This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.


Game Design...

Recommended Posts

Exactly what are you looking for in a game design class (or course)? Game design is viewed by many as an art, so realize that while a course will teach you the basics and lay down structure, it will still take you years of experience to get good at it.

Game Institute is planning a course called Principles of Game Design and Architecture (check here for more), but I am not aware as to the status of the course, such as whether we need an instructor for it, whether the instructor is still working on the course materials, etc. If you want tho I can find out for you.


Drew Sikora
A.K.A. Gaiiden

ICQ #: 70449988
AOLIM: DarkPylat

Blade Edge Software
Staff Member, GDNet
Public Relations, Game Institute

3-time Contributing author, Game Design Methods , Charles River Media (coming GDC 2002)
Online column - Design Corner at Pixelate

NJ IGDA Chapter - NJ developers unite!! [Chapter Home | Chapter Forum]

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Hmmm actually something like that...
Or maybe a small online series of classes on the principals of
game design. Yeah, I realize that its one of those things you
have to just do to get good at, but I want some kind of class
that will teach some of the formalities, and intellectual
aspects of it. Actually I do take classes there at Game
Institute, but its strange that I never noticed that one is
gonna be available soon. As soon as it is I''m taking it


PS. If any of you know of any others, I''d be interested too! =)

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
I will answer questions/give short lessons via email if you''re interested in the writing/art/player psychology aspects of game design. What I know about game design is RPG/adventure focused, which may or may not be what you''re interested in. Game design really isn''t that complicated if you already know the basic principles of how to design a painting, or a building, or a piece of clothing, or a language... you can learn the fundamentals in any field of design because they''re based on how the human mind works, and only modified slightly by the medium you work in.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Hmm I dont even know where to start to ask for help from you! =)
Thats a really nice offer of yours...and I''d love to hear any
thoughts you have on Game Design...
I just dont know...What kinda question I should ask...

Like what are good indications my game idea is balanced or fun?
Just in general, advice...
I dont know, I''m sure I can make a design doc or two about some
of my ideas, but after I do that, what should I do to make sure
it is feasible/practical/fun?

I, like everyone in the whole world basically have ideas but
I dont know, I''d like some ideas on formalizing them, and/or
fine tuning, or even in the beginning whether or not I should
even bother in the first place.

Yes, I have read several people''s essays about the realisticity
of getting people to implement your ideas, but I just want some
advice, practice, and maybe formal lessons about designing.

If you''re willing to send me your thoughts about anything
really, my email is at:


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Go get "Game Design Theory and Practice" by Richard Rouse. It covers pretty much everything you''ve mentioned. I can''t recommend it enough.

Take care,

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
I just enjoy teaching people.

It''s hard to know where to start if you don''t have any particular questions... What type of game do you want to make? Knowing that will help me tailor my answers better.

Well, maybe a good basic place to start is "Would my game be fun?" There are lots of things that contribute to the fun factor of a game, especially of the more story- and art-heavy types. The types of appeal are: aesthetic/romantic, sympathetic, strategicly challenging, suspenseful/mysterious/surprising, and ego-boosting (game praises the player for intelligence, morality, other competence)

Should I provide examples of which game elements have which sorts of appeal, or is it pretty clear?

There are also lots of things that can sabotauge an otherwise-fun game. These seem to exist in three clear categories: problems of player boredom/annoyance, problems of player confusion/stuckness, and problems of story involvement/suspension of disbelief.

Problems of player boredom/annoyance:
Long waits, repetition (see FF8''s summon attacks for an example of both), no need for player to evolve his/her strategy, too few options at any given time or the best choice is too obvious, predictability of any sort (in story, combat, or even art), too easy

Problems of player confusion/stuckness:
Too many options at any given time, no clear immediate objective, confusing navigation/other UI issues, game-logic that appears non-sensical to the player, too hard

Problems of story involvement/suspension of disbelief:
Poor mood transition (e.g. a slapstick moment in a tragic death scene), lack of a sympathetic character, lack of explanation of characters'' motives, morals heavy-handed or incompatible with player''s own, inconsistent characters, atmosphere not properly set up and introduced, story not emotionally involving, cultures stereotyped or illogically constructed, poor conveyance of emotion through character appearance, items that work except when the plot requires them not to (Aeris''s death and Phoenix Downs), see the ending goblin genocide document for many examples of traditional game stupidities

So basically, when designing your game put in lots of good things, weed out bad things, and do a lot of imaginary play-testing. And don''t forget to type up all your ideas, annoying though it may be. Was that at all helpful? Or too basic?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Thats all really good advice, thanks a lot! =D

I''d suppose I''ll fire some more questions at you then since
you like this! =)

How do you know if a game idea is fundamentally good or bad?
I mean if you have an idea that you think is just really cool,
and in reality, 99.9% are going to hate it, how do you know?
(well beside not impressing anyone)
Basically, how do you know before writing a doc whether you
should bother or not?
Or what if you had an idea, that you thought might kinda suck,
but actually would be very cool?
Should I make a design for everything just to eliminate the

I know, thats kinda philosophical, and psychological, but I was
wondering what your thoughts would be on that =)

Also, how detailed should one be when writing design docs?
Should one literally write a 200 page backstory for each
character in your story, or should it be a 2 sentence blurb?

