How to Design a Game

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I’ve seen a lot of how to make a game requests, but I figured since this is the game “design” forum there should be posts on how to design a game. These are just a few of my thoughts right now.

If you have no idea where to start designing, play games. Figure out what type of games you like to play and then what you do and don’t like about them. If you have a basic idea you may, as others have done, come on here and ask for help. If you want to do it all yourself try to determine something that would be unique or stand out.

Creativity takes some time to learn. Also remember that all games need an interface that is easy to use, sound (usually music too), and sometimes story.

The next thing you need to do is write down your ideas. A great game has a game design document explaining everything about the game.

I may have ideas to add later. Any discussion of designing is welcome.

 
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Write down your super awesome idea in great detail as it comes to you. Then change it up with all the new ideas you get while writing it down. Then take only the absolute best pieces of that new idea and throw away EVERYTHING else.

You now have your first idea that’s worth seriously considering.

 
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Think up an obstacle, any obstacle. Let’s say you are trapped in a giant bucket, for argument’s sake.

Then think of a way the player will find a way to escape.

Would he:

  • Blow up one of the walls and escape?
  • Tip the bucket over?
  • Fill up the bucket with water and swim out?
  • Walk through one of the bucket’s walls?
  • Teleport through one of the bucket’s walls?
  • Get abducted by some alien power?
  • Walk up one of the walls and escape?
  • Get hoisted out by some rope?
  • Climb out?

Then add on some things that will hinder the power you have given the player.

  • The player needs to get some grenades to blow up a wall to escape.
  • Only someone of superhuman strength can tip the bucket over.
  • The player needs to find some water.

and so on.

 
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No offense, KMAE, but that’s pretty much useless. D:

Cough…

 
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Originally posted by GameBuilder15:

No offense, KMAE, but that’s pretty much useless. D:

Cough…

Care to elaborate? I know you will soon have OVER 9000 posts, but that doesn’t mean everyone magically knows what you’re thinking without you spelling it out.

 
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It’s this book he’s been talking about… called The Art of Game Design. He’s been talking about it to everyone he meets that asks about game design, because… it’s a book on game design. (Surprise, surprise.) Sorry GameBuilder, but, like honestly? Is this really the answer to everything about game design? Opinions in game design are strictly varied. That book would only have one perspective out of millions.

 
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No book will help you more than playing games. Sure, The Art of Game Design will help you with some organization, and maybe some cool techniques, but if you’re basing all of your game design off that book, you’ve got A LOT of work to do. KMAE is right. IMO the only best way to learn about game design and what makes a game feel good, is playing like a designer. This means realizing what makes the environment feel like an environment, etc.

I highly recommend checking out Extra Credits to learn more (@everyone). Especially these two episodes: 1, 2

 
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CliffyB doesn’t say “Hey, guys, lets make this awesome shooter I thought of! There are aliens and tons of weapons and upgrades, and there will be multiplayer co-op and deathmatch, and I’ve got the game planned all out on this piece of paper, so all you need to do is follow my instructions.”

RTL, professional game designers actually have a lot of work to do. If there was no need for game designers, game companies wouldn’t hire them. Real game designers aren’t “idea people” like you see around Kong.

 
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Originally posted by GameBuilder15:

CliffyB doesn’t say “Hey, guys, lets make this awesome shooter I thought of! There are aliens and tons of weapons and upgrades, and there will be multiplayer co-op and deathmatch, and I’ve got the game planned all out on this piece of paper, so all you need to do is follow my instructions.”

Professional game designers actually have a lot of work to do. If there was no need for game designers, game companies wouldn’t hire them. Real game designers aren’t “idea people” like you see around Kong.

…what is your point? Noones saying that ‘real game designers’ don’t read the book you keep bringing up. I had to read it for a class and it’s pretty good, but probably everyone interested in game design will read or has read it before. What are you trying to get at here? That learning to design games through practice and analysis is bad?

I’m honestly confused what you are aiming to say.

 
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I guess what I’m trying to say is, you need to get inspiration from everything, not just games. RTL seems to think The Art of Game Design is too extreme, but designing good games takes effort.

Sorry, I should have been clearer.

 
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Originally posted by GameBuilder15:

I guess what I’m trying to say is, you need to get inspiration from everything, not just other games. RTL seems to think The Art of Game Design is too extreme, but designing good games takes effort.

I don’t think it’s too extreme- In fact I’m going to buy it because no doubt it will teach me a few things.

And what changed your mind about getting inspiration from anything. So now that includes other games? I thought you said that was useless?

Also, @KMAE, don’t play only games you like. Play ALL types of games, even the bad ones. Broadening your perspective can help- and you’ll realize that just one simple thing could change a really bad game to a really good game.

 
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Originally posted by RTL_Shadow:
Originally posted by GameBuilder15:

I guess what I’m trying to say is, you need to get inspiration from everything, not just other games. RTL seems to think The Art of Game Design is too extreme, but designing good games takes effort.

I don’t think it’s too extreme- In fact I’m going to buy it because