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Game Design Principles and Inspiration

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Great innovative design is essential to any game. Raise the bar of engagement for your games by putting to use some proven principles gleaned over many years of game design efforts. Find inspiration …

Great innovative design is essential to any game. Raise the bar of engagement for your games by putting to use some proven principles gleaned over many years of game design efforts. Find inspiration as we explore some great examples of innovation and originality in games both past and present. The goal is to both enable and inspire future innovation that will bring satisfaction and success in your career as a game designer.

Delivered at Casual Connect Asia, May 2012.


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  • See http://5thscreen.com/ and John Curran. They are located in San Francisco and partner quite often with Intel.
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  • Hi Craig, agreed.. we're working on theme parks at the moment and it seems that game design is going to become a real driving force behind both engagement and re-engagement... but this extends also to Science Museums, and other more educational venues as well :) Opens so many great challenges for game designers to overcome... Love to learn more about the retail aspects, any info you can share / links?
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  • Nice overview of games. Gamification in retail and consumer engagement is accelerating
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  • Try not to make Yoda Mad
  • I used to think of Innovation as coming from vast amounts of Knowledge of facts, science, and academic pursuits. And I pushed myself very hard in school. But one of the common complaints from teachers was that I Day Dreamed too much. I spent more time looking out the window than listening to their lectures. Well, now I have come to appreciate that, Imagination and your ability to dream up ideas and fantasize is far more important to innovation than lots of facts and reverse engineering the mind. In fact I believe some of the best innovations and ideas will come from children who are given tools to build and who are allowed not just to day-dream but to construct their dreams into reality through game building tools.
  • The 00s were the years that Macromedia Flash (now Adobe Flash, I know) really came into its own, transforming from an animation tool into a robust, full-featured platform for game developers to work magic in. And work they did, with tens of thousands of new games being released every single year. Mst of those games are total crap, but there have been a few that have proven themselves to be true classics in the world of office time-wasting. On this list, I'll count down the ten that defined the decade for me.10. Dino Run - Glorious retro pixel graphics are just the icing on the cake of this seemingly simple action game, in which you play a we dinosaur struggling to avoid the environmental apocalypse that wants to leave you extinct. Run, jump, and eat eggs as you frantically dodge meteors and other hazards. A great achievement system with tons of unlockables gives this a lot more replay value than you would think. And if you donate to the developer, they'll give you forty virtual hats for your dinosaur! Play it here.9. Bejeweled – Quite possibly the gateway drug that started the casual gaming revolution, Bejeweled merged super-simple play mechanics with an addictive combo system to create a game that literally any idiot could play. While thousands of people have tried to surpass it, Bejeweled still remains the best, nearly a decade after it was released. Play it here.8. Line Rider – Part game, part toy, all fun, Line Rider taps into the creativity of its users to create a unique experience that has captivate millions. Using your mouse, draw slopes, curves and lines and then unleash a hapless little stickman on a sled into the physics-based obstacle course you created. No goal, no score, and no winning the game, but an incredibly addicting experience nonetheless. Play it here.7. Grow – The Japanese developer known only as On has built a huge fan following around his quirky, simple, hilarious games. The action is basic (drag objects to a place and see what happens) but the charming art style, smooth animation and brain-bending puzzles make each and every Grow game a must-play. Play it here.6. Cursor*10 – The 00s saw a lot of experimentation in how players interacted with games – the basic paradigm of lives, score, and progression got chopped up and remixed in dozens of different ways. This brief, minimalist Flash game by Japanese developer Nekogames was one of the most interesting, in which the player must think across time to synchronize his clicks and make it to the end of a maze where his only ally is himself. Play it here.5. Samorost – Polish art student JakubDvorsky single-handedly elevated the look of the Flash game to new levels with the 2003 release of Samorost. A simple point-and-click adventure game, what made it stand out was the incredible music and atmosphere, unlike