Game design is an interesting and vast topic, that could on its own fill dozens upon dozens of courses and lessons. It encompasses everything relating to the overall experience players will get when playing a game. It involves creating compelling stories, characters, goals, rules, and challenges that drive interactions with other characters, users, or objects.
Designing a game means creating a valuable experience (through the medium of games) for the players. There are many misconceptions when it comes to what game designers actually do and how games are designed, so let's clear things up!
Game design is potentially the most complex field in game development. It covers all kinds of different areas that require different kinds of talents. Massive AAA projects can have dozens of designers doing different types of design tasks, while smaller games tend to have just one designer leading the vision. Being the only designer in a team means a lot of responsibility. Simply having ideas for the project isn't enough, those ideas also need to be brought to life. This means you may have to manage multiple areas of design with which you may not be as familiar. Some of these game designer roles include
There are as many ways to design a game as there are designers. Still, it's good to have some kind of a starting point so you can start developing your own style as a game designer.
So, you have an idea for a game? Great! But if not, don't worry. There are ways to come up with ideas. Talk with your friends, brainstorm, think about what would happen if you combined some features from totally different games. In game development, good ideas can come from anyone, it's not just the designer's responsibility to come up with everything, it's a team effort.
Now that you have an idea, it's time to evaluate it. What's the hook, the one thing that gets the players interested in the first place? If there's nothing unique about the idea or design, why would the players choose your game over a similar one? What makes your game special compared to the competition? Trying to reinvent the wheel isn't always necessary, and one way to stand out is combining different mechanics or elements from different genres with one another.
Knowing the aspects mentioned above flesh out the idea. What does the player do in the game? What are the main mechanics of the game, and what will the player be doing for most of their time with the game?
Once you've built the game while following your plans, test it out. Not just by yourself, but have others play it. This provides you with valuable data about how people play the game. Is the gist of the game easy to grasp? Most likely they'll see a mechanic differently than you intended. Go back to the drawing board and try again, again, and again.
Even if you might not be able to see it or understand it right away, many games share a common language of sorts. Learning how to recognize common game design principles and patterns in the games can help all of us become better players, and also better designers. Good game design goes beyond the technical aspects of a game and defines how a player will play and experience a game. But what are some of these basic principles that apply to games and game design? The following video will dive deeper into the topic. After you've watched the video, go through the exercise below.
Answer the following question about the material you just learned.
Balancing is the act of fine-tuning all the aspects of a game to make it more enjoyable and balanced. Are the players getting enough power-ups, are there sufficiently many enemies? Letting others test your game is often the best way to spot potential balancing issues that you yourself may have missed. While running these tests, always keep in mind who your target audience is and make balance changes accordingly.
Now, a lot of this may sound intimidating at first, but don't worry! The good thing about game design is that people tend to be very open when it comes to this topic. If you want to learn more about the very basics of different game design fields, you can find thousands of tutorials and analyses online. However, often the best way to get into that game design mindset is simply by playing all kinds of different games. We'll be returning to this topic later, during the "A Taste of Game Development" course.