An analysis of Game Design Styles

Note: either before reading the article, or once you are finished, go ahead and try the Quiz we put together to find out what’s your Game Design Style (Just for fun!)=> QUIZ HERE

It’ll help understand and clarify some of the concepts that are being discussed.

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When you start getting involved into Game Design, it’s kind of a rite of passage to go online and search for any available resources.

After looking around for a while, we all probably find the same stuff:

  • Some Books that are mentioned everywhere.
  • The concept of “Game Feel”.
  • The word “Polish”.
  • Making games is hard.
  • YouTube videos.

That’s pretty much where similarities end. If you decide to keep going, you’ll start noticing that what you read in one book (and made sense) is a complete contradiction of what you read somewhere else (and also made sense).

People will say: “Game Design Documents are useless”, “Game Design Documents are a must”, “Always start describing Gameplay”, “Start introducing the context (story, characters) since they will affect Gameplay”.

For a nice discussion on some of these topics, check this reddit post we made a while ago.

All the comments are valid depending on the context (except the rude ones, being an a** is never valid :P ).

So, what if we try to find a common set of rules that will help categorize a Game Designer’s style, based on a few simple questions?

A priori, this seems like a fun idea, but what are the questions we need to ask?

*Insert more research here*

Finally, after starting with around 15 questions (with a lot of redundancy), then bringing them down to 10 (with some redundancy), we settled for the following 6:

  • What will be the focus of your game design? (People will play your game to…?)

This is the most basic question of them all. In your game, players will be: Solving Puzzles, Shooting Stuff, Following a Story, Explore a virtual world, Putting their skills to test, etc.

A lot can be analyzed from the answer to this question and it helps narrow down your style (For example: if your response is “Shooting Stuff”, it’s less likely you have a style similar to Miyamoto’s than if your answer is “Solving Puzzles”).

  • How do you come up with new ideas?

In other words, how do you get inspired? Do you think about a cool game mechanic? Or do you think about a good story and then try to make the game that will be a better fit for that story? Maybe none of those, maybe you are a technology addict and get excited when new platforms get released (For example: VR).

  • How would the players advance through your game?

Which also talks a lot about “what you like”/”would like” to play. Is it Open World (GTA)? Or is it Linear? If it’s Linear, is it because you are following levels (Mario), or because you are following a Story (FF XIII)?

What if there’s not a clear progression and you want to create a game where players need to build stuff (Sim City) ?

  • Let’s talk about the Process of making games. How do you manage your team?

We are no longer talking about the game itself, but about how YOU, the GAME DESIGNER, work with the team. Is it THE team (and you are a part of it), or is it YOUR team (and you see yourself outside of it)?

Maybe you have an approach which consists on designing the game and your team brings your ideas to life, no questions asked. Or it could be the opposite: the whole team comes up with ideas and you are in charge of keeping the game consistent (in other words, bringing everyone’s efforts together).

  • What should get the most attention and polish?

Where are your priorities? If you build a huge open-world game, probably the emphasis will be on the amount of content. If you are a Techie, maybe what you want is to have F***NG AWESOME graphics, running 4K at 60 FPS.

What about the Game Mechanics, should they be super-mario-polished? Or being able to customize your characters and/or build stuff is the selling point?

  • Your last game has been shipped, let’s choose the next project. How do you go about that?

This speaks about you as a creative individual. If you see games as a way to express yourself, probably every game will be a whole new idea. If you see games as a business, you may go for that sequel to your previously successful title. Maybe it’s not because of financial reasons, but just because you want to build a bigger and better sequel.

Ultimately, who makes the decision, YOU, as a benevolent ruler, or the whole team gets together and chooses what to do next?

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A disclaimer from the Author:

Just to be clear: I don’t think this set of questions is the ultimate thing to end all discussions. I’m not an expert in Game Design and much less a Psychologist, so there are a lot of things I do not understand about how people’s brains work. But something I DO believe is that these questions can help kickoff a broader discussion about Game Design Styles (kind of when we look at a painting and say: this is Impressionism, this is Cubism, this is Picasso’s blue period).

Maybe in a future we can look back at Miyamoto’s work and say: “This is Miyamoto’s exploratory Game Design period”, “This is Miyamoto’s accesible Game Design period”, etc.

It’ll eventually have to happen if we want to say Game Design has reached it’s maturity. But now I’m ranting so let’s leave it here and, just for fun, why don’t you go ahead and try the Quiz we put together to find out what’s your Game Design Style? => QUIZ HERE

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Do you think we can do better? We think so too! Please let us know how you would improve this analysis. Always looking forward to a healthy discussion.