anything an online game had ever accomplished before. Dvorsky went on to found Amanita Designs, which has been responsible for several other classics. Play it here.4. Nanaca Crash – A simple, if bizarre premise that launched (no pun intended) a whole genre, Nanaca Crash, a Web game developed by a Japanese company better known for adult titles, is the quintessential "just one more try" title. Set your angle and launch your hapless protagonist into the air, trying to ensure that he flies as far as he can possibly go while avoiding the hazards in his way. It seems like pure chance when you first start out – and, in fact, most of it is – but the amount of control you can exert on your poor human projectile's destiny is just enough to keep you hooked. Play it here.3. The Last Stand – Zombies were one of the major cultural tropes of the 00s, and many, many games saw you as a human gibbing as many as you could. But the one game that dominated all of them was The Last Stand. As a human survivor, employ an arsenal of weapons to fend off the undead hordes while you scavenge for supplies and try to keep yourself among the living. Tense, insanely addictive, and totally atmospheric, it's a true classic. Play it here.2. N – Metanet Software's action-puzzle classic has made the jump to portable consoles as well, but you can play the original for free. Cast as a scarf-wearing ninja with some serious moves, you must collect all of the coins in a level under the time limit while dealing with adversaries who can kill you with a single misstep. Tight controls, amazing level design and that "just one more" addictiveness, all in one package. Play it here.1. Desktop Tower Defense – When British hobbyist Paul Preece coded DTD in his spare time back in 2007, he had no idea that his first-game project would become one of the most addictive Flash titles of all time. The gameplay is deceptively simple – place stationary towers that shoot at waves of incoming "creeps," trying to kill them all before they reach the opposite side of the screen. But the perfectly-balanced difficulty and innovative community-building tools Preece included made Desktop Tower Defense a bona-fide phenomenon, with millions and millions of people playing and Preece quitting his day job to make games full-time. Play it here.
  • Edison Learning’s Interactive Learning EnvironmentA MiddleSchool / Highschool Game-based Virtual School For Students and TeachersProvides Learning for S.T.E.M., Language, Social Studies, and much moreHas achievement and virtual currency system designed to encourage engagement to learning.Provides multiplayer and collaborative tools to encourage students and teachers to work together for better learning environment and culture.Has both Cooperative and Competitive Gameplay.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Game Design Principles & Inspiration John Say CEO Say Design (USA & China) Best Contact Methods: Email: john@saydesign.com Skype: johnsay Linkedin.com/in/johnsay Facebook.com/saydesign QQ: 1794662346
    • 2.  How the Passion Started  Squandered time in Arcade  Game Console Addict   Pong, Atari2600, Coleco TRS-80 Color Computer  Learned to Code BASIC 2
    • 3. About Say Design  23 Years in Business for USA  Last year, made the move to Shanghai!  Areas of Focus:   Virtual Worlds / MMO’s  Serious & Educational Games  Original IP Development  Help Bring Games to Western Audiences   Cross Platform (Mobile/Browser/Console) Theme Park Rides Many Partners & Clients Globally Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 3
    • 4. 4
    • 5. Why is Game Design SO Important? The World Needs Fun Games! Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 5
    • 6. Gamer’s are a Passionate Audience And They DEMAND Fresh Innovate Gameplay. Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 6
    • 7. What Kind of Game Developer do you Aspire to be? Jedi Game Master Game Cloner 7
    • 8. Choose Wisely… You Must.. Or a Game Design Jedi, You will not be. 8
    • 9. Design Principles You Must MASTER  Know what it means to INNOVATE  Keep your Creative Juice FLOWING with INSPIRATION  Make Sure your games have FUN MECHANICS.  K.I.S.S. Principle  GROW ORGANICALLY for Better Long-term Results.  REPLAY VALUE  Solve Real-World Problems with Games Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 9
    • 10. Firstly.. Exactly What is a Game?  They are Goal driven activities or EXPERIENCES.  They challenge players in a FUN way that let’s them grow or learn.  They REWARD player’s achievements with positive reinforcement and a sense of PROGRESSION.  All of the above are what make up occurrences in everyday life! Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 10
    • 11. THE KEY TO INNOVATION 11
    • 12. Iterative Innovation  Most Common  Gradual  Often “improvement” increase in complexity  Decreasing  Healthy  Less of complexity or simplifying for industry Risky than more radical innovation Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 12
    • 13. Iterative Innovation: DoodleSky (OF3D)  Adding A “Twist” to an existing Genre  DoodleSky: Added Twist to Flight Control Games…  The ability to Shoot down enemy planes  Inspiration: Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 13
