Note: either before reading the article, or once you are finished, go ahead and try the Quiz we put together to find out what’s your Game Design Style (Just for fun!)=> QUIZ HERE
It’ll help understand and clarify some of the concepts that are being discussed.
When you start getting involved into Game Design, it’s kind of a rite of passage to go online and search for any available resources.
After looking around for a while, we all probably find the same stuff:
- Some Books that are mentioned everywhere.
- The concept of “Game Feel”.
- The word “Polish”.
- Making games is hard.
- YouTube videos.
That’s pretty much where similarities end. If you decide to keep going, you’ll start noticing that what you read in one book (and made sense) is a complete contradiction of what you read somewhere else (and also made sense).
People will say: “Game Design Documents are useless”, “Game Design Documents are a must”, “Always start describing Gameplay”, “Start introducing the context (story, characters) since they will affect Gameplay”.
For a nice discussion on some of these topics, check this reddit post we made a while ago.
All the comments are valid depending on the context (except the rude ones, being an a** is never valid ).
So, what if we try to find a common set of rules that will help categorize a Game Designer’s style, based on a few simple questions?
A priori, this seems like a fun idea, but what are the questions we need to ask?
*INSERT MORE RESEARCH HERE*
Finally, after starting with around 15 questions (with a lot of redundancy), then bringing them down to 10 (with some redundancy), we settled for the following 6:
- What will be the focus of your game design? (People will play your game to…?)
This is the most basic question of them all. In your game, players will be: Solving Puzzles, Shooting Stuff, Following a Story, Explore a virtual world, Putting their skills to test, etc.
A lot can be analyzed from the answer to this question and it helps narrow down your style (For example: if your response is “Shooting Stuff”, it’s less likely you have a style similar to Miyamoto’s than if your answer is “Solving Puzzles”).
- How do you come up with new ideas?
In other words, how do you get inspired? Do you think about a cool game mechanic? Or do you think about a good story and then try to make the game that will be a better fit for that story? Maybe none of those, maybe you are a technology addict and get excited when new platforms get released (For example: VR).
- How would the players advance through your game?
Which also talks a lot about “what you like”/”would like” to play. Is it Open World (GTA)? Or is it Linear? If it’s Linear, is it because you are following levels (Mario), or because you are following a Story (FF XIII)?
What if there’s not a clear progression and you want to create a game where players need to build stuff (Sim City) ?
- Let’s talk about the Process of making games. How do you manage your team?
We are no longer talking about the game itself, but about how YOU, the GAME DESIGNER, work with the team. Is it THE team (and you are a part of it), or is it YOUR team (and you see yourself outside of it)?
Maybe you have an approach which consists on designing the game and your team brings your ideas to life, no questions asked. Or it could be the opposite: the whole team comes up with ideas and you are in charge of keeping the game consistent (in other words, bringing everyone’s efforts together).
- What should get the most attention and polish?
Where are your priorities? If you build a huge open-world game, probably the emphasis will be on the amount of content. If you are a Techie, maybe what you want is to have F***NG AWESOME graphics, running 4K at 60 FPS.
What about the Game Mechanics, should they be super-mario-polished? Or being able to customize your characters and/or build stuff is the selling point?
- Your last game has been shipped, let’s choose the next project. How do you go about that?
This speaks about you as a creative individual. If you see games as a way to express yourself, probably every game will be a whole new idea. If you see games as a business, you may go for that sequel to your previously successful title. Maybe it’s not because of financial reasons, but just because you want to build a bigger and better sequel.
Ultimately, who makes the decision, YOU, as a benevolent ruler, or the whole team gets together and chooses what to do next?
A DISCLAIMER FROM THE AUTHOR:
Just to be clear: I don’t think this set of questions is the ultimate thing to end all discussions. I’m not an expert in Game Design and much less a Psychologist, so there are a lot of things I do not understand about how people’s brains work. But something I DO believe is that these questions can help kickoff a broader discussion about Game Design Styles (kind of when we look at a painting and say: this is Impressionism, this is Cubism, this is Picasso’s blue period).
Maybe in a future we can look back at Miyamoto’s work and say: “This is Miyamoto’s exploratory Game Design period”, “This is Miyamoto’s accesible Game Design period”, etc.
It’ll eventually have to happen if we want to say Game Design has reached it’s maturity. But now I’m ranting so let’s leave it here and, just for fun, why don’t you go ahead and try the Quiz we put together to find out what’s your Game Design Style? => QUIZ HERE
Do you think we can do better? We think so too! Please let us know how you would improve this analysis. Always looking forward to a healthy discussion.