Fundamental Principles for Optimal Game Design

By July 18, 2014Uncategorized

You may be an expert gaming programmer with all the tricks to make an awesome game. But if no one thinks it’s enjoyable to play, what’s the point? No matter how gratifying it was to make, did you ever stop to ask yourself, “Is this fun?” Why did you go to all this trouble to make something that may or may not be appealing to anyone but yourself? Well, you and maybe your mom, I guess. This is true, making a game for yourself is critical, but there are many factors involved in game development that one should take into account while developing their game. In this post we will go over the fundamental aspects of game design and core development, because ensuring a solid game design is based on applying a few key principles that could make or break your gameplay experience.

Mechanics – Finding Your Game Zen

Many creative people want to bring their ideas to life without taking the time to really embrace the game-play first. They dive right in building levels, characters and animations because this feels like the most attainable, from a design perspective. Although, without the proper foundation nobody cares how pretty your art is or how amazing your design is. First start with brainstorm and outline , what the game-play experience will be, and what is your hook? Don’t be afraid to cut features to find the perfect mechanic. First off, is it a sandbox? If so stop there. Keep it simple, creating the next open world game is a difficult endeavor and not to mention very expensive. If you want a success it doesn’t have to be complex, it just has to be fun. Mechanics are the key to any successful game. Whether it’s as simple as launching a box across the screen, or telling an immersive story with a deep plotline, it has be fun without art. What does this mean? 1. Prototype. 2. Test. 3. Tweak. 4. Repeat

Addictiveness – Gaming Future

Think back to the first time you played Doom. How awesome was it to have the freedom to roam a 3D world? Recreating this feeling or emotional response from your player in 2014 is the first step in designing an instant “addiction.” I say addiction because the days of game experiences lasting more than ten minutes and putting them down, are hard to consider, but still possible. You have to remember the mechanical design and immersion of your game is still important to keep a player engaged in the experience. “What will they need to achieve to keep going and how will you keep their interest?” Your game could have level difficulty, new objectives, plot twists, achievements, points, stars or distance traveled. Pick which one makes the most sense for your game. This brings us to our next point, immersion.

Immersion – Thinking Beyond

What is immersion? In a gaming world Immersion is mechanics, story, art and sound. It is imperative to present your audience with a clear objective and a progressive amount of challenge. Once your mechanics are solid and your game is playable in a preliminary state, you have now reached the point where we can experiment with the overall look and feel of the game. During this time you will have ample time to polish the game-play and work out any kinks of the system. Now, I’m sure you have thought of a theme for your game. This would be a good time to mention that you are building games for everyone’s entertainment.  Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun with it as long as it makes sense for your audience and the platform.  Start developing the style that feels right for your game. Is it realistic, cartooned, painterly, or something totally unique? Give this some serious thought, because even the best mechanics can’t fix bad art. So, now you have a fun game to play, with stunning graphics but something’s missing, SOUND. Don’t take music and sound for granted, and wait until the game is almost done to consider this step. A good portion of the time, sound can dictate mood and ultimately give a different feeling visually, depending on the game. These two steps should work in tandem to create the emotional response we desire from our players, and in turn, immerse them in the worlds we create.

Polish – If It’s Not Broke, Don’t Fix It.

This step is commonly overlooked, and there is a reason that the last 10% of any project takes 90% of the time. Budget for this, and you will create a quality game experience that no one will forget. Remember polish isn’t adding features to your game, its refining what you’ve already designed, to make it fun and engaging.  Take the time to play, test, tweak, and repeat. Don’t rush it to market without a solid product. You only get one chance at a first impression, so make the name of your game pop. Too cliché or too generic of a name can be death of your project. Make the name significant, or keep it silly. Either way, it should sound fun.

Objective & Conclusion – Our Expectations Are Sometimes Different Than Our Reality.

Our expectations are sometimes different than our reality. This is okay, as long as you see it before the rest of the world does. At this point in game development, go back and ask yourself, “Is my game still fun?” Mechanics, immersion, and polish, should be clearly marked and the quality of the game should reflect this.  Without solid, finely tuned game-play and a killer presentation, it’s easy for your game to get lost in this saturated market. Take your time, be subjective, and put your passion behind it. If you want people to feel the way you do, then quality is the only way you show it. Now is the time to go ask your mom.

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