    • 14. Game Trailer 14
    • 15. Radical Innovation Radically New, Genre Defining  Donkey Kong (Platform Game)  Rez (Rhythm Shooter)  Braid (Time Distortion Platformer)  Much Harder to Pull Off Now than Before  But Not Impossible! Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 15
    • 16. 16
    • 17. 17
    • 18. Simplification  Take a difficult game (a core game) and remove what makes it too challenging for Casual players.  You will appeal to core gamers.  And bring something new to casual gamers.  Examples:  Tower Defense -> Plants Vs. Zombies  Crush the Castle -> Angry Birds  Red Alert -> Social Game: Empires and Allies  SimCity -> Social Game: CityVille Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 18
    • 19. RTS: HardCore 19
    • 20. Tower Defense: Casual Core 20
    • 21. Plants vs. Zombies: More Casual Brighter & More Humor 21
    • 22. Crush the Castle: Casual Core 22
    • 23. 23
    • 24. Angry Birds: Casual 24
    • 25. 25
    • 26. Extending into Real-World Innovations  Game Extending Technology  GPS – Global Positioning -> Location Based Games  AR – Augmented Reality  Cameras  Motion Tracking  Toys and Drones  Gyroscopes Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 26
    • 27. ARDrone by Parrot: iPhone Game + Drone  Games that Combine Virtual Reality and Actual Reality Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 27
    • 28. Because the CIA can’t be having ALL of the Fun! (Trailer) Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 28
    • 29. First Real-Time & Location-Based MMORPG for iOS/Android Parallel Kingdom is a mobile location based massively multiplayer game that uses your GPS location to place you in a virtual world on top of the real world. (trailer) Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 29
    • 30. FUSION INNOVATION  Combining 2 or more game aspects together  Crystal Castles = Fusion of Pacman + Isometric Playfield Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 30
    • 31. Fusion Innovation! On the Airplane!  A Couple playing Sudoku on the Plane   Single Player, bah!  I looked at this as a design opportunity.  Used Fusion Innovation:  Hey 2-player Tic-Tac-Toe has similar Grid! What if… =? + Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 31
    • 32. 32
    • 33. HOW ABOUT FUSING THESE TOGETHER? Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 33
    • 34. Click for Trailer 34
    • 35. What about Tempest + Bubble Bobble? + Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 35
    • 36. CANDY SHOT Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 36
    • 37. 37
    • 38. Thematic Innovations  NanoTroopers (internal project) First Person Shooter Meets Anatomy & Medicine Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 38
    • 39. a Frag’em up game where players are Immersed into the body as Formidable Nanites to save the World.  Just Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 39
    • 40.  Not Reinventing the FPS… but rather… the Environment and the whole Meta-game Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 40
    • 41. INSPIRATION DRIVES INNOVATION! How can you keep your Creative Juices Flowing? 41
    • 42. Inspiration Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 42
    • 43. Inspiration requires free flow of undistracted thought. Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 43
    • 44. Inspirational Game Designer Quote to Ponder “Doing things that you think people need but are missing always leads to innovation. Doing things that are popular and making money doesn’t.” 44
    • 45. Inspiration from Experimental Games  Flash Game Portals are FULL of experiments and innovations!  Kongregate.com, AddictingGames.com, TheGamesList.com  Top Performing, AppStore & Facebook Games!  As long as you build on what others have done, and innovated, it’s NOT the same as CLONING. Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 45
    • 46. Blast to the Past!  Arcade Classics  Old Consoles Games  Emulators  Many Forgotten Gems! Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 46
    • 47. Inspiration from Traditional Toys & Games  Board Games  Puzzles  Toys Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 47
    • 48. Inspiration from Arts & Crafts  Paint by Numbers Game Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 48
    • 49. Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 49
    • 50. Everyone can Innovate Game Ideas!  KIDS! are full of inventive ideas, and go largely untapped!  Colleges and Universities full of students with Fresh new ideas!  Internships  Contests and Competitions    Joey Betz won 3 competitions at Local Univ. First Say Design Intern: Did Crush the Castle (w/c inspired Angry Birds Game Designer) Game Builder Tools & Communities (no coding req.)  PlayCrafter.com (trailer)  GameSalad.com Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 50
    • 51. EA’s National Invent-A-Game Challenge  Dan Slutz, 17, of Canton Ohio Wins! (all 3 ideas made top 5) Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 51
    • 52. Link to interview / article Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 52
    • 53. WHAT ARE FUN MECHANICS?