 

 

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How to Write a Game Design Document

Update – 05/22/2016

We are really grateful for all the feedback we have received since this post was initially published. Some really constructive and passionate discussions have emerged, and we are all better Game Designers because of it.

After circulating the article through different networks (Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), there were a few points that kept showing up the most:

  1. Using a GDD is a thing of the past.
  2. When you write a GDD you need to jump right into describing the Game Mechanics.

I’d like to clarify where we stand on these two subjects, and probably write a full post discussing each topic in the future.

1.- Like every other industry, the game industry evolves, and the techniques that are used at some point quickly become a thing of the past. Specially on a young industry that is still developing it’s processes and metrics. Whatever you like to call it (GDD, Wiki, Board,…), the important thing is to have something that describes your game project (or any other project for that matter) before jumping into production.

Here at Trick we name them GDDs and we also use boards (Trello) for managing tasks, and try to divide our project in two week milestones (somewhat resembling Scrum).

We don’t use a monolithic GDD that evolves during development, but rather a document that can be used by the team to get up to speed. Then, a few corrections are made to reflect the feedback or ideas of the team during the Game Design phase.

Once production has started, we no longer update the GDD, all new ideas go straight into the board, some of them prioritized (Priority 1 to 3, being 1 a Must do, 2 a Will do, and 3 a nice to have) and some of them into an “Ideas” column to be evaluated at a later time.

In summary, whether you use a GDD or something else, we recommend Game Designers that are just starting to please, please, please, consider writing down your ideas into some type of document that other people can read and understand.

2.- I think the answer to this is one is that “It depends”, which should have been made clear in the post. If your game is something like Tetris or Space Invaders or Asteroids…  in other words, games where the Story is practically non-existent and they won’t have any effect on the game mechanics, I agree it’s the right thing to jump right into Chapter 4 of the template.

For a game like the one we used in this example, it felt natural to describe the characters, what they could do and why, in order to give some context. (The Gnumies can merge, which translates into a certain game mechanic, and they are fighting German the Germ, which explains the game enemies).

Ultimately, it all depends on your game and your Game Design style. Just take into account that there is an Intro section where you can briefly describe (in one or two paragraphs) the overall mechanics, and the intention is that whoever reads the document can immediately understand your game’s genre and high level mechanics, regardless of if you jump straight into a full fledged description or take a detour explaining some backstory first.

So, how do I go around documenting what I want to do with my game?

That was the first question that came up when I had the great idea that would make me rich (JK of course, I’m still poor). At that point, I didn’t even know that I wanted to write a Game Design, and for that I needed to create a Game Design Document (GDD for short).

Doing some research I came across the term, but couldn’t seem to find an industry standard or template to help me get started.

After going through a few Game Design books (I highly recommend Jesse Schell’s Book of Lenses), and reading all I could online, it was time to create my first GDD. Through the years and iterations it has evolved into the following template, which we use every time we start a new game here at Trick.

Here’s a description of each section in the GDD Continue reading

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Unity 5 and WebGL porting guide

So, you have been working on Mobile games for a while using Unity, and probably heard that with Unity 5 it was possible to port your games for the Web sans Unity Web Player.

Great, right? Well, yeah, but there are a few things to know before making your game work with WebGL.

Let’s start by answering the following question:

Why is WebGL so important for game development?

For starters the Web has always been a strong platform with an established user base of about everyone. At the time of writing this, with WebGL you can target almost every desktop platform that has a relatively modern Web browser without the need of installing any additional plugins.

But the most important part of building for the Web is that you control the distribution. Forget about sending your build for review, or uploading your package through a console and waiting hours to test your build. With web technologies it has always been a matter of uploading your files via FTP and seeing the changes reflected in real time.

This is clearly and advantage when you are iterating fast and want to test your latest build on an environment that resembles production.

Also important to mention is that Google Chrome has recently dropped support for NPAPI, which means plugin based games (like those using Unity Web Player) won’t longer run on that Browser. Other browsers may follow in this decision in the future, so it’s better to be prepared.

But enough for an introduction, let’s move  on to the interesting stuff. As with any other platform, when you build your Unity 5 project for WebGL, there are a few things to take into consideration.

Continue reading

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From 8-bit to HD. The evolution of video game graphics

Do you remember the first video game you played?  Maybe yes, maybe not, but certainly you’ll remember the graphic style of those games. Small pixels, represented using dots or squares, which created characters, castles, weapons and everything you could imagine.

