The Art Game Design pdf


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30 Corporate Drive, Suite 400, Burlington, MA 01803, USA This book is printed on acid-free paper

  Nyra and Emma, the loves of my life, who always encouraged me, and put up with years of me staring into space and jotting little notes when I should have been,say, mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, or putting out that fire in the backyard. One thing I should clarify — while the goal of this book is primarily to teach you how to be a better videogame designer, many of the principles we explore willhave little to do with videogames specifically — you will find they are more broadly applicable than that.


  So, instead of discarding the many imperfect oneswe do have, it is wisest to collect and use as wide a variety of them as possible, for as we will see, game design is more art than science, more like cooking than chem-istry, and we must admit the possibility that our Mendeleev will never come. As well as a focus on classic games, this book will strive to deliver the deep- est and most fundamental principles of game design, as opposed to genre-specificprinciples ( “Fifteen tips for a better story-based first-person shooter! ”), because gen- res come and go, but the basic principles of game design are principles of humanpsychology that have been with us for ages, and will be with us for ages to come.


  Chancesare, if you want to create games, you will be creating them somewhere on the cut- ting edge of this new technology, and this book is prepared to show you how to dojust that, although the principles here will work just as well with more traditional game genres. But if you truly do want to be a game designer, then this book is not anend, but a beginning —the beginning of a continuous process of study, practice, assimilation, and synthesis that is going to last the rest of your life.


  Like amechanic who can tell what is wrong with a car by listening to the engine, you will get to know what is wrong with your game by listening to it run. ” They will think you have the minor gift, of course, but only you will know the secret source of your skill,which is the major gift: love of the work.


  I have encountered many students who started designing gamesjust to see what it was like, only to find that to their surprise, they truly love the work. CHAPTERThe Designer Creates an Experience TWO F I G U R E 2.1 Of the innumerable effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intellect, or the soul is susceptible, what one shall I, on the present occasion, select ?


  In a sense, this is the dream of “artificial reality ” — to be able to create experiences that are in no way limited by the constraints of the medium that deliversthe experiences. At the same time,though, it makes it much harder to be certain just what experience is really going to arise in the mind of the player.


  Not bound by the strict responsibilities of good science, game designers can make use of both behavioristic experiments and phenomenologicalintrospection to learn what we need to know, since ultimately, as designers, we are not concerned with what is definitely true in the world of objective reality, but onlywith what seems to be true in the world of subjective experience. We can learn a number of important things about human nature from the work of anthropologists — but much more important, by taking a cultural anthropolo-gist’s approach to our players, interviewing them, learning everything we can about them, and putting ourselves in their place, we can gain insights that would not havebeen possible from a more objective point of view.


  By deeply listening to your own self, that is, observing, evaluating, and describing your own experiences, you can make rapid, decisive judgments aboutwhat is and is not working in your game, and why it is or is not working. His● introspection led him to all kinds of conclusions we now know to be false, such as: ● Heavier objects fall faster than light ones ● The seat of consciousness is in the heart Life arises by spontaneous generation And many others.


  Most of us are not in the habit of openly discussing the nature of our thought processes, so some of the following is going to sound a little strange. If you have the mental discipline, it also can be very useful to engage in an experience (such as playing a game), with the intention ofnot analyzing it while you play, but with the intention of analyzing the memory of it immediately after.


  To be able to separate the experience from thegame is very useful: If you have a clear picture in your mind of the experiences your players are having, and what parts of your game enable that experience, youwill have a much clearer picture of how to make your game better, because you will know which elements of the game you can safely change, and which ones you can-not. Since this problem spaceis not the real world, and just a simplified version of it, and solving the problem is important to us, elements in the problem space quickly gain an internal importance,if they get us closer to our goal of solving the problem, and this importance does not need to be relevant outside the context of the problem (Q8).


  Whether you accept this definition or not, viewing your game as a problem to be solved is a useful perspective, and that perspective is Lens #6. The whole point of defining these terms is gain new insights — itis the insights that are the fruits of our labors, not the definitions.

4.2 When my daughter was three years old, she became quite curious one day about

  Thinking about a videogame, for example,you might, like most people, have a vague idea that a game is this kind of story world, with some rules, and a computer program lurking around somewhere inthere that somehow makes it all go. When you choose a set of mechan-ics as crucial to your gameplay, you will need to choose technology that can support them, aesthetics that emphasize them clearly to players, and a story thatallows your (sometimes strange) game mechanics to make sense to the players.

