All posts tagged: game design

Closed social affordances / Open social affordances in social systems design

Leave a comment
Uncategorized

Introduction In social systems design, we often need to control how different players interact with one another. We want to heavily mediate griefing and toxicity between strangers. And we want to open up more intimate channels of communication between trusted friends so they can offer nuanced sympathy and support. “Closed” and “open” affordances are useful concepts for talking about this challenge. Here’s a brief introduction.  What is an affordance? An affordance is the possibility of […]

The Workshopping Skill

Leave a comment
Uncategorized

How do you cultivate a wildly productive generative engine of design creativity. Especially one detached from your ego? Design in this case means coming up with plans and specs for the thing you are making that fits the resource constraints. And the process of workshopping designs is where a designer coming up with multiple design solutions for the same problem and iterates upon them to better fit the constraints. Steps in the workshopping process Easy, […]

The trap of adding combat to your game

Leave a comment
Uncategorized

A thing I’ve realized making non-combat focused games is how expensive combat mechanics often end up being in the end. If you add combat… “The basics” to get you in the door take immense effort. Enemy design, encounter design, player design, attack/defense systems, game feel, all the art and fx. Then once you’ve got your combat system stood up, you are still competing again thousands of games that are roughly equivalent. It is the indie […]

Don’t Solve the Hard Problem

Leave a comment
Uncategorized

I have a design tool I call “Don’t Solve the Hard Problem” It consists of three steps Example 1: Meaningful NPC interactions Now, people working on the hard problem of NPC AI may be upset right now. The example I just gave is SO trivial. And isn’t the problem they are pouring their lives into solving. But I didn’t have 10 years. So pivot. Solve an adjacent easier problem. It worked for our users. (BTW, […]

Why are game designers wrong 80% of the time?

Leave a comment
Uncategorized

The joke goes: An expert game designer is 20x more effective than a newbie. They are correct 20% of the time instead of 1%. Why are game designers wrong 80% of the time? Sometimes they are wrong by a little. Sometimes by a lot. Is it poor planning? Are they morons? An expert painter does not produce a completely broken picture 80% of the time. Why is this so hard? The feedback loop for creating […]

Value chains – A method for creating and balancing faucet-and-drain game economies

comments 2
Uncategorized

INTRODUCTION The problem with picking up sticks Recently I was designing the harvesting and crafting system for our Animal Crossing-like game Cozy Grove when I ran into a problem: picking up a stick is not that fun.  The core activities in a life sim are generally not full of mastery and depth. You chop trees. You dig holes. You pick up sticks. In isolation, each of these is dull. Our playtesters would harvest a leaf […]

Designing game content architectures

comment 1
Uncategorized

As game budgets expand once more, the success of a title often depends on producing large amounts of high quality content. This is not a trivial task. Mistakes setting up your content plans can easily result in panic, shipping delays, scope cuts, rework and crunch. Modern developers live on the content treadmill so we might as well embrace it.  For a long time I’ve been interested in content architectures, the tooling and data structures behind […]

How game forms are shaped by their environment

Leave a comment
Ported Posts / Uncategorized

  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

comment 1
Ported Posts / Uncategorized

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 […]

Shadow Emotions and Primary Emotions

comments 18
Ported Posts / Uncategorized

Not all emotions are created equal. Consider: It is a distinctly different thing to feel sad while reading about a dying mother than to actually feel sad because your mother is dying. The former is a shadowy reflection that we intuitively understand is not immediately threatening. The later is raw, primary and life changing. I’ve yet to see existing terminology for this phenomena, so at the risk of stepping on existing toes, let’s use the […]