With the advancement of technology, now you can play in 3D or virtual reality. However, pixel games never went out of style, as you can see, one of the highest grossing games in recent years is Minecraft, where you can build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world but with a retro touch.

Let’s compare the progress of the graphics in video games through the best-selling video game franchise of all time:

mario

It’s a hims! Mario! Continue reading

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Game Developer Diary: Making Ultimate Open Face Poker

Hi! This is Leandro from Trick Gaming Studios. A few months ago we started working on a new mobile game for Royal Flush Apps. They needed a poker card game, but it wasn’t the traditional poker, it was a variant of Chinese poker called Open-face Chinese poker (OFCP).

LEARNING… a lot!

I have to admit we had never heard of this kind of Poker before. Having played Texas Hold ‘em and other traditional variations before, we thought it would not be difficult to learn the rules of OFCP. At first it was a little hard to understand, but once you finally get it, the game becomes very addictive.

Once we familiarized with the mechanics (after some “simulations” playing with real cards over pizza), questions arose about the deeper aspects of the game, like: who wins in a tie or how to make an AI that plays poker, specifically for this little known variation where each player has three hands and the difficulty resides on optimizing your game as a whole and not just a five card hand.

But the biggest question was: How to differentiate it from other mobile poker games?

Continue reading

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E3 2015: 8 announcements you can’t miss!

During the short duration of E3, LA becomes the salon of video games, where international wrestlers-developers collide in an all vs all match to show off what they have been doing for the past few years. Hemingway’s “A Movable Feast” comes to mind when trying to describe the feeling of attending E3, only 100 years later and with a focus on games and not art (or is it?)

2015 is no exception, in fact is probably one of the best shows in recent memory. Usually the important announcements come accompanied by filler content, and during the show, when the hype is real, news like “exclusive content for X or Y” gets everyone excited. Even the big companies announcing companion apps alongside AAA titles during prime time. C’mon big companies, leave the apps for us, you already dominate the AAA market. Just kidding. Maybe.

That’s why now that the dust has settled, looking back at each of the major players conferences -and some announcements made on the side-, these are the news that still ring in my ears:

1) The baseline: VR, in all its forms

final form

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How The Witcher saga went from complete unknown to one of the leading RPG?

Based on a novel series by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher is one of the best RPG ever made.  The game invites players to assume the role of Geralt of Rivia, a witcher, a professional monster slayer with supernatural abilities, also known as “the White Wolf”.

CD Projekt Red, the studio in charge of developing the game, did something remarkable with their first couple of Witcher games. To rise from complete unknowns to become one of the leading developers in the competitive RPG space is a massive accomplishment.

Unlike other games, this the story was designed so that the consequences of the player’s choices are often not immediately visible, and may only become apparent a few chapters later, prodding players to make their decisions seriously and with thought.

THE HERO

hero Continue reading

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Our favorite video games ever!

Whether it’s an old game or one of the latest releases, the question is which game you enjoyed the most and got the best memories of it, no matter if you played in an old console, an arcade or on your PC. Having so many options, these are the games that our team chose.

team

Diego and Julian chose a game that recently joined the World Video Game Hall of fame: World of Warcraft . Diego shared his story: I played for more than five years and led me to meet people from other countries, like Uruguay.  A player named Smark (a.k.a. Javier), came to visit me because his sister was getting married in my city. The following year I went to Uruguay where I got to know the cities of Montevideo and Punta del Este with the friends I had made thanks to World of Warcraft”

wow

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Why E3 is so important to the video game industry?

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is the world’s premier trade show for computer, video and mobile games and related products. Is not open to the general public, you must be an industry professional to attend. This year E3 takes place June 16-18 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

e3 2014

But why is it so important to attend this event? Continue reading

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Developing games for OS X/Mac OS with Unity

Hey everybody! Mugu here, wanted to talk about one of my latest experiences porting a game to OS X with Unity. So one of our last projects (I can’t say much for now) was porting a game made in Unity for Wii U to Apple’s Desktop platform: OS X.  The idea behind this post isn’t to explain all the process but to point out the most important points to take in account when developing for OS X in Unity, based on my personal experience.

  •  Resolutions: Remember that Unity doens’t force resolutions that the OS doesn’t natively support. So if you make your game thinking in 16:9 (as it’s usual nowadays) you’ll probably suffer some headaches.

Continue reading

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