Educational Feature: Iterative Design

Experienced game designers throw around the word ‘iterate’ like it’s an old football, but students and industry newcomers might not know what a heavily loaded word it can be, so Vicarious Visions designer Brandon Van Slyke
July 22, 2008
Experienced game designers throw around the word ‘iterate’ like it’s an old football. But students and people who are new to the industry probably don’t know what a heavily loaded word it can be. has posted a new article for students and other beginners that demystifies the word. Written by Brandon Van Slyke, a game designer at Vicarious Visions, the article answers the question: What does it mean to design a game iteratively? Van Slyke explains the purpose of designing iteratively, emphasizing how the method makes the most of play tests. He also describes cyclical nature of the process: “The iterative design process occurs in a continuous cycle involving three unique stages: formulate, test, evaluate. These core elements make up the basic progression in which the development of a game will follow. The rest is simply rinse and repeat.” He also takes a look at what it means to design iteratively with a team, a facet of the process that is essential to game development: “It’s also recommended that you connect with your team and make sure everyone understands what iterative design is and what to expect by incorporating the process into the production pipeline. It might come as a surprise to the uninitiated when they realize that multiple revisions can easily turn into substantial rework, especially as the team continues to explore which elements work and which don’t. Try to schedule time for refinement early in the planning stages of development. By including additional time for iteration into your game’s production schedule, the team will be able to minimize the amount of throwaway work that is produced. If you’ve never used an iterative process before, estimate how much time you think you’ll need and then double it. … [Y]ou should set goals for the team by limiting the number of iterations permitted on any given game mechanic. Say to the team, ‘We’re going to try to have this mechanic integrated and polished by the fifth iteration.’ This will keep the team focused and on track while effectively maximizing the effort put forth in every revision.” You can now read the full article, "Iterative Design," on, Gamasutra’s sister web site for education about game development.

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