How Do I Game Design?

6ed02dec32058508c6feb43b2fbc94f7?s=47 Secret Lab
May 08, 2016

How Do I Game Design?

How Do I Game Design? presented by Jon Manning and Paris Buttfield-Addison at IASummit 2016, in Atlanta, GA, USA in May 2016.


Secret Lab

May 08, 2016


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    What’s All This About Then • Discussing game design! •

    Focusing on Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics • Analysis of what fun is, why games have it, and 
 how to design for it • Pointing out where game design knowledge can be used for UX, UI, community, project, and company building
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    What We Won't Be Covering • Any programming whatsoever •

    Learning how to use a game engine • Learning how to get a job as a game designer
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    Why do we play games? • But: • Why are

    they fun? • What do we mean when we say "fun"? • These are big, contentious questions with no single answer • Here's one answer:
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    Why are games fun? • Games elicit specific feelings in

    their players • Discovery • Power • Teamwork • Skilfulness • Fear • More... • We play games because we like experiencing these feelings • Similar reason to why we like movies, books, TV, theatre, art..
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    • Games are unpredictable (to varying degrees) • Player choice

    affects what happens • The choices available to the player are created by the game designer How are games different from other media?
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    • Players take turns moving pieces • Pieces have different

    rules for moving • Pieces capture other pieces • You win when you capture the king (more or less)
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    • One player is "it" • If the "it" player

    touches another player, that player becomes "it"
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    • Jump over the rope • If the rope hits

    you, it's the next person's turn • Arguably not a game?
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    Aside: Game Definitions game /gām/ n. (pl. -games) a non

    productive activity that involves a competition confined by procedures.
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    Aside: Game Definitions game /gām/ n. (pl. -games) a non

    productive activity that involves a competition confined by procedures.
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    Aside: Game Definitions game /gām/ n. (pl. -games) a formalized

    experience in which players make choices to have a meaningful experience. game /gām/ n. (pl. -games) an artwork characterized by an act of exploration. game /gām/ n. (pl. -games) an interactive object in which players interact with each other resulting in an unequal outcome. game /gām/ n. (pl. -games) a challenge in which players interact with each other resulting in a specific state of affairs. game /gām/ n. (pl. -games) a medium that involves a playful relationship representing a subset of the world. game /gām/ n. (pl. -games) a non productive activity that involves a competition confined by procedures.
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    Our Definition For our purposes, a game is: anything in

    which you play, subject to defined rules.
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    • Resource collection • Buildings • Units • Fog of

    War • Orthogonal unit differentiation
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    Mechanics • We call these game rules "mechanics" o Why

    not just "rules"? o Rules are instructions. o Mechanics are descriptions of how systems function. • Players interact with these systems!
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    Dynamics • A thermostat has these mechanics: o "If the

    temperature is below 23°C, turn on the heater" o "If the temperature is above 23°C, turn on the air conditioner"
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    • This creates negative feedback - the system will work

    to try to settle on a single value Dynamics Heater On Heater On Cooler On Cooler On
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    Dynamics • Mechanics combine together to create dynamics. • “Tag”

    is a good, simple example. o Mechanic: The goal of the game is to not be "it". o Mechanic: When the player who is "it" touches you, you are "it". o Dynamic: the player who is "it" moves towards players who are not "it", who then flee. • Behaviour is separate from mechanics.
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    Dynamics • Another, mostly abstract example:
 o Mechanic: Players can

    earn points, and can cause other players to lose points. o Mechanic: The winner is the first player with 10 points. o Dynamic: When a player gets close to winning, other players will gang up on them and bring them down.
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    Dynamics • Closely related to strategy, but not the same

    thing • If a game mechanics mean playing a certain way will win the game more often, the fact that you end up playing that way is the dynamic
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    Dynamics • Often difficult to work out from just reading

    the rules • The complexities of a game come from interacting rules
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    Aesthetics • Dynamics have effects on players. • In tag,

    the "it" player chases you o This makes you feel hunted • When you're "it", you chase the other players o This makes you feel like a hunter
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    Aesthetics Sensation Game as sense-pleasure Fantasy Game as make-believe Narrative

    Game as unfolding story Challenge Game as obstacle course
 Fellowship Game as social framework Discovery Game as uncharted territory Expression Game as soap box Submission Game as mindless pastime Aesthetics are the way that games make us feel. From
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    Aesthetics • Arguably, aesthetics are what we're usually talking about

    when we describe "fun". • They're often what players are subconsciously looking for when selecting a game o "I want a game that makes me feel powerful" o "I want a game that makes me feel like I'm working in a team" o "I want a game where I can have fun with my friends"
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    MDA Summary Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics • Designers create mechanics •

