A picture's worth a thousand words, and in a new Gamasutra feature, game design veteran Tyler Sigman presents an in-depth look
at how game mechanics can be represented by graphs.
Sigman explains the value of this approach and what we can gain from it:
"Whether discussing game features amongst the design team or communicating them to programmers, lack of proper terminology can obfuscate messages. (Just like how using the word "obfuscate" can obfuscate messages.)
Coders have technical backgrounds and most went through rigorous college-level math classes. As a result, if a designer is trying to explain a desired mechanic but using the wrong terms, the message content can be lost.
The foundations of math provide a convenient basis for understanding most game mechanics, so it generally makes sense to describe game mechanics in established mathematical nomenclature.
The first part of this article is a short primer on visual representation of game mechanics and some proper terms to describe those representations. The second half discusses a few selected game mechanics in more detail for illustrative purposes."
For example, Sigman illustrates:
"Slope refers to the angle of the line or curve of a graphed mechanic. Technically, slope is described as "rise over run", which is just the change in Y value for a given change in X value. Negative slope means downward trending; positive slope is upward trending.
Conceptually, a high slope means a fast-changing mechanic, whereas a low slope is a slowly-changing mechanic."
A full set of visual representations are presented alongside design rules for each illustration in the full feature, now available at Gamasutra
(no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).