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How you design your games? And where to start?

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#1 Edvinas Kilbauskas   Members   


Posted 08 February 2013 - 10:44 AM

Hello. I'm a newbie game developer, i'm almost finished reading a book, and I planned that after I finish it, I will go and try to make my first full game (not like other ones, which never even got finished because of my poor planning, and programming skills). 

Every time I wanted to make a game, I just got to my PC, and started writing code, without any planning or anything in mind. 

And now i'm starting to realize that that's not how things go.


And so now I came here with a question: where to start? By that I mean how should I start designing my game? How do you do it? 

Yes, I heard that you just need a piece of paper, a pencil, eraser, a lot of free and just go start sketching. But I want to know it little bit more in depth. 


Also, I wanted to tell that i'm not going to make a console or PC game with tear dropping story line or some kind of magical gameplay mechanics. What I am going to develop is a mobile game, more specifically android game, with simple gameplay mechanics and minor or non story line. (Because I know how hard it is to make a good story line)


Thank's in advance.



“There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't like.”― Nigel Marsh

#2 DaveTroyer   Members   


Posted 08 February 2013 - 01:05 PM


Wait... a new game dev seeking advice without a huge scope, unrealistically complex idea for their first real game?! biggrin.png


Joking aside, I like to start my game designs with an idea; usually funny to me, and from there, the game play or core mechanic that I want to feature. An example would be if I wanted to have a game about giant monsters destroying a city and say I pair that with a rhythm game mechanic with a single touch interface. Anything past that is scope creep to me and is treated as such.


It helps to keep the scope from ballooning out too much as well as staying closer to the theme and you don't dilute your game play by sticking to your core mechanic.


But from what it sounds like you're on the right path so my only other advice is to come up with an idea you can tolerate from concept to complete game. If you are just making something to make something, you'll get burnt out fast. wink.png


Hope I was some help and good luck!

Edited by DaveTroyer, 08 February 2013 - 01:07 PM.

Check out my game blog - Dave's Game Blog

#3 sunandshadow   Members   


Posted 08 February 2013 - 03:16 PM

I usually start with a gameplay genre (e.g. tactical RPG, tower defense, racing, MMO...) and a topic (virtual pet game, pirate game, farming game, fishing game, flying game...)  My developer journal contains a newbie guide to designing a game http://www.gamedev.net/blog/90/entry-2255560-guide-to-designing-a-pet-game-part-0/  It assumes the reader wants to make a pet-themed game, but I think it's easy to apply to another theme.

I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.

#4 Tim Cooper   Members   


Posted 08 February 2013 - 05:43 PM


Designing your game will often start in one of two ways:

1. You have an 'idea' for a new game. Write it down: what are the players doing, how do they do it, what's the challenge in the game, how does the difficulty ramp up as they play and so on.

2. You don't know what game to you want to make. Time to make some lists: games you like, games you want to write, ideas for gameplay or interface that you think might be fun or interesting. Basically, come up with as many different ideas for games of any kind that you can think of, regardless of good, bad or ugly ideas. Try for at least 20. If 20 was easy, try for 40 (you want to push yourself for the last few ideas). Then simply pick one - look back over the list and remove all the rubbish ideas, unrealistic ideas, too-similar-to-other-ideas ideas. Think about what might be catchy, fun or interesting to work on (and to play) and pick that. Congratulations, you just found your first game 'idea' :)


Once you know what sort of game you want to write you need to do 1. above. Think about as many elements of how the game will work as you can in advance:

1. What screens are you going to have? Menu, playing game, paused, finished, etc

2. What's the game control system? How will the user control the game and is that going to work for the type of game you want to make. E.g. console controllers don't seem to translate well to touchscreen, mouse based RTS games can be tricky to play using a console controller.

3. How much content will there be and how will you keep the player interested? Will you add harder levels, trickier puzzles, tougher baddies, less time, less ammo? Can you get enough into your game idea to keep a player interested? Would you want to play it?


and so on. Try and come up with as many ideas as you can. Get your friends involved and bounce ideas off them, if you can. Everyone has a different viewpoint on things, so they might spot something obvious but brilliant that you missed. Be prepared to ignore them though, this is your game and you get to make the choice about what goes in or not :)


Got lots of ideas? Great, go back to your original idea for a game and review it based on all the new ideas you've had. Come up with the core game idea that you want to create. It should be possible to express this game idea in one sentence, maybe two. Anything else and your core idea is still too vague, which will make it a lot harder to know what you need to do to create the game.


