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Game Design for Dummies, A Brief One.

Heres my take on the game design process from my research. Mind, that this is from my point of view and my opinion, but I am completely open to comments and criticism. Help me help you, maybe.

P.S, This is my first blog post, ever, so go easy?

D Martin, Blogger

November 5, 2010

5 Min Read

    First and foremost, what makes up a game, regardless of whether it is good or bad? Is it the jumping from place to place, exploring caverns or lost cities, or simple turning of shapes to make a line? These are all right, considering all 3 make up what is called the core mechanics of a game. When you think of core mechanics, your thinking about what you want the player to do in your game, such as platforming, exploring, etc. People often get this concept mixed up with the rules of a game, which are quite different. To put it simply, a core mechanic is what a player does in the game, and rules dictate how the player does that, by limits and so forth.

            After considering these things, it’s important to determine whether your game will have a narrative, or none at all if you going for a puzzle-oriented game. If you are in fact implementing a narrative, it’s important to consider which kind of narrative you want to expose the player to. There are two types of narratives, embedded and emergent. Embedded narratives are pre-written story in the game showed to the player in a narrative space. Emergent narrative is narrative that comes from the player’s interaction with the game itself. So, would you want to expose the player to a predetermined set of event or have them make their own story?

            When you have the basics out of the way, I’ve found it very, VERY important to determine who is going to be playing your game. Before we even go there, first you must determine what your game is about, and these two go hand in hand. If you decide your game is going to be about a magical unicorn traveling across a rainbow paradise, your game is more than likely going to be targeted towards a much younger audience. However, if you want your game to be about killing people and dismembering them, then your game is going to be targeted for an adult audience, or at least I’d hope so. Above all of this, it is important to realize that you’re making a game for someone else, the player, not just yourself. What you find awesome and cool might be perceived as complicated and annoying by your players. Once you’ve come to accept this, you’re in the clear.

            Now it’s time we go deeper into the stages of development. By this point, we have most of the ideas down in physical form, whether it be digital or on paper. At this stage, its important to test these ideas, mechanics, whatever it might be, in the form of prototypes. I have also found prototyping to be VERY important when testing anything involving your game. To put it simply, it helps weed out what you believe to be awesome and what actually works in your game. For example, you might think your new gameplay mechanic is outstanding and will play like a charm, but when you prototype it, you find it to be horribly broken. So if you didn’t prototype this before and put it into production that horribly broken gameplay mechanic would be equally received by your players. After you prototype your game to the fullest extent, sometime after comes Alpha and Beta testing. Alpha testing involves in-house “breaking” of your game, then fixing it, making it better than it was. If you believe you’ve broken your game to your greatest extent, it’s time to bring in the outside for Beta testing. Beta can consist of private testing, where you invite helpful people from the outside for a private testing of your game so they can break it, and you can make it better. Once the invited give you enough bugs to work through and you fix them, the next step would be an open beta, where the public plays for the same purpose said above. Not every company does open beta, for the sake of keeping their game behind closed doors as long as possible, so there is still a surprise when it’s released.

            Now, before alpha and beta testing, you have to decide what is going to run your game, which is called a game engine. I’ve decided to research both the CryEngine3 and the Unreal Engine 3, but for the sake of a extremely long post, I’ll list the most notable features for each engine.  With the CryEngine3, it introduced incredible photo-realistic worlds, along with the first sandbox “What You See Is What You Play” tool. It’s so that whatever you create in the engine you can play right then and there, and is also supported multi-platform. The engine also has an all-in-one feature, which says you can create your entire game within the engine, without having to license other technologies, therefore saving money. The Unreal Engine 3, however, does not have this feature but is updated with many tools from other companies into its engine. Unlike the CryEngine3, the Unreal Engine 3 is free to download for indie use. The free stand-alone version of the CryEngine3 is still being developed and is not out yet for free downloading. After considering all of this, I would say for the time being, the Unreal Engine 3 is a better choice, since its free to download and gives you a chance to experiment with it, but when the free stand-alone version of the CryEngine3 is released, that would probably change.

            In conclusion, the game design process is a long and tedious one. There are a lot to consider when making the game of your dreams. From my research, in my own opinion, prototyping, alpha and OPEN beta testing are the most important. Not only is making sure your new ideas work important, it’s important to get the feedback of the community as a whole, and not just the group of people you bring in to test. This is just my opinion, you’re the advocate for the player, you decide.

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