    • 54. IT DEPENDS….
    • 55. ON YOUR AUDIENCE Game Designers Must Understand their Audience!
    • 56. Casual Gamer: Prefers Simplicity (K.I.S.S.) Good Forget about it 56 Dream on
    • 57. Hardcore Gamer: NEED T.K.A. (total kick ass) Outstanding!... But… Hey! No Haptic Gloves & 3D VR Glasses?
    • 58. What if you have Multiple Target Audiences?  Super Casual  Casual  Casual Core  Core  Hard Core  Troubled Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 58
    • 59. And these 3 are your primary targets…  Super Casual  Casual  Casual Core  Core  Hard Core  Troubled Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 59
    • 60. Which do you worry most about leaving behind?  Super Casual  Casual  Casual Core  Core  Hard Core  Troubled No Gamer in Intended Audience Is Left Behind (FACT: Hard Core Gamers Love to Play Angry Birds & Doodle Jump too, just privately LOL) Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 60
    • 61. TIPS FOR CREATING GOOD GAME MECHANICS  At first Try multiple mechanics  Experiment Liberally  Rapidly Prototype in Flash or Unity3D, etc..  Watch Game Testers and see if they “Get It” without coaching.  Evaluate On these criteria:  Easy  Fun to Learn? to Master?  Can it provide variety of gameplay without overcomplicating the core User Interaction?  Let’s Illustrate with Angry Birds… Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 61
    • 62. Angry Birds: Easy to Learn  Core Mechanic Is Simple and doesn’t change… It’s familiar to anyone who has flung a rubber band.  Pull Back & Let Go! Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 62
    • 63. Angry Birds: Challenging yet Fun to Master  The Challenge isn’t limited to ability to Aim  But your MASTERING EACH BIRD!  One Player’s Assessment of Each Bird’s Funfactor Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 63
    • 64. Angry Birds: Challenging yet Fun to Master  The Challenge isn’t limited to ability to Aim  But your MASTERING EACH BIRD!  One Player’s Assessment of Each Bird’s Funfactor Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 64
    • 65. Angry Birds: Each Level Is like a New Game  Level’s start off easy  Gradually ramping up difficulty!  Allowing rapid replay to achieve 3 stars! Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 65
    • 66. Eventually you’re forced to Mighty Eagle  BLASTED! .99 please ;-)  W.T.C. (what the crap?) Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 66
    • 67. The K.I.S.S. Principle Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 67
    • 68. K I S S E E P T I M P L E T U P I D That’s not name-calling  Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 68
    • 69. K.I.S.S. Principle???  Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should!  All Games benefit from Simplicty  UX & GameFlow even in Hardcore Games  China is still learning this concept   Don’t take it from me… Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 69
    • 70. “Simplicity Is the Ultimate Sophistication” -Leonardo Da Vinci 70
    • 71. K.I.S.S. Principle in PacMan  Give visual clues and “hints” to guide the user  Did PacMan Require a Guidebook or Tutorial?  What kind of Clues?:   aural   visual Ai Behavior If Player didn’t figure it out, Minimal Instructions the game didn’t punish them, it allowed them to continue. Ultimate Goal Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 71
    • 72. PLEASE MEMORIZE THIS: 72
    • 73. Give Players a Sense of Context & Progression  Players want to explore, but also need to know:  Where  they’ve been Where they are  Where they are heading  Progress  they’ve made. How to do this?  Maps  Achievements  Quest Lists  Experience Points & Leveling Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 73
    • 74. Organic Development! Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 74
