Designing Original Games
Casual Connect, July 24, 2012.
Please excuse spelling mistakes and the rough nature of this post as our updates during the IGDA Summit and Casual Connect this week are pretty much liveblogged. This session just ended.
Presented by Dan Cook, Spry Fox
- Spry Fox uses ongoing prototyping to ensure a pipeline of constant new ideas.
- It all starts from a perspective on games, and I’m a mechanics guy. Games are engines of applied psychology. “What is this engine we’re going to build?”
- Even though the world is limited, you can combine those elements together in infinite ways, and you can do the same thing with game mechanics.
- This industry was founded on invention – Space War, Donkey Kong, Wolf 3D. Although we get down on ourselves for copying – there is a wonderful history of invention. Examples of invention, new mechanics are J.S Joust, Artemis, Beat Sneak Bandit, Triple Town. Even though Match 3 is an old genre, we reconfigured it to make something new.
- Why make original games? Product differentiation – you can stand out in the market place.
- I’m obsessed with efficiency. Look at two MMO’s: Star Wars: The Old Republic was 665 developers, cost $150-200 million. Realm of the Mad Gad was 3 developers, cost sweat equity.
- If you do it right, you can build an entire new market (The Sims, Doom, Lemmings, Grand Theft Auto).
7 tools for inventing new genres:
1. Design from the root
- Break down a genre to its core. Rather than add 10%, knock it back down. Autorunners are an example of this, the plat former stripped down
2. Small teams
- Quickly build, get consensus. Teams that work best are someone with design experience, and someone with programming experience.
- Also, create a dream team. Want team members that are fast and have rich abilities.
3. Bring in Art and Narrative late
- No – Shallow systems that serve a narrative
- Yes! - Great systems served by a narrative
- There’s an order to design. Focus on the messy, geeky, hard problems, feedback loops etc. Don’t get too attached to concept art, trying to replicate it in-game.
4. Think big
- Brain storming: In order of importance (most to least) – new systems, new skills, feedback loops, variations, interdependencies, themes.
- Once you think big, you need to think small – judge your own work in a hard, cold fashion, remove 99% of your work. It’s taken me years to do this.
5. Think small
- Culling phase: Frequency, expressive, one-offs
- The most frequent interactions in your game, they are your core.
- Focus on your loops. If you don’t close the loop, you have a content delivery system, not a game.
7. List anti patterns
- Go against the norm, forces you to do something new. For example in Realm of the Mad God: no separating friends, no competition, no long grinding
- Lastly, go for the big invention: aim for 80%+ unique bundle in your game.