    Mechanics, when played, create dynamics • Dynamics have aesthetic effects on players
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    “The Resistance” • Rebels vs Evil Government • Most players

    are “rebels” (good guys) • Some players are “spies” (bad guys) • Spies know who their fellow spies are, but rebels don’t know
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    “The Resistance” Rules 1. Current leader picks a team to

    go on a mission 2. All players publicly vote on whether this team should go or not 3. Team members secretly vote whether the mission should succeed or not 3 succeeds = rebels win 4. Next player becomes the leader 3 fails = spies win
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    “The Resistance” Mechanics • At a higher level: • Hidden

    information • Fixed game time • Perfect knowledge of own state • Subset of players have perfect knowledge of full state
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    “The Resistance” Dynamics • Accusation • Rebels end up looking

    for evidence of spies • Deduction • Rebels need to work out who they can trust; this leads to: • Creation of “circles of trust” • Small exclusionary groups form, often hostile to actual non-spies • Camouflage • Spies can choose to help missions succeed • Misdirection • “I’m not the spy! You’re the spy!” • Sacrifice • One spy denounces another, to gain trust
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    “The Resistance” Aesthetics • For rebels: • Paranoia • Uncertainty

    • For spies: • Silent teamwork • Fear of discovery
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    Two new rules • Same as "The Resistance", but with

    an Arthurian theme • One Good player is Merlin • Knows who all the Evil players are • One Evil player is the Assassin • At end of game, if Good has won but the Assassin can correctly identify Merlin, Evil wins
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    New Dynamics • Merlin tries to give information to good

    players, without giving themselves away • Players (both Good and Evil) try to discover Merlin's identity • Evil players pretend to be Merlin • Merlin tries to find independent justifications for stuff they know • Multiple routes to victory for Evil players • Merlin discovery gambits • Merlin discovery counter- gambits • Merlin discovery counter- counter-gambits
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    New Aesthetics • Frustration (for Merlin) • Out-thinking • Fast

    talking • Guardianship (for Good players) • Vigilance (for Assassin and for Good players)
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    Ravenholm is a scary level • Why? • Several well-placed

    elements combine to create a scary experience
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    Reinforcement through dynamics • Player is deliberately starved of ammo

    • Earlier areas featured plenty of ammo • Sudden shift in availability creates contrast and unease (“Why can’t I find ammo? Am I not playing this game right?") • To compensate, player is forced to improvise and get closer than usual to dangerous enemies • New mechanics designed to reinforce scariness
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    • Small • Fast • Jump at player • On

    hit, player’s health drops to 1%
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    Effective Dynamics • Games tell stories through gameplay. • This

    is in addition to any prewritten narrative. • Games are important because they’re the only medium for interaction in which the narrative depends entirely on the player.
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    Effective Dynamics • Effective written stories have dramatic tension. •

    Effective emergent stories have dramatic tension, too!
 • But what is dramatic tension?
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    Dramatic tension • How does dramatic tension form? • Through

    a combination of: • Uncertainty • Inevitability
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    Tension requires both of these • Without uncertainty, the outcome

    is too obvious • Without inevitability, the outcome is too distant
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    Losing Players Can Make A Comeback Uncertainty Fixed Duration of

    Race Inevitability The first person to pass the finish line wins the game. When players collide with item boxes, they receive a random item. One item is the Blue Shell, which is a homing missile that slows down players in front of you. When a player is in last place, they have an increased chance of collecting blue shells. ` Holy crap! That was so close, but you hit me with a shell just before I crossed the finish line! I hate you! Let’s go again!
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    No knowledge of what’s behind each door Uncertainty Number of

    rooms is finite Inevitability The player can walk from room to room. Rooms contain items, like books, boxes, documents, keys… Items can be picked up and examined. ` Oh man, I hope things work out for her in the end…
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    User stories • "As a <role>, I want <goal/desire> so

    that <benefit>” • Action -> Desirable outcome • What -> Why • Mechanic -> Aesthetic • Consider thinking about how the action leads to the desirable outcome through the expression of your UI’s mechanics
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    Analysing “desire paths” in software • Mechanic: Walking is easier

    along paths. • Mechanic: When people walk on terrain, a rough path is gradually formed. • Dynamic: People create new paths that are shorter than the formal, paved paths. • “Aesthetic”: People are unhappy at ugly paths.
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    Analysing “desire paths” in software Understand how people are interacting

    with your existing mechanics, and identify if they’re resulting in an aesthetic that you don’t want. If they are, change it.
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    Analysing “desire paths” in software • Mechanic: The text of

    tweets can be copied and pasted. • Mechanic: Tweets have a limited length. • Dynamic: To indicate the source of a copied tweet, users add attribution (“RT @username: text of original tweet”) • Aesthetic: Dissatisfaction - users have to reword tweets • New mechanic: Define a new type of tweet, called a “retweet”, that embeds the original tweet
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    Addendum: People make contests out of anything • Mechanic: The

    number of retweets is counted • Mechanic: The number of users who favourite a tweet is also counted • Dynamic: Retweets expose a tweet to more users, favourites do not • Dynamic: Users craft their tweets to be retweeted more often • Aesthetic: Retweets are considered more valuable • Aesthetic: Weird Twitter
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    Mechanics don’t directly lead to outcomes • They rely on

    the expression of the rules through dynamics • This is why “mandatory fun” rules never result in actual fun • You can’t design fun, but you can design for fun • You can’t design a positive company culture, but you can design systems and mechanisms that reinforce positive elements of a culture
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