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Wow! MDA Works!

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Earlier I wrote up a piece on the MDA (Mechanics, Design, Aesthetics) Framework Marc Leblanc introduced in the two day Game Design workshop at GDC. I was so impressed with it that I started using it, but really didn't get into it until this week. In my home office, I was able to spread out scissors, paper and glue and start mocking up the core of my design. It was an awesome process!

To make it work you've got to focus on what the core experience will be for your player. I started out with a focus on life experiences and adventure. Then you have to ask yourself, in a way that can be rigorously tested, what the essential nature of your goal is. For me, I asked "What is the fundemental essence of a life in the future?"

The answer inspired the creation of a game grid filled with challenges and opportunities, cards and a character sheet. The sheet holds your resources, the cards emulate events, and the challenge / opportunity squares cause you to draw a card when you land on them.

One so far easy thing to confirm: It's fun to try to stay afloat economically. To simulate the survival portion of the game, you get 20 points of money, and you lose 1 every turn. This really pushes you to try to find opportunities to raise it, and hope that challenges don't wipe you out as you move around the board.

Also saw right off the bat that it's difficult to make regular life gameplay interesting in contrast to epic adventuring. I don't have the gameplay in place for what I call the "gardening" portions of the game, yet (like shopkeeping), so it may just be that I'm abstracting a lot.

I have a bunch of ideas to test out, like adding story cards, adversary chits, and making the playing grid a city. Once I get that playtested, I'll try it out on some friends.

What I really like about MDA is that you don't have to sit around wondering if the mix of your design ideas will work. You can get a rough approximation in only a couple of hours!
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Sounds like a really valueable exercise I think I'll try a similar thing to see how my game mechanics will play out try and see if it will in fact be fun.

Altough, you could always try turning you computer game into pen and paper rpg/board game. But I have no idea if that makes it easier or harder to publish.

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[grin] Are you trying to kill me here? Don't you know that unless you bow to the god that is the D&D D20 system, you've got even worse odds at publishing a pen & paper game!!!!

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That MDA framework looks great. It would make the discussion of game ideas and features more productive.

However I still get the impression that the concept is short on some of the details. At one point you've described dynamics as "the state", which surely is a contradiction that hints at a lack of clarity in the system. :)

Once there are a few more concrete examples of each of these I can see it becoming a useful part of the vocabulary.

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I want to post more about this whole MDA thing, but I've been really pressed for time. Hopefully at some point in the future I can do this soon.

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