3 min read

How Good Games join the Best Games Ever club

I ventured to find the philosopher’s stone of game design. I didn’t strive to find out how poor becomes good, but rather - how good becomes great. And I do believe I’ve gotten somewhere with my musings.

I ventured to find the philosopher’s stone of game design

But – I didn’t strive to find out how poor becomes good, but rather - how good becomes great. The aim of that, clearly, was to have some formula to reuse. A tool which – when used on a decent product – would turn it over time into a superb product. And I do believe I’ve gotten somewhere with my musings.

Divide and conquer

My initial idea was to collect a set of top games, an averaged set from several published online game all-time top-lists. Then, to find the common aspects in them; to spot the pattern. And once I have it, stamp it on everything that comes out of my hands.

I encountered the problem of not experiencing exactly every game I met, and since the time barrier for some old titles is impenetrable for me (especially in genres I don’t like much), I took a new turn – to work on games I’ve completed. I’ve collected my favourites, listed them. I took the risky step of ordering them by how I felt about them.

Once I got the final 5, I removed Unreal Tournament, due to the fact I’ve played it so much online that it could be well biased. So, in alphabetical order:

Deus Ex
X-Com: Ufo Defense

I began to wonder – where did this group come from? I had no problem cutting those from the others, while sorting these would be pointless; I simply love them all. The closest one behind the fence was Heroes of Might and Magic 3. I asked myself – why did I leave it out? The thing is - I played a lot of it, but never really finish the campaign. To do this, I’d have to play using the castles which I didn’t like.

And that exactly is the point

The one key thing they had in common was the amount of times I replayed them. Which is – a whole lot. For each, I lost count over ten playthroughs.

I believe replayability is the key. Let's think on what replayability comes down to:

The beginning
- Easy startup (I didn’t replay Fallout 2 as much, because I didn’t like the amount of tribal stuff; I like it, but I’d want a faster change of environment if I chose so)
- Lack of frustration (I’d play Turok again, but all I remember from the platformer jumping parts is the game over screen)

The core
- New stuff to find
- New ways to try
- New content to explore

The ending
- Being able to finish (if I didn’t finish it the first time because of difficulty, a nibbling doubt at the back of my head tells me failing again would render the whole attempt a waste of time)
- Being able to speed run

This list surely isn’t complete; It's surely partially wrong; it’s just a list of random thoughts, pointing towards an approach, a philosophy. And I believe the more items there will be, the more efficient tool it will become. And I deeply hope for comments to flesh it out.


What is it all good for?

It all boils down to finishing the sentence: I won’t play this game again, because... Ask it all around. Gather feedback. Fix your game. Join the club. Let me know if the stone worked, and gold was created.

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