Today I’m going to take you through the steps of how to give your super cool game concept structure and playability. Once you have your concept in place you need to begin mapping out what’s going to need to be in there and how it will work together to make your game-building-dreams come to life.
Here’s 5 steps to go through with your next project:
1. Determine Your Theme
This provides the players an overview of what scenario they’re entering. E.g. – In Frog Logs; Frogs in a pond, stacking themselves on a log and each other. In Monopoly; you’re landlords trying to buy up property and make money. The overall theme helps contextualise the experience the players will have, and gives you clues for \determining the kinds of roles, goals, elements, and mechanics that you can include.
2. Determine Player Identities
Who are your players? What role are they playing? Player identity in the world of the game helps create structure and affects what goal they have, and how they interact with the elements and mechanics over the course of the game play. E.g. – In Truthseekers; There’s Truthseekers and there’s Illuminati. In Catan; Each player is a Settler starting a farm. Even in an abstract game, like chess or checkers, the player is the Player, with their own sphere of influence over the game, distinct from the pieces themselves.
3. Choose the Goal
How do you win? E.g. – In Frog Logs; whoever gets the most points. In Dominion; whoever has the largest amount of lands by the time a predetermined around of land runs out. All Elements and Mechanics should contribute to the fulfilment of this goal (at least initially). This will help focus you on which elements of your design are necessary, needed, optional, or unnecessary.
4. Identify the Elements
How do the players go from the starting situation to the victory state? What can they use on their way in order to achieve that? Will this thing help a player get closer to the goal? Or does this hinder them getting to their goal? How? Thinking about these kinds of things helps stop feature creep from overwhelming the world you’re building. Be deliberate and intentional with your choices.
Included in the Elements category is anything that the items, players or world can do. It also includes basically all named things. The Nouns if you will. All of the things that will interact together once thev game is being played. E.g. – In JTPD; Spaceships, Agents, Information, Assets. In DND; Weapons, Attributes, Enemies.
Your players chould start with a set of resources and then gain and lose elements over the course of the game. You then get to decide if the players are trying to do that either more efficiently or be luckier than the other players. The resources themselves are the Elements, and their interactions/how they're gained or lost are the Mechanics, up next.
5. Identify/Sketch Out Mechanics and Gameplay Links
Once you know what all the elements of your world are, you can figure out how those elements interact with each other. How will a player use elements in whichever way they function to get the player towards their goal? E.g. – In Pandemic; taking the elements of the scientist, flying around, different abilities and all the different ways that those things work together and using them to hinder the forces of viral spread. E.g. Frog logs – elements: frogs, logs, points, angle checking, lily pad of doom mechanics: things you can and can’t do as a player – you can put frogs on the log for no points. Or stack frogs on other frogs for points. Players can’t split each half of the log and if your frogs fall down you lose a Frog to the Lily pad of Doom.
To help identify mechanics and things I didn’t think of I put all of the elements on a piece of paper and draw links between them all and the mechanics that link them. Some elements and mechanics with have multiple links with each other but ultimately every element will reference every other element with a mechanic.
If you have a game with multiple resources, some of which can and can’t be combined, then you can group all of those together as a single mechanic rule and whether or not you mention every single thing that can or can’t happen in the game will be up to you and playtesting. At some point every single possible interaction between every element will be encountered in the game by someone playing it, and they’ll ask “Can I do X with Y?”. Keep in mind through the design process that the things you can and can’t do might not always be obvious to the players.
And that’s it! 5 steps to go through when you’ve got that amazing idea and you want to turn it into athrilling game experience by all who encounter it. If you have any questions about this process leave a comment below!
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