What should one consider about the technological limits of ones
design? In this day and age, a lot is possible but should we
limit our design if something is not possible? or just keep it
the way it is until it is?

What about length? (for offline games) Should we
design our games to adhere to an average time to beat, or do you
think it matters? Should one who has beat the game be able to
zip right through in 2 hours to the end, or should we limit
people''s ability to do that?

I''d like to hear what you think about these things =)


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
How do you know if a game idea is fundamentally good or bad?
I mean if you have an idea that you think is just really cool,
and in reality, 99.9% are going to hate it, how do you know?

Quite honestly I don''t think anyone would have an answer to that since there''s no quantitative measurement of how "good" or "bad" a game really is. All you can really do is make something with high quality, different from the rest so it''ll stand out, fun, and pray for a ton of luck.
for some articles

2nd edition of Understanding Interactive from Chris Crawford is coming out in May, yea!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
"How do you know if a game idea is fundamentally good or bad?"

Hmm. Imagine yourself playing it; is it fun? Imagine yourself picking up the box at the computer game store; do you buy it? Imagine a book with the same story - would it be worth reading? Imagine the gameplay with a different story - would it still be worth playing? Get a few more people''s opinions.

IMO there are no really stupendous or really awful ideas; there ideas that have more or less potential, and ideas that are implemented more or less well. Game design projects are large and require lots of work and time, so you can only really work on one at a time, and this should be the best idea you can come up with at that time.

Character backstory length differs according to type of game and how important the character is, but it should never be more than 30 pages, and for a main character should be at least 5 pages.

Technological limitations... it depends whether you want to produce a playable game in 2-3 years or just experiment and theorize.

What about length? (for offline games)
I don''t really have much of an opinion on this - I''d be very disapointed if a $40 took less than 10 hours to beat, but if most of the game time is monsterwhacking I''d rather just skip it. For a non-professional team it would be difficult to produce enough art and music for a game of more than 25 hours.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Wow thats a pretty interesting way of looking at it! =D

I dont know if I agree with you, I think there are some awful
ideas and some great ideas. Most people are different, but
some games end up in the bargain bin like a week after they hit
the shelves. These are either fundamentally bad ideas, or
poorly implemented. Also, like whoever had the idea for UO
the first MMORPG, this was a very good idea. (Whether it was
DESIGNED well is another thing, but...) But I think its a good
idea to know whether you should design something, or if you''re
just fleshing out some drivel...I mean if I was way less mature
I would think that maybe designing out a 2D side scrolling game
about a hero who farts his way to victory is a good idea.

I like your idea...imagine yourself walking into the store...
do you buy this game? ;D
Imagine yourself playing it...
That''s just really good advice IMO! =D

If I ever have any more questions I''m going to try to ask YOU
specifically I think!


PS I think I could apply that in some form to just about
everything heh!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Thank you for the vote of confidance.

And I do see your point about the farting sidescroller being just a lame idea - although my cousin has a game in which you, as santa claus, play shuffleboard using your elves as playing pieces, and you fire the elves by snapping their bikini-type bathing suits (all this is happening on a cruise ship in summer). Doesn''t shound terribly promising, does it? But it''s hilarious bacause you can play in 2 player mode, and funny things happen to the elves, like if you shoot them too far they fall in the water and get eaten by a shark, and sometimes the bething suit breaks, and there are several different elves who react differently to things... it''s a really funny game.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, I spend 3 hours between work playing this year IGF''s Insaniquarium, half an hour trying to figure out why I wasted the 3 hours on a silly fish feeding game, then another half an hour to re-assure myself that I can design something better than this. Haha. Just goes to show how a simple concept with good design can really work.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
Yeah =) But, that is actually a good idea I think!
See thats the thing, its difficult to tell...Maybe you have
a really good idea, or maybe you just simply don''t. =)

I don''t know though I guess theres a target audience for
everything, but of course it should be our goal to make
the target audience either everyone, or very large.

I mean that Santa game I''m sure has is crowd...but some
people might say..."come on, thats just sick..."

I guess you have to imagine yourself, and your target
audience playing it...


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
I think the course should be as practical as possible.

I personally would be more interested in nitty gritty coding principles which the pros use. For instance, planning a good framework for managing game resources such as game entities, textures (prevent redundant usage etc.). Maybe an example OO heirarchy for a game design. What are the many areas that go into a game. Also, what does the Standard Template Library offer that would be useful for a game design.

To me game design is inexact, and therefore its difficult to be factual. The facts are different for every game design. Therefore I''d try to focus on the things that are most common to all games.

Another important feature in games is the GUI system. Rarely does a game use the canned Microsoft Foundation Class stuff. Rather each game comes up with its own GUI system. It would be nice to have some course content in this area. I know that is more impementation than design, but I had to throw it in.

Value of good ideas: 10 cents per dozen.
Implementation of the good ideas: Priceless.

The Battlezone Launch Pad

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites