Setting some goals for myself…

Posted by
April 27th, 2011 6:51 pm

Just gonna talk about some of the goals I have for the game I make this time around. I’ve got art and code pretty well figured out (enough to make lots of games anyway) and game design is pretty much my final obstacle, so most of this will be design goals.

Creatively engaging gameplay. The game should require some level of creative thought from the player. I don’t mean that it’s going to require creative expression, just that it should ask the player to handle situations in a way that requires some level of interpretation and problem solving. One measuring stick for this goal: A game that requires creative engagement can only be reliably beaten by a human player or extremely non-trivial artificial intelligence. It also can’t be beaten by a brute force search and/or pre-programmed sequence, which means that it probably needs some level of procedurally generated content to ensure that interpretation is required on every play cycle regardless of how many are attempted.

Another sub-possibility of that goal is that the game may simply have less or no meaning without creative engagement; a simulation game with no stated victory condition is creative by its nature because otherwise it would have no purpose; it can only be “won” in the subjective judgement of the person playing. This option is tricky, however, because anybody not engaged early by the game will have no reason to continue playing.

Another problem with all of the above is that requiring creative thinking from the player can be very frustrating if the game’s finite solution space is not flexible, informative, and intuitive enough to enable that creativity.

Constructive in theme and mechanics. I’m going to try to make my game inherently non-destructive / non-violent in theme. A huge portion of games portray a situation of direct conflict against other people, usually violent conflict. As a programmer and an artist, I can honestly say that defeating, conquering, or hurting other people are not significant sources of excitement or entertainment in my everyday life. I have more fun building things and expressing myself. You can tone things down by making the game into a conflict against non-people (monsters, zombies, computer viruses, etc) but that’s only a partial solution because it still triggers the “US vs THEM” attitude. My game is going to be about building or creating in some way that is worthwhile in its own right (helping people, overcoming danger, repairing damage, etc). The gameplay metaphors surrounding combat are so finely tuned and deeply ingrained that it can be hard to think of other options, but they’re out there and I intend to find them.

I guess that’s all I can think of for now. With the theme still a day away, it’s not like I can go too much into specifics. Anyway, dunno if any of that was interesting to anybody but it’s related to the compo so I don’t feel bad posting it.

2 Responses to “Setting some goals for myself…”

  1. I appreciate the post, it gets me to thinking about my own game design approach.

  2. malcolmt says:

    Three thumbs up on the constructive rather than destructive design goal. I tried to do something similar in the recent pyweek and struggled to find the fun (ended up not getting anywhere). I’d like to try the same approach this weekend, for much the same reasons as you.

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