Mechanics of Magic: Seven Lessons from Game Design


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I've added notes to my popular SXSW presentation on learning from game design to make it easier to understand.

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  • What is a north star? It is the goal, the thing you are aiming for, and when you arrive, you can launch.,
  • Game designers have an inherent North Star because they are building a game. It’s FUN. Game designers constantly ask “Is it fun yet” and if the answer is no, they don’t launch. And their team doesn’t launch. Even when it’s late late late. Because there is no point in launching an un-fun game.
  • Game designers are very user centered. They have to be.
  • So when you are working on your project, your northstar should be a strong emotion.
  • Warning: this video will make you cry. It’s awesome. Watch 4:28-7:20
  • We are often facile when discussing needs in web design. If we tap deeper into basic needs, we can get more satisfying products.
  • We are limited in how we talk about emotion in Wed Design. We talk about delight, and frustration. But there are many more words we could be designing for…
  • As well, Game designers are much more comfortable with creating negative emotions than wed designers, who Mostly aim for “happy.” But as part of a sequence, a slight negative can increase a positive.
  • Dan Brown’s Communicating Design Game. Sometimes stress can teach.
  • This is a classic persona my old company CarbonIQ made for a casual gaming site. It was useful. But….
  • Amy Jo Kim has developed different player types that you find in Social Games. Each one has his or her own play style. Knowing these needs shapes the feature set and core loop.
  • Backyard Monsters takes the classic tower defense loop (build defense, get attacked, redo) and adds complexity by letting you also attack and build offensive as well as defensive tools.
  • Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper. The game of rock paper scissors lizard spock adds In two more elements for added complexity. And nerdity.
  • A constraint is usually about resource management. How much energy/money/stuff you need.
  • The pinch is the place where you run out of something. I.e. You run out of lives in the arcade, and you reach in your pocked for a quarter. Or twelve.
  • Energy is a typical social game pinch. You can solve with money or with being “social” i.e. begging from friends.
  • In cityville, real estate is an excellent pinch. You could just buy more land, but you could also upgrade to better buildings, rearrange your items, or store something. More options + more fun play.
  • In Castleville the pinch is also part of the play. New land is shrouded in shadow, so you may discover new mysteries as you look to expand.
  • Manipulation is tough. We go to the theater to be manipulated. We like a certain amount of orchestration of our feelings. But we sure don’t like being taken advantage of.
  • Name the persuasion techniques being used by these social games. Trust me, a little time on Facebook and you can collect all six. And find a few new ones.
  • Zynga invented the “doobers” which is when something good happens you see an outflowing of stars or coins. It’s the equivalent of the slot machine flowing out, and very satisfying.
  • There is a certain satisfaction in kicking a friends bum. However, if you have a place where not much social is happening, be sure to motivate me by making me beat my own high score. Not feel lonely.
  • Moving from a novice to a master is why we play tennis, chess or even do things like knitting or woodworking. We humans love to know we are getting better at something.
  • Classic waterfall. Even web people don’t like this anymore.
  • From Art of Game Design, by Jesse Schell. This his process diagram, and looks accurate to me. Game people often talk about “wandering in the wilderness”: the time while you are trying to achieve fun.
  • Make it pretty, make a profit. Often web and app design just slaps some pretty on it at the end.
  • Again, game designers seem way more user centered than most others. They don’t say “we’ll do two rounds of testing.” They’ll test over and over until fun arrives.
  • Sid Meir, Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong. Watch 18:40-23:53
  • Most web app designers through learning into a quickie tutorial in the beginning. But game designers, focused on mastery and that satisfaction weave it through the game.
  • Dance Central: you have to do the moves along with the dancer to earn points
  • Dance Central made learning the moves a key part of the game, not just a simple add on. You feel like you are really learning to dance.
  • Mechanics of Magic: Seven Lessons from Game Design

    1. 1. TheMechanics ofMagic7 Lessons fromgame designWe don’t need nostinkin’ badgesSee notes:
    2. 2. @cwodtke#Magic7
    3. 3. These are the wise people I learned fromSome I interviewed, some I read their books, some I watched their videos, some reviewed thistalk…
    4. 4. 7 Lessons from game design 1.Find your North Star 2.Design for Emotion(s) 3.Use Player Types 4.Know Your Mechanics 5.Consider the Elder Game 6.Learn to Teach 7.Always be Testing
    5. 5. Find your North StarEvery project needs a goal that everyone agrees is worth doing.