Once you've got your game concept nailed down, separate all the ideas you've had for your game into three lists:

1. The core game concept - what needs to go in to make the core concept of your game work. E.g. jumping, shooting platform game with occasional short term flight special ability that recharges, fighting baddies to save the princess on the moon.

2. Nice features - things that would be awesome to do / add but which aren't key to the core game concept. E.g. Moon buggies stages, moon golf mini-game, etc.

3. Fluff - features that might be nice but are not essential. E.g. sparkly full screen effects every time you start flying, customisable space suits, purchasable in-game hats.


Once you've got your list of features needed to support your core game concept the task list for creating your game should fall out of that. 


Now start working on realising that and avoid spending any time (or at least too much time) working on list 2 or 3. They might be fun features to work on, but they won't get your game finished. Once you've got your game fully working and tested, then consider adding them.


Don't worry about knowing everything in advance though, that tends to come with experience and practice. This is your first game, do enough design so that you know what you want to be working on, but not so much that you start wasting time trying to hammer out every detail. However good your initial design, as soon as things start to get playable you'll start revising the design. E.g. Your initial weapon ideas just may not be fun, or the way the character was going to fly makes it too easy so an extended jump might be better. Always revise your design though, make sure you have something on paper describing what you're aiming to do even if you start changing things. It'll point you in the right direction when you're not sure what to do next.


A tad waffly, but I hope some of that helps get your creative juices flowing :)

Tim Cooper - software developer, project manager and occasional iOS app developer.

Creative Shadows Ltd - My hobby company website


Try my game "Happy Landings" on iTunes - Land balloons in a simple, top-down view game.

#5 Butabee   Members   


Posted 08 February 2013 - 09:19 PM

Usually start out by creating a list of features or mechanics and things I want in the game. Then go in to detail of each feature. The go on to implementing things. Of coarse things get added and deleted also through development.

#6 SweetyS   Members   


Posted 08 February 2013 - 11:17 PM

Start game designing by vast thinking. Don't stop your thinking because of any limitation. Think as big as you can.

From a huge idea a proper design can be made by editing it correctly and the game becomes more perfect.

#7 Tom Sloper   Moderators   


Posted 08 February 2013 - 11:31 PM

What Tim Cooper wrote is spot on.  Break down your design into its component aspects.  You have to compartmentalize your thinking a bit.


-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#8 Edvinas Kilbauskas   Members   


Posted 09 February 2013 - 03:31 AM

Tim cooper,

I can't stress enough how I thank you! This is excellent! Thank you very much. I'm now going to try and design my first game now, I have my piece of paper, pencil and your post to help me out :)

“There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't like.”― Nigel Marsh

#9 Rits   Members   


Posted 09 February 2013 - 05:27 PM

I actually have a different habit, I dont design the mechanics, i design the experience. 


I do the breaking down and listing afterwards, but I first talk to myself, "whats empty in real life?", "what is missing in our daily lives, even with all the technology and entertainments".


"Reality is broken", many social philosophers would agree. Edward Castronova, professor of Indiana University who studies online games, explains that rather calling games "an escape", how about calling it "therapeutic". My understanding is that playing good games reaches into people, find their emptiness and fill it up with joy. So when I design a game, I start with thinking about people, no matter elite gamer, casual gamer, or non-gamer, or game-hater. I imagine the peak of the progressive experience of a game, and from that point I reverse engineer what elements should be there in order to achieve the peak, as well as the progression stages, and challenges.


