Saturday, May 12, 2007

Design Tips!

I've been cleaning up my Passfield Games web site and have moved most of the content into my blog. Passfield Games displays my latest blog entries, links to free downloads of my old games, as well as my gameography (currently over 20 games since 1984).

One of things I had on my old site was a list of Design Tips. Since I've deleted that old page I decided to print them here starting with Rules #1, #2 and #3. Now these are based on games I made a long, long time ago - but some stuff may be still relevant today. I'll post the rest later.

Design Tips
(or, John's theories on how to make games suck less)

Here you’ll find a mixed bag of my game design rules and my opinions on design. I don’t proclaim to have the final word on game design or that my way is the right way. I’ve been making games professionally since 1992 and am constantly learning new stuff. Which is great, because I believe once you stop being challenged then it’s time to move on.

Some of these rules and opinions will probably change, while others will be expanded upon. Oh, and a lot of them are only relevant to the sort of games I make… which are primarily adventure and platform style games.

The Rules
Most of these rules are pretty obvious. But, I am constantly amazed at how often people just don’t seem to understand a lot of this stuff. I put it down to being too close to the trees in a forest of gaming goodness. Or something like that.

#1 Ramp Up The Game Play (Or, Don’t overwhelm the player)
Start the game off simply and introduce new game play elements, enemies and skills/powers as the game progresses.

Train the player when a new skill is introduced.

If the new level of a platform game requires lots of long perilous jumps to make it to the end, add some areas at the start of the level that the player can practice those jumps safely. For example add a sand bank below so if the player falls they don’t die, but can climb up to the jump and try again. Later on you can have bottomless pits below the long jumps.

#2 Reward The Player (Or, Don’t show all your cards at once)

This compliments the previous rule.

Players need a reason to keep coming back to the game. Obviously the great game play will have them hooked, but giving them something new to see and do is one sure way of keeping them coming back for more.

Here are some things to reward the player with:
  1. New levels. Unlock new levels of the game by first successfully completing the easier levels. Make sure the new levels have new graphics.
  2. Introduce newer enemies/obstacles.
  3. New bonuses.
  4. New challenges. If the player can double jump to get extra air – introduce elements that use this in later levels.
  5. Introduce new skills. For sports games this isn’t always possible, but you can introduce new equipment that can enhance the existing player skill set (and result in higher scores)
Ramping up the Game Play and Rewarding the Player is something that has to be done during the entire game building process. Always remember that any design change can impact game play at a later level – look at the overall game design from start to finish and keep in mind the big picture.
Always cite design rules as fact even if you’re making them up. If you sound like you know what you’re talking about then most people will believe you.

If you suck as a designer you’ll eventually be found out during game focus testing, but you can always blame the lack of fun on badly implemented code!
#3 The Solution Always Comes After The Obstacle (Or, Never leave the front door key in the mailbox)
This is pretty obvious, but there are commercially released games that defy this law. If you come across an obstacle, be it a locked door or chest, or a high tech piece of machinery that needs something to get it going – make sure that the key is located somewhere beyond the obstacle in a place where the player has not yet been. This stops the player from solving the problem before they even realized that there was a problem.

If the obstacle requires more then one item to unlock it then you can let the player find one before reaching the obstacle. If it’s a story game then this can help foreshadow future events and can be a nice touch – plus it can get the player thinking (in a fun way) about future possibilities.

No comments: