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Feature: 'Establishing A Beachhead In A Crowded Genre'

In this exclusive feature, Harmonix designer Chris Canfield (Guitar Hero II) offers his thoughts on how to make a game that will stand out apart from countl
How do you make a game that will stand out apart from countless other similar titles? Harmonix designer Chris Canfield (Guitar Hero II) thinks he knows, and cites standout examples of game design as Nintendo's Wii Sports and even Harmonix's own franchises, in this vital game design article. In this excerpt, Canfield looks to Midway's classic arcade fighter Mortal Kombat as an example of redefining an established game design paradigm, and creating an experience that can be enjoyed by a larger audience than previously possible: “Mortal Kombat could be considered an older example of this, as it was notable for one major thing. No, not blood. It was notable because it was instantly satisfying. Boon, Tobias, and team developed the game to be enjoyable right from the start. At a time when a good Street Fighter player would need to study for weeks to play solidly in an arcade, a Mortal Kombat player could have a blast getting into uppercut fights within a few minutes. The default attacks were all visceral, brutal, and fun. By stripping out the complexity that was both the strength and the barrier to entry of Street Fighter, they made things far more available to a large number of players. Similarly, re-solving old design problems in new ways helps foster creativity within a limited framework. Let’s say that using the above example we’ve got a competitive FPS, and we’ve decided to take out health packs. Well, how does the player heal? Let’s say, then, that healing is accomplished by getting close to some sort of centrally-located healing sticks. That sounds like it will draw competitors closer together, doesn’t it?” You can now read the complete feature, which includes additional specific examples and proposed rules on how to make a game stand out from the crowd and get noticed (no registration required, please feel free to link to this column from external websites).

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