    6. 6. FUNChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    7. 7. The Player Should Have The Fun, Not The Designer Or The Computer The algorithms were, of course, very fun to construct and interesting to discuss outside of the game. The players, however, felt left behind -- the computer was having all the fun -- so we cut the feature. From a Gamasutra Article “Analysis: Sid Meiers Key Design Lessons”Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    8. 8. EmotionYour northstar is for the heart, not the head
    9. 9. Wodtke @cwodtkeWarning: this video will make you cry. It’s awesome. Watch 4:28-7:20
    10. 10. Design for An Emotion Conversion is a crap north star
    11. 11. Are all the emotions Uxr’s have to design for Frustration Satisfaction Delight? We design in Black and WhiteChristina Wodtke @cwodtke is a world of amazing emotions in technicolor just waiting We have been designing in Black and White. There
    12. 12. A better list of words to design for Needs CONNECTION CONNECTION continued HONESTY MEANING acceptance safety authenticity awareness affection security integrity celebration of appreciation stability presence life belonging support PLAY challenge cooperation to know and be known joy clarity communication to see and be seen humor competence closeness to understand and  PEACE consciousness community be understood beauty contribution companionship trust communion creativity compassion warmth ease discovery consideration PHYSICAL WELL-BEING equality efficacy consistency air harmony effectiveness empathy food inspiration growth inclusion movement/exercise order hope intimacy rest/sleep AUTONOMY learning love sexual expression choice mourning mutuality safety freedom participation nurturing shelter independence purpose respect/self-respect touch space self-expression water spontaneity stimulation to matter (c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication Website:  understandingChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    13. 13. PEACEbeauty communion ease equality harmony inspiration orderChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    14. 14. Boys like peace and harmony and order tooChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    15. 15. There is no shortage of “organization porn” on the web. We have a deep seated dream of a place of tidy harmony.Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    16. 16. Life with Alacrity on his itunes rating practice m/2006/08/usi ng_5star_rat.h tml What if software holding large collections made it even easier to create order?Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    17. 17. AFFECTIONATE CONFIDENT GRATEFUL PEACEFULcompassionate empowered appreciative calmfriendly open moved clear headedloving proud thankful comfortableopen hearted safe touched centeredsympathetic secure contenttender INSPIRED equanimouswarm EXCITED amazed fulfilled amazed awed mellowENGAGED animated wonder quietabsorbed ardent relaxedalert aroused JOYFUL relievedcurious astonished amused satisfiedengrossed dazzled delighted sereneenchanted eager glad stillentranced energetic happy tranquilfascinated enthusiastic jubilant trustinginterested giddy pleasedintrigued invigorated tickled REFRESHEDinvolved lively enlivenedspellbound passionate EXHILARATED rejuvenatedstimulated surprised blissful renewed vibrant ecstatic restedHOPEFUL elated restoredexpectant enthralled revivedencouraged exuberantoptimistic radiant (c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication Website:     rapturous thrilled Photos fill us with positive emotionsChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    18. 18. Facebook ignores that we love to fiddle with our beloved objects. How could this be redesigned?Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    19. 19. AFRAID lost DISQUIET PAIN TENSE AVERSION apprehensive mystified agitated agony anxious animosity dread foreboding perplexed puzzled alarmed discombobulated As well, Game anguished bereaved cranky distressed appalled contempt frightened mistrustful torn disconcerted disturbed designers are devastated grief distraught edgy disgusted dislike panicked petrified DISCONNECTED perturbed alienated rattled hurt much more heartbroken fidgety frazzled hate horrified scared suspicious aloof apathetic restless shocked comfortable with lonely miserable irritable jittery hostile repulsed terrified wary bored cold startled surprised creating negativeFATIGUE regretful remorseful nervous overwhelmed worried detached distant troubled turbulent SAD emotions than beat out depressed burnt restless stressed out ANNOYED aggravated distracted indifferent turmoil uncomfortable web designers, depleted dejected despair VULNERABLE exhausted dismayed disgruntled numb removed uneasy unnerved who despondent disappointed fragile guarded lethargic listless displeased uninterested unsettled Mostly aim for tired discouraged helpless exasperated withdrawn upset disheartened insecure weary frustrated “happy.” But as worn out forlorn leery impatient EMBARRASSED YEARNING gloomy reserved irritated ashamed envious part of a heavy heartedsensitive ANGRY irked chagrined jealous hopeless shaky enraged CONFUSED flustered longing sequence, a melancholy furious ambivalent guilty nostalgic unhappy incensed baffled mortified pining slight negative indignant wretched bewildered self-conscious wistful irate dazed can increase a livid (c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication Website:      hesitant outraged positive. resentfulChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    20. 20. Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    21. 21. Actually, this is rather pleasurable.Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    22. 22. If I don’t log in every Obviously day, I am Mr. Right tortured with men I missedChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    23. 23. “People find role playing cheesy, makes them self conscious. The game forces you into uncomfortable situations. You take a situation and a pattern and match them up.. It might be a pattern you avoid because you aren’t good at it. And it creates much more teachable scenarios.”Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    24. 24. Types vs Personas
    25. 25. Grace (62/ female/ widowed/ Little Rock, AR.) “I like playing my favorite games online, but if I can play with friends, well that’s even better!”    Personal Background: Her husband has passed on. She has two grown kids, both of whom live far away. She misses the kids, but has a fairly large circle of friends that she spends time with.   Technical Proficiency : Limited. Can use her browser and her email. MS Word confuses her, and she doesn’t like using it. Doesn’t know what an OS is. Tends to click yes if the browser prompts her to do anything, and will click wildly until things work. History with games: Plays crossword puzzles daily and saves them. Plays card games, PhotoJam, but is offended by South Park cartoons Game’s opportunity: If Grace can be convinced to 2001 participate in community activities, she will become a loyal user of the site. She needs to be sheltered from the sick and twisted content, however.    Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    26. 26. Richard Bartle Drawing: Frank Caron http://frankcaron.comChristina Wodtke @cwodtke and what features support the behavior desired is also useful. Understanding behavioral patterns in player types, Maybe more useful.
