A Game Design Vocabulary: Exploring the Foundational Principles Behind Good Game Design
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Master the Principles and Vocabulary of Game Design
Why aren’t videogames getting better? Why does it feel like we’re playing the same games, over and over again? Why aren’t games helping us transform our lives, like great music, books, and movies do?
The problem is language. We still don’t know how to talk about game design. We can’t share our visions. We forget what works (and doesn’t). We don’t learn from history. It’s too hard to improve.
The breakthrough starts here. A Game Design Vocabulary gives us the complete game design framework we desperately need—whether we create games, study them, review them, or build businesses on them.
Craft amazing experiences. Anna Anthropy and Naomi Clark share foundational principles, examples, and exercises that help you create great player experiences…complement intuition with design discipline…and craft games that succeed brilliantly on every level.
Liberate yourself from stale clichés and genres
Tell great stories: go way beyond cutscenes and text dumps
Control the crucial relationships between game “verbs” and “objects”
Wield the full power of development, conflict, climax, and resolution
Shape scenes, pacing, and player choices
Deepen context via art, animation, music, and sound
Help players discover, understand, engage, and “talk back” to you
Effectively use resistance and difficulty: the “push and pull” of games
Design holistically: integrate visuals, audio, and controls
Communicate a design vision everyone can understand
for the rest of the game. There are a number of Flash games where the player舗s verbs are tied to keyboard keys舒say, the arrow keys and the spacebar舒but the menus ask the player to point and click with the mouse. Imagine if, after every level of the game, the player has to move her hands off the important keys, take her mouse, point at and click the Next Level button, and then return her fingers to the arrow keys and spacebar. That舗s tedious, and what舗s more, it weakens the player舗s focus on the
the creator. Open world games like Fallout: New Vegas (2010) take the first route: they open up the space of play by giving the player many different goals to select from. New Vegas is a huge world, one that舗s chock-full of things to find, computer-controlled characters to meet, dangerous encounters to overcome. As the player wanders across the deserts and highways of this game, numerous points of interest appear, visible both in the player舗s view of the world and on a map that fills itself with
they舗re hungry or someone to talk to if they want social companionship. The needs of the Sims aren舗t directly under the player舗s control. They grow hungry or sleepy over time, and the growing needs of each Sim changes the feeling of resistance in the game: the player might be getting two Sims to interact and have a conversation, but a third Sim nearby will be growing frantic if he can舗t find anything to eat. The goal of playing The Sims is supposedly left up to the player: there舗s no 舠game over舡
repeat and revisit ideas and probably try to communicate in a slightly different way so that we can continue. Anna舗s game Mighty Jill Off (2008) gives the player plenty of opportunities to practice because of the way the game develops the 舠jump舡 verb, which Jill uses to climb toward the top of a tall tower. The first half of the game consists of a number of sections, each designed to teach the player about a particular way of jumping and color-coded to be easily identifiable. The green section
story doesn舗t need to be too different from the kinds of stories we experience through novels, comics, or films. It has a plot with a beginning, middle, and end, with characters who develop, experience conflicts, and perhaps resolve those conflicts. If you want to tell a story in a way that resembles the forms used in less interactive media, there舗s an awful lot of material out there already about how to proceed. You can find numerous books written for creators of novels, films, and comics that