Author: Daniel Cook

Prosocial economics for game design 

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For Project Horseshoe 2019, an annual game designer think tank, our workgroup investigated how economics could help promote prosocial values. You can read the other reports here: https://www.projecthorseshoe.com/reports/ Attendees: Randy Farmer, Joshua Bayer, Tryggvi Hjaltason, Erin Hoffman-John, Daniel Cook, Ray Holmes “What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” — Kurt Vonnegut, […]

Social Design Practices for Human-Scale Online Games

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For this year’s Project Horseshoe, an annual game designer think tank, our workgroup investigated small-scale MMOs. You can read the other reports here: https://www.projecthorseshoe.com/reports/ Our group consisted of: Alexander Youngblood, Game Designer at ArenaNet Amy Jo Kim, Chief Executive Officer at Shufflebrain Crystin Cox, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft Daniel Cook, Chief Creative Officer at Spry Fox Erin Hoffman-John, Lead Prototyper at Google Isaiah Cartwright, Game Director at ArenaNet Kyle Brink, Director of Production at […]

Cozy Games

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For this year’s Project Horseshoe, an annual game designer think tank, our workgroup dug deep into how to design cozy games. What a productive, happy group of people! You can read the other reports here: https://www.projecthorseshoe.com/reports/ Our group consisted of: Tanya X Short Anthony Ordon Dan Hurd Chelsea Howe Jake Forbes Squirrel Eiserloh Joshua Diaz Daniel Cook Ron Meiners: Moderator Overview Coziness is a common aesthetic in popular games such as Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley, yet […]

Game design patterns for building friendships

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In November of 2016, a small group of veteran game designers got together in a remote portion of Texas for a think tank called Project Horseshoe. Our workgroup dug deep into how design can help build meaningful relationships within games. You can read the other reports here: https://www.projecthorseshoe.com/reports/ Our group consisted of: Daniel Cook, Spry Fox Yuri Bialoskursky, Electronic Arts Bill Fulton, Microsoft Michael Fitch, Betterrealities.com Joel Gonzales, Wargaming.net Introduction The issue In many online multiplayer […]

Autumn of Indie Game Markets

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Photo by Rosa Dik Ah, the fall. A time to reap what has been sown and contemplate the cycles of the seasons. If you are a smaller game developer, you’ve likely noticed some cyclical shifts in how we make games. Games are looking nicer than ever, don’t they? That quality bar keeps creeping higher. With so much work to do, your team is a bit larger. And with so many mouths to feed, it feels […]

Minimum Sustainable Success

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Let’s dream for a moment about sustainable game development. Game development is inherently unstable. Technology, markets, profit margins and teams shift regularly. Any of these can quickly destroy a previously comfortable business. Individual game developers end up dealing with unexpected layoffs, last minute moves across the country (or across the world) and a level of uncertainty can damage our relationships and long term happiness. In order to simply make ends meet, you end up compromising […]

Top 5 design debates I ignored in 2014

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Back in the 80’s and 90’s, when conversation about game design was first bubbling up out of our community of insecure practitioners, a few polarizing topics would arise again and again. You’ll recognize them: The correct definition of ‘game’ Narrative vs Mechanics Randomness vs Skill The importance of realism Casual vs Hardcore Many were (and are) merely the irritated observations of game players picking at specific games. However, with a flip of the rhetorical switch, […]

Loot Drop Tables

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Many games have loot. Usually this drops randomly. Loot drops are a pretty mundane topic, but one that almost every designer runs into at some point. Here are some best practices I’ve encountered over the years. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to these tips and tricks. Your basic loot table The goal is to drop some set of items at a given probability. Let’s say when you defeat an enemy, you have a chance […]

How game forms are shaped by their environment

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  We often consider artistic works from a creative or cultural perspective, but I find it just as enlightening to examine them from an economic or evolutionary lens. How does the economic environment within which a developer finds themselves shape the form that art takes? As a case study of this in practice, I’ve been fascinated by a class of content-focused game that’s recently found a stable niche in the maturing mobile, PC and console […]

Multiplayer Logistics

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How do we get players to play together in a manner that fits their schedules? This is a key logistical challenge a designer faces when building multiplayer games. The promise We are seeing a blossoming of innovative multiplayer systems. In previous eras there were a handful of default models that games might use (matches, play-by-mail). Games today exist on a spectrum from fully concurrent to fully asynchronous and everything in between. A game like Dark […]