    27. 27. 4 Key Engagement Styles in Social Gaming Express Compete Explore Collaborate Copyright Amy Jo Kim
    28. 28. Satisficers Socializers Optimizers Self-discoveryChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    29. 29. The Core Loop And the Mechanics
    30. 30. This is a core loop for a very simple game. I’m actually shocked we don’t map this on other projects. Amazon’s isChristina Wodtke @cwodtkeSeek, evaluate, buy.
    31. 31. Will Wright on Game Design:Christina Wodtke @cwodtke Watch 30:27-33:27
    32. 32. Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    33. 33. SHOP REVIEW BUY Loop for amazon, but also tripadvisor and YelpChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    34. 34. SHARE REACTION CONSUME Loop for most social sites, from facebook to instagram to flickChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    35. 35. MechanicsSome of the more sleezy gamification gurus use this term as mind-control tricks. But really they are just whatmakes games tick.
    36. 36. Sometimes they are rules
    37. 37. Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    38. 38. Just in case you need it Wodtke @cwodtke
    39. 39. Sometimes they are constraints
    40. 40. PinchThe pinch is the place where you run out of something. I.e. You run out of lives in the arcade,and you reach in your pocked for a quarter. Or twelve.
    41. 41. When you run out of energy, you have to A)Spend money for more energy B)Ask friends for help (virals) C)Go away and come back laterChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    42. 42. Cityville has a natural pinch; as your city grows you need more landChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    43. 43. Castleville has a pinch for explorers and decorators; unclaimed land is full of mysterious cluesChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    44. 44. Sometimes they are manipulations But it’s ok because I feel something?
    45. 45. 6 key principles of persuasion by Robert Cialdini Reciprocity  Social Proof Commitment and Consistency  Authority Liking  Scarcity Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    46. 46. We’ve got scarcity here, plus a sense of what you have missed, and away to keep you coming backChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    47. 47. Acheivements Reward me
    48. 48. Celebrate microwins! Actions taken successfully create mini-rewards in the form of doobers (stars and slot- machine sounds).Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    49. 49. Leaderboards There is a certain satisfaction in kicking a friend’s rear. However, if you have a place where not much social is happening, be sure to motivate me by making me beat my own high score. Don’t make me feel lonely.
    50. 50. MasteryCrafting in Castleville, and many other gamesis all about repetition. No real skill is gotten bythe player. Is the user really feeling masteryhere? In Bubblewitch saga, like many match- three games, it’s all about beating your own score as well as others. You can see and feel your improvement.
    51. 51. Celebrating
    52. 52. CELBRATING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    53. 53. The Elder Game
    54. 54. Christina Wodtke www.eleganthack.comFTUE (first time user experience) and elder game at a minimum. Almost All game designers I’ve met talk about @cwodtke no web/app developer I speak with discusses these much if at all. Is a tutorial enough?
    55. 55. Yahoo rewards group managers with customization toolsChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    56. 56. Okcupid invites you to be a moderato r once you’ve been an active member for awhileChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    57. 57. Process
    58. 58. A pleasant lieChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    59. 59. From Art of Game Design, by Jesse Schell. This his process diagram, and looks accurate to me. Game people often talk about “wandering in the wilderness”: the time while you are trying to achieve fun.Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    60. 60. AestheticsBeginning Middle and End
    61. 61. How most web site makers view designChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    62. 62. Grace and Glory enemy concept designs by Yusuke Hashimoto. From the upcoming video game Bayonetta. Graphic design in games is Concept design by Min Zhou begun day one, and informs and inspires all product choicesChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    63. 63. MeasurePretend you have OCD.
    64. 64. Playtestlike you mean it
    65. 65. Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    66. 66. Sid Meir, Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong. Watch 18:40-23:53Christina Wodtke @cwodtke
    67. 67. Learn how to teach
    68. 68. To play Dance Central, you have to learn the movesChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    69. 69. They make the learning into a game too– if you can decode the picture, you can get a diamond and skip the practiceChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    70. 70. WHAT IF SXSW WAS A GAME?
    71. 71. Networkers Partyers Learners Fame HosChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    72. 72. Nap in Panel Party Check twitterChristina Wodtke @cwodtke
    73. 73. A good mechanic might be collecting.
    74. 74. A good pinch,private parties.
    75. 75. Now Playtest!
    76. 76. @cwodtke The #sxswinning Me: Thank You! cq1