    • 75. Organic Growth of Games  The Game Design Document is NOT LAW.  Start with a SEED of the game.   Remember what that is? Allow TIME for the seed to be NURTURED TO MATURITY!  Experiment EARLY  Observe Audience reactions & response  Refine & Polish  REMOVE  unnecessary complexities / confusion REPEAT ITERATION TO PERFECTION Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 75
    • 76. SPOCK’S WARNING: Don’t Become Emotionally Attached To a Game Design To continue to work on a game that’s not truly satisfying to your Audience.. Is.. Well… ILLOGICAL. 76
    • 77. TIPS FOR REPLAY VALUE  Multiple Modes of Play  Multiple Difficulty Settings  Level Rankings (★★★) (how many times reply an AngryBird Level?)  Variety is SPICE of LIFE  Clever Level Design (don’t just leave it to the coders)  Allow for User Generated Content ie. Level Editors (crush the castle)  Virtual Currency & Items  RPG Aspects (Improving Attributes) Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 77
    • 78. TIPS FOR REPLAY VALUE  Goals and Achievements  Score & Achievement Rankings  Allow to Repeat Levels to Improve Ranks (perfect rank achievement)  Memorable Story and Characters they can be drawn into.  NEVER Underestimate Humor!  Minion Mayhem ->  Improving Launcher, Mutating Minions, Multiplayer/Community Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 78
    • 79. 79
    • 80. Can Games Change the World? Indeed!  Games can be used to Solve Problems.  Getting People to organize around a common Goal  People more willing to get involved “IF IT’S A GAME”  Encourage Cooperation and Camaraderie  If Mapped to Real World Results or Effects can impact Reality!  A new and noble challenge for Aspiring Game Designers! Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 80
    • 81. Games that Solve Problems Scientists Cannot  FoldIt: Teaching the world Protein Synthesis, and letting the world come up with solutions through a GAME! 81
    • 82. Games that Rehabilitate  UC Davis Mind Institute Co-Development Project: Making games to stimulate Brain for improved Spatial Resolution for Kids with Neurological Disorders. Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 82
    • 83. Virtual Worlds that Educate!  Games & Tablets will have deep impact on education Globally. Be prepared!  Korea’s Ministry of Education has mandated schoolbooks be replaced by Tablets and Digital Education by 2015. Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 83
    • 84. Virtual World Middle & High Schools  S.T.E.M.,  Academic Language, Social Studies, and more Achievement Rewarding and Fun  Multiplayer and Collaborative  Foster Peer-to-Peer Learning  Teacher / Student Interaction  Virtual Cooperation between different schools. Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 84
    • 85. Edison Virtual School
    • 86. Inspirational Pop Quiz: Name That Innovation & Say WHY  If Iterative (what was was the inspiration)  Radical (was there real-world inspiration?)  Simplification (what did they simplify?)  Pacman  Ladybug  Zaxxon  Chuzzle  flOw  Lightopus  Crush the Castle  Angry Birds  Shadow of the Colossus Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 86
    • 87. Games for Health!  FamScape: Challenges and Reward driven village game designed to help families focus on active and healthy lifestyle. Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 87
    • 88. Some Homework! http://casualconnect.org/magazine-archive/ Excusive Interview Jonathan Leaders What Games Can Learn from an Innovation Leader (On Culture & Traits of Innovation)! Copyright 2009 Say Design Incorporated. All rights reserved. Say Design confidential. 88
    • 89. Thank You! Q/A or SHARE 谢谢 Let’s Exchange Cards! Grab/Leave One B4 U Leave Best Contact Methods: Email: john@saydesign.com Skype: johnsay Linkedin.com/in/johnsay Facebook.com/saydesign QQ: 1794662346 EMAIL ME FOR THE SLIDES & See you at the PARTY!: (WILL HAVE CHINESE VERSION READY IN A FEW DAYS!!!)