This is a repost of my Personal blog!!
We in game development field have always heard of this one well worn line “The game is all about experience you want to give to the player”. But actually while developing a game we sometimes get drifted so much in flow that we exactly miss out the point of “experience” part. Fantasy games are no exception to this kind where we sometimes fail to deliver complete experience that is intended.
Almost every gamer I have met has a dream and own version of a fantasy game they have on their mind. This fantasy game designing is so awesome that every budding and even experienced game designers have at least ones in their life would have thought of making a fantasy game, or at least got inspired from one. So today let’s discuss in detail about how can we design a fantasy game in a better way.
Fantasy game has many fundamental aspects. It safe to say that if we balance these aspects perfectly, we get a good balanced game!
- Game System- mechanics, crafting system
- Game theme- art, audio, narrative.
- Story- lore, Mystery, challenges and uncertainty of the outcomes.
- Gameplay- Progression, Space, goals and rules to roll.
Fantasy is one of the most important genres in gaming world. It gives the player actual feel that you are living and are part of that world. When people get bored of their normal life doing all normal things, fantasy empowers them to live a completely different life in a different world. Therefore selecting a proper theme for our game is very important because it is this very world where players are going to live in.
One very important point I feel is that, just because our game has some swords and hefty armor in it doesn’t gives a game “feel” of epic war game or just because we have some shattered environment with cracked buildings in it, doesn’t ensures it as a apocalypse survival game. The game should have proper congruent mechanics, gameplay and progression so that it doesn’t looses the equilibrium.
To achieve this, the game designers have got a big task to do:
- Understand your fantasy that you are presenting to the world. Be very clear about the vision.
- Ones all the ideas are clear from design perspective, now we have to convey these ideas to all rest of the team. Make sure the artists, programmers, sound engineers and whole team all are on the same page as you.
- Discuss with programmers and have an apt set of mechanics which perfectly counterpart the world you create and enhance the experience.
We all have had experience of great games where mechanics fit aptly according to the environment. Now take example of Assassin’s Creed series on one hand and Prince of Persia on other. Both games use their own mechanics in distinctive ways in their respective worlds. Now just interchange their mechanics and see what happens. I won’t say it’ll be a disaster, but it will lack the right “feel”. I guess you get my point here, exactly where I am going!
We need to do a proper plan of what exactly we want player to experience in the game. Find the essence and get to the little details of it. Scheme a proper progression for immersion factor. If game has a big world, player will eventually explore it. We need to make sure player should have some purpose, just to avoid aimless wandering followed by boredom. When I say it, I remember the game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It got really boring sometimes to reach your objective. Exploring any world is fun but only for first few times. Later when everything is revealed, there is no new thing to discover, it becomes pretty repetitive. So if we have a proper aim for players, they will explore the world and even notice the beautiful environment. When we form the balance in mechanics and world, we can be sure about player having a good time.
If everything is at its right place, like mechanics, game elements etc. the game runs butter smooth. But we have to remember one thing here, if we miss something, it gets noticed by the players. May be not very strongly but subtly they do note it. This is sometimes major cause we are not able to deliver intended experience.
I have seen many games where it teaches players lot of mechanics. Somehow later in game, the full segment of all the taught mechanics is not used to its fullest. Player keeps learning new things half of the game but then game can be completed anyhow by using basic mechanics. What is the point of teaching player all these things which player may or may not use to the game. It just increases ambiguity and even a hardship for the programmers followed by animators and the list goes on. Every tactics, every skill we teach player should have some or the other intention. My point here is, gamers may get busy in learning things for long time than to experience the beautiful world which is created for them to enjoy and here we miss their involvement in the game.
When we see a fantasy game we have a lot of things to take care of. Many important things like the world, theme of the game, narrative, story that binds everything, character (including intractable and non intractable), audio, the progression of player. Every aspect needs your focus on details so it gets all elements right in line. Every damn thing deserves proper love and attention of the designer, as for any of these gets imbalanced, it may kill the whole game. We certainly don’t want to have a mole in our game when have to achieve beautiful seamless experience.
I personally feel that the theme, mechanics are not that substantial while making an intractable fantasy to come alive. Don’t get me all wrong, these factors certainly are important but priority wise, it is the very first, pre production stage of the game that deserves most attention. The designers need to think of the fantasy all profoundly and clearly, analyze it and only then we can go ahead and have a right theme and the mechanics for it. This will also make sure that it meets our initial idea and chances of mismatch become negligible.
Most of the time what I think happens is, we concentrate more on making good mechanics and awesome art work, which is not wrong by the way, but all preference should be rightly set. Right here, we fail to understand and have clear idea of what exactly we are trying to achieve. This is exactly where the problem starts. Designers think of something, convey something else to artists and from there goes on the domino effect. We need to find that very fundamental essence which conveys the experience not only to our end gamer but also to the team who is going to actually mould it and this is the reason, scrutiny of details is a must.
What we can do exactly to achieve it??
Well we need to get to the specifics. Just merely saying we are making a war game, just by adding some castles and huge armies doesn’t makes it to live upto the mark of a war game. We have to research a lot. Go deeper and deeper. Try and get to the level where you will be distinguished from what knowledge others have on particular subject you are researching. Study all current games from analytical point of view. Watch out what things work in game and why they do or why they don’t.
Study of demographics is must while making these kinds of games. Look for what kind of audience will exactly percept your game and what will make them gravitate to it. Focus on those little elements.
The online critics and the reviews available are the best friends of the designers at this stage. They give the clear idea what a game missed or what common mistakes are pointed out by most reviewers. In this way we can find the weak spot and work on reinforcing it so as to avoid these errors.
Break down the game into molecules. This perhaps gives the clear idea of what your game is. It is never a single theme or single idea we work on, but probably the whole bunch of ideas that makes it better. Break them all down. For example take the RPG game Witcher 2. It contains action, adventure, elves, dwarves, magic, creatures, monsters, ghosts and what not. But all the things blend very properly and are bounded through a story to give you a unified experience of awesomeness.
Ones we are done with finalizing the idea, think the most effective way of delivering it. Check for exactly what we are conveying gamers here. Is it just a world experience, like that of Journey game, or is it the experience of a individual’s story in the world, like that of Witcher 2 or say war game like Battlefield. This can be decided by what player is doing in game, only lives in the created world or is the world shaping on the choices made by player.
Well, I must admit one thing here though, all the things I am writing here are more easier said, than done. I absolutely know that while working within the deadlines, some of the things get overlooked and it is inevitable. However, at least knowing them and keeping all points in mind is battle half won. So if we know how to proceed, we will probably make less mistakes thus getting closer to perfection. If we are able to do at least 70-80% of these points, it is sure to raise the bar towards par excellence.
We as a designers need to find and strike that perfect chord of player’s sentiments so as to keep them immersed, engaged and entertained throughout the game.
Thank you very much for your time. I hope you had a good read. If you feel I missed some points, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear your suggestions on it. See you next time!!