechanics as well as creating a system where the game producers can easily add new content in a system consistently.  If you mastered the endgame, you will create a lot of contributors, evangelists, and long-term customers.
    69. 69. Game Design Goals  Fun  Interactive  Social  Easy to Learn  Hard to Master  Well-Paced  Immersive  Replay Value  Affordable  Manageable in Scope and Time
    70. 70. Flow Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. When players experience flow, time stops, nothing else matters and when they finally come out of it, they have no concept of how long they have been playing.
    71. 71. Flow Psychology professor Mihayli Csikszentmihalyi identified some key factors that could lead to such a phenomenon:  Clear goals and progress  Constant and Immediate feedback  Balance between the perceived challenge and the perceived level of skill needed
    72. 72. Flow In 1997 he provided the world this visual representation of his theory.
    73. 73. Flow  If a challenge exceeds the abilities of the current skill level, it can lead to frustration  If the skill level is increasing faster than the challenge, it leads to boredom  Both of these will normally end with the player leaving the game
    74. 74. Flow  If we combine the ideas of Flow and Player Journey, you can begin to see how a game, in theory, should behave in an ideal world.  You start off with a challenge that is acceptable for a new comer who is starting in the game – on- boarding.  Over time, you increase the challenge as skills increase. Most games tend to build up each level to a boss battle of some type.
    75. 75. Flow  Not all games have this “ideal flow”.  A game like Tetris would have a flow like the top line. Tetris. There are no lulls in the progression with Tetris. It just gets faster and faster, and you might feel frustrated until you achieve Mastery.  A game like WOW would have a flow like the bottom line. You must endure grinding until you get to the interesting sequences.
    76. 76. Difficulty  How much skill a player needs to have to complete a game objective.
    77. 77. Games should be easy to learn, but hard to master.
    78. 78. When Difficult Is Fun Extra Credits: When Difficult Is Fun (7:44)
    79. 79. Discussion  Why were early video games so difficult to play?  How did the game industry transition to the philosophy of “Everyone Wins”?  Why are we seeing more difficult games now?  What’s the difference between “difficult” and “punishing”?
    80. 80. Difficult vs. Punishing  Rules should be consistent  Players should be given enough resources to solve challenges  Players need to be given enough information to make decisions  The player’s choices should be meaningful
    81. 81. Difficult vs. Punishing  Randomness should only be used for variety and uncertainty (replay value)  Low iteration time for trying again  Create useable control interfaces  When the player fails, they should feel they could have done better
    82. 82. Balance A balanced game does not give an unequal advantage to any player (or the game system). The relative strength of different resources, mechanics, objectives and starting states.
    83. 83. Are these two characters balanced? The fighter, on the left, can do 6 points damage, but the archer, on the right, does only 1 point of damage.
    84. 84. Perfect Inbalance  Slight deviations from perfect balance so players can discover what choices will give them an edge  Cyclical Inbalance: When players gravitate to a weaker gameplay element looking for ways to defeat a stronger one.
    85. 85. Metagaming Metagame literally means 'beyond the game' and refers to any planning, preparation, or maneuvering that a player does outside of actual gameplay to gain an advantage.  Strategic decisions to exploit the game’s rules  Strategic decisions to exploit an opponent's or map's style of play  Strategic decisions to exploit a player's reaction or weakened mental state in the future. This is also known as 'mind games' or 'psychological warfare'.
    86. 86. Complexity The greater the complexity, the harder it is to learn how to play the game. The number of rules or the number of elements with which the player interacts.
    87. 87. A cluttered or non-intuitive interface can also make a game too complex.
    88. 88. Complexity ≠ Difficulty Difficulty Complexity How much effort or skill is needed to accomplish a task? How many different steps or skills are needed to accomplish a task? How many people can accomplish a task correctly? How many different ways can a task be accomplished? Easy or Hard Simple or Complex
    89. 89. Depth The greater the depth, the harder it is master the game. The ability to find enjoyment in a game as one’s skill improves.
    90. 90. Depth  Tic-Tac-Toe has few decisions, but it also has few rules  Chess has more rules and elements, but it has many interesting decisions  Monopoly has even more rules and elements, but relatively few meaningful decisions Depth is directly related to the number of interesting decisions the player can make.
    91. 91. Complexity vs. Depth  You want to create as much depth without too much complexity.  Depth comes from complexity, but too much complexity also reduces depth.  Elegance in design is therefore something that is high in depth to complexity ratio.
    92. 92. Ways to Reduce Complexity  A well-crafted tutorial  Don’t require the player to learn all the rules before they start playing  Intuitive user interface  Lower the rate at which player’s must make decisions
    93. 93. Pace Pace is the speed of play, or how quickly the player receives information and takes action or makes decisions. Turn-Based Real-Time
    94. 94. Dramatic Pace
    95. 95. Proper Pacing  Grab the player’s attention at the start, but keep it short  Give them a breather to set the proper baseline for the experience  Oscillate engagement level in a steadily increasing manner  Intermittent reinforcement is more powerful than constant reinforcement  Bring player’s down after an intense experience so that they feel closure
    96. 96. Engagement Segments  Arc: The game as a whole  Scene: A subsection or level of the game (this has its own engagement curve)  Action: A specific moment of player experience (even this should follow an engagement curve)
    97. 97. Replay Value  Play Value: The reason a person plays a game  Replay Value: The reason they play a game over and over again Designers increase replay value by:  Adding more choices to make and things to discover  Increasing depth  Multiplayer gameplay
    98. 98. Age Appropriateness The age or maturity level of a game’s intended audience
    99. 99. Sid Meier: Everything You Know Is Wrong  Game design is a psychological experience in which the designer needs to make the player feel good about playing the game  Winner Paradox: Player gladly accepts a win, but complains about an (unsatisfactory) loss  Unholy Alliance (between designer and player): It’s important for the designer to make the player feel good about their ability, while the player needs to suspend their disbelief  The First Fifteen Minutes: Needs to be very engaging and foreshadows the rest of the game Sid Meier