When we first set out to make a game we think about the overall composition. What is the world that we’re creating? How does it act to us? What does it feel like? We answer these questions and then we go off and try to find the fun (read @danctheduck’s post The Cutest Kindle Game Ever: Panda Poet specifically, the Long Lesson: First Prototypes Always Suck section) by iterating on our prototypes and designs. Everyone talks about how they found the “fun” in their game – and it’s an important journey to document and discuss. But in the middle of discussion, arguments and brainstorming to find fun there’s something else that’s happening. The “charm” of your video game is being formed.
Prototyping and iteration is essential. It’s what lets your game be what you want it to be. That process though can sometimes get stale and you can quickly become frustrated. So to keep things fresh, interesting and exciting we play with our designs, we play with our video games and by play with our creations so they form a personality of their own. Our audience starts to become attracted to our game not just because of how fun they are, but more so because of the subtle characteristics of our game that make it unique and speak to our audience. Our game isn’t just a fun game it’s that fun game – it’s unique.
In a recent game we’ve been working on over at Toy Studio we were stuck in a bit of a rut and waiting for feedback from some alpha testers. We had made some changes to the design of the game in an effort to find the fun but weren’t sure if they were good or bad or how they’d be received. We just knew that we made them. Our programmer Evan while waiting for game design feedback went on to tackle e-mail notifications for the game (as it’s turn-based). While buildling out e-mail notifications he decided to have a little fun with it and started writing funny but relevant messages to people in the studio and our alpha testers. Here are some of the messages that he wrote:
Your opponent has just laid down a simply smashing move! How insulting! It’s as if they just said to you: “I’ll use small words so that you’ll be sure to understand, you warthog faced buffoon.”
It’s as if they just said to you: you are a tiny-brained wiper of other people’s bottoms!
It’s as if they just said to you: you are the son of a motherless goat!
It’s as if they just said to you: your mom goes to college.
Once the e-mail notifications were in we started hearing great responses from both our colleagues and friends. Everyone looked forward to the e-mails. Not only because it meant that it was their turn – but also because they had something rather funny to read and it potentially could be about their friends. It was charming, funny, and personal. The game was interacting with you and your friends on a personal level.
It might seem like a small thing, but sometimes it’s those small things that make people really excited and delivers that extra bit of character which delivers the complet experience. Our programmer Evan could have easily simply typed in, “Your opponent has made a move. It’s your turn now,” but instead decided to have fun with the game we were making and in the end “found the charm.”
There’s no exact formula or steps you can take to find the charm in your game (or for that matter your craft). It simply comes from the love and passion you have for it. Rather than letting the frustration, angst, and staleness take over during development remind yourself that making your game is a game in of itself – and the more fun you have with making it the more fun your audience will have playing it.