4.3 More visible

  You will want to choose mechanics that make players feel like they are in the world that the aesthetics have defined,and you will want a story with a set of events that let your aesthetics emerge at the right pace and have the most impact. The tetrad is arranged here in a diamond shape not to show any rela- tive importance, but only to help illustrate the “visibility gradient ”; that is, the factthat technological elements tend to be the least visible to the players, aesthetics are the most visible, and mechanics and story are somewhere in the middle.


  Since theplayer was confined to the bottom of the screen, the aliens to the middle, and the saucer to the top, colored strips of translucent plastic were glued to the screen sothat your ship and shields were green, the aliens were white, and the saucer was red. You must be willing totry the impossible — for surely it is impossible for a roll of the dice to capture the excitement of a swordfight, or for a videogame to make a player feel afraidof the dark — isn’t it?


  Themoment the key drops from your fingers, you may be sure that the noise of its fall on the upside-down plate will awaken you, and you may be equally surethat this fugitive moment during which you cannot be assured of having really slept is totally sufficient, inasmuch as not a second more is needed for yourwhole physical and psychic being to be revivified by just the necessary amount of repose. If you are trying to come up with new ideas for a real-time strategy game, and all you can think about iscandy bars or how your girlfriend left you, or how much you hate your roommate, you aren’t going to be able to get much good work done, because these intrusivethoughts will distract you, and the source of these intrusive thoughts, your subcon- scious mind, isn’t getting any work done either, and he’s the one who has to dothe heavy lifting.


  ”Filter # 8: Playtesting : Once the game has been developed to the point that it is playable, you must apply the playtesting filter, which is arguably the most important of all the fil- ters. In addition to modifying the game itself, the application of this filter often changes and tunes theother filters as you start to learn more about your game mechanics and the psychology of your intended audience.


  If you wait for all the final artwork to answer this question, you could put your- self in a horrible situation: If the game engine can’t handle it, you now have toask the artists to redo their work so it is less strain on the game engine, or ask the programmers to spend extra time trying to find tricks to render everything moreefficiently (or most likely, both of these things). ” By this he means that whether you like it ornot, the first version of your system is not going to be a finished product, but really a prototype that you will need to discard before you build the system the “ right ”way.


  CHAPTERThe Game is Made for a Player EIGHT F I G U R E 8.1 At one point in his career, Albert Einstein was asked by a small local organization to be the guest of honor at a luncheon and to give a lecture about his research. Einstein took the stage, and looking out a largely non-academic audience consisting of mostly old ladies,he explained to them that he certainly could talk about his work, but it was a bit dull, and he was thinking perhaps instead the audience would prefer to hear himplay the violin.

8.2 Einstein was able to create such a memorable experience because he knew his

  It is very easy to get stuck in the high and mightymind of the designer and forget to project yourself into the mind of the player — it is something that requires constant attention and vigilance, but you can do it if you try. Skilled designers hold The Lens of the Playerand the Lens of Holographic Design in the same hand, thinking about the player, the experience of the game, and the mechanics of the game all at thesame time.

9.2 Somehow, you know what comes next. How did you reach that conclusion? Was

  But the mind is the place that game experiences happen, so wemust do what we can to get a working knowledge of what seems to be going on in there. Everything that is known about the humanmind would fill many encyclopedias — we will contain our examination of the mind to some of the key factors that relate to game design.

9.4 One good way to get a grasp on some of our mental models is to look for things

  This is so different from the real world,where you have to work so hard to figure out what the rules of the game even are, and then work even harder to achieve them, never sure if you are doing the rightthing. And this is why games can sometimes be great practice for the real world — it is why they still teach chess at West Point — games give us practice digesting andexperimenting with simpler models, so we can work our way up to ones as complex as the real world, and be competent at dealing with them when we are ready.

3 F I G U R E

  (He also has a second choice, which is to give up tennis altogether — in which case A wouldsimply disappear from the diagram.) By setting himself a new and more diffi- cult goal that matches his skills — for instance, to beat an opponent just a littlemore advanced that he is — Alex would be back in flow (A ). 4 If Alex is anxious (A ), the way back to flow requires that he increase his skills.

3 Theoretically he could also reduce the challenges he is facing, and thus return

  to the flow where he started (in A ), but in practice it is difficult to ignore chal- 1 lenges once one is aware that they exist. So the motivation to enjoy himself again will push him to get back into the flow channel, but now at a level of complexity even higherthan A .

4 It is this dynamic feature that explains why flow activities lead to growth and discovery. Once cannot enjoy doing the same thing at the same level for long

  This pat- tern of levels of increasing difficulty is nicely self-balancing — players with a lotof skill can usually move through the lower levels quickly, until they come to the levels that challenge them. There is much debate about whether that is a bad thing(many players are frustrated) or a good thing (since only skilled, persistent players can reach the end, the accomplishment is special).

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