If i start with listing out all the components, my second step would naturally be designing a world and experience that can fit all those features in. Then your "best part" of the game would be the moment where all the components are there, and thinking that players should "gain happiness" to see the presence of all the elements. that's imagining them saying out "oh i'm having so much fun from this game because it has all the awesome features!", where as "back in those days", when we were young, we just say "oh i had fun! jumping and stepping turtles and kicking their shells!"


i'm not sure if its right for designers to assume players to enjoy playing because of the master-mind craftsmanship, and breaking down components, listing features, these steps will build that scientific, careful calculation tendencies into your bones. unless you're more a commercial project like what i'm going for, then perhaps you want more of a scientific approach. And if you do think in element-listing, be prepared to eliminate some of the favorite ones you want to add in. At some point you will cut them out one by one, and its one of the hardest time in making a game.

#10 Mayple   Members   


Posted 11 February 2013 - 06:58 AM

I usually start by IDEA  to paper.

I wait a day, and write the idea on another piece of paper. Usually about 3-4 paragraphs of things I want to see and small little thought clouds.


After I make a rough prototype of the Start and How I want the game to end. This means for example if I am making a 2 player game, how the game starts and how the game would end.. death match, start them in a room, end with a death ->Scoreboard


From there I start to develop the story and shaping the terrian. Based on my original ideas I start to line through and make edits until I get a rough solid list of everything I want in the game.


When I get the finalized list to make sure its good I do something new which I just started doing.


I actually was talking with a game developer that asked me if I had ever interviewed my characters or a fake character that would be in the idea. I said no, and so I decided to conduct an interview such as:


-Who are you

-What are you doing

-Where are you going

-What is your biggest challange? How do you over come it

-How long have you been doing this...

Very very broad open ended questions.


While doing this it forced me to think story concept with design ideas on mechanics I wanted to implement. I would revise a few times and then look at everything. When something didn't make sense or it started to look like a gimmick or just an addition that really shouldn't be there, I would ask the same questions to the mechanic.


I know it sounds stupid but joking aside it actually has helped alot. Heres an example of one I did for a fire trap.


-Who: I am a Fire Trap

-What: I am a metal trap that blends into the grass when placed, only the user that placed me can see me.

-Why: I am here to burn the target on the GROUND for (FIRETRAP_DMG_1).

-When: I am placed on the ground by the player. After releasing me I am good for 60 seconds. My srpings give out and I break after that so I am 50% less reliable.

-Where: I cover the exact block the player puts me on. I am 2x2 and fill one movement box.

-How: Players that step on me get burned. If the player is wearing Metal Boots I do less damage..


you get the point.



After all this, I start to test. Thats right, I actually wait until my core stuff is in before I test. I found that testing each object over and over I become fixated on making that one object perfect before moving to the next. Doing so really hurt my balance designs because I would make something have 100% of my dedication cause I thought it was cool.


After, I like to have noninterested 3rd party people, usually friends and family play with the idea in there heads or by showing them, or even the rough prototype. Getting feedback helps you understand how people think. You may find that fishing for 5 hours is fun, but another person may think its boring. So how do you appeal that? Thats where I start to change gameplay to broad my audience.

I usually just give my 2 cents, but since most of the people I meet are stubborn I give a 1$ so my advice isn't lost via exchange rate.

#11 u1bd2005   Members   


Posted 11 February 2013 - 07:54 AM

Ok, so I mostly enjoy pc simulation games, e.g. the old champ managers, chart wars, etc...


The way I did my first game was to choose a small game that I enjoyed and found fun, it was a trading based simulation game, I set out with the task of programming a clone basically, may have seemed pointless to some but it helped me learn a huge amount in the process.


Then once I got the basic fundementals working I started expanding and improving upon it with my own ideas, adding mini games and random events, a cheats system, high score list etc...


The biggest advice I can give you is to always write down every single idea you have no matter how far fetched it is, what seems impossible when you think of it could turn out to have a simple way of making it eventually, and always have a pen and notepad with you at all times, I've been on the bus on my way home from work when I have thought of formula's and ideas that would benefit my games programming, and my little notepad helped me out lots lol.

#12 ayushi kaul   Members   


Posted 25 February 2013 - 04:30 AM

First of all i appreciate your approach. Developing a game is not a simple task. Even i started on my own and wasted a lot of time even for designing a simple game for myself. Later on i ended up pursuing a course in video game designing and realised that it consisted of three parts including the game designing, game art, and game programming. I suggest you to pursue a course that will teach you all the three.

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