Game Design: Game

By 20/02/2017Game Design

Now listening to: “Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack”

So the experience rises from the game. I’d rather not go all Raph Koster on the whole “what is a game” thing. Absolutely no offence meant. I just don’t have the chops to do it.

By far, the most boring job I’ve had thus far was copy-pasting numbers on a spreadsheet. Good ol’ data entry. But the problem with data entry as a job is not the job per se. It’s the frame of mind for the problem at hand. Had I reformulated my approach I might’ve derived some enjoyment from the experience.

Sadly, I didn’t.

I came across a similar scenario, years later. Instead of floundering, I decided to learn Visual Basic for Applications. I just figured that it was either that or shoot myself. The mind-numbing and soul-crushing task was now a challenge of automation through programming. I had no intention to have to ever repeat what I had already once gone through. So I applied myself to learn how to make software do what I didn’t want to.

To this day, it’s been one of my most fun and memorable job experiences.
What is pleasure without pain, though?

What is pleasure without pain, though?

Delight, although not defined as such, is a word that to me stands for unexpected pleasure. Dismay, well, is its opposite. I came up with a small, simple game last week after going through my earlier notes. It’s about fire and survival. Imagine my surprise when I found myself thinking about it more than my original project.

Imagine my delight when the goal, the problem and the methods of resolving it came to me almost effortlessly.

Imagine my dismay when I realised that this was a game that I was actually more interested in playing.

Do I think the game can surprise the players? Yes, for better or worse, it can. Is the story surprising? Not right now, although I haven’t seen other games doing this. Are the game rules surprising? Sort of, yeah. Again, I haven’t seen anyone else doing this. Is the artwork surprising? Not at all. I’ll have to work no that one. Is the tech surprising? Not at all. It’s all cards so far. So, 2/5 says “yes” and 3/5 says “no”. That’s pretty poor, and I’d be afraid if it weren’t for the fact that I feel this is a far more interesting and better game than what I had in mind initially.

I got the important aspect of surprise down. I can work towards the rest.

This fire game is a simpler game as well. Probably easier to develop too. I can already kinda imagine the fun in it. It’s a co-op puzzle solving game. Is it really a puzzle? Isn’t it? Don’t care. That’s what I’m calling it right now. If it needs to be defined better, it will be. This game will have good leap-of-faith moments. It’ll hopefully have just-in-time plays. It’ll have sweet clutch combos. So individual actions will need to be or build towards a satisfying-as-fuck experience.

I have no idea what kinds of questions will arise from the first playtest.

But here’s a great thing. I want to get this idea on the table and see if it has any legs. I didn’t want to, that bad, with the first one. Otherwise, I’d already have done it. Does the game need events to shake things up a bit? Does it have replayability? We’ll see.

Co-op games need to be more challenging to remain a fun experience. It’s a delicate balance. Go the Space Hulk: Death Angel route and you’ll risk alienating the players. Better to go the Pandemic route and allow players to gauge how much punishment they think they’re ready for. Avoid making luck a big thing. Luck spits in the face of careful plans and strategies. Unforeseen events are okay. They are the secret sauce of freshness. Constant random shit is just annoying and allows for no strategy. I think it’s going to be a sort of tile-laying, resource-management game.

Got bored of the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. Switched to Red Dead: Redemption. Bored. Switched to Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag. Bored. They all sound the same.

If the mechanic at the core of the game is not fun, no amount of piling up on top will fix that. Keep it simple. See if it works. See if it makes the internal p-solving mechanism tick. If it does, tweak. If it doesn’t, no problem.

Scrap. Try again.

#4 Surprise

#5 Fun

#6 Curiosity

#7 Endogenous Value

#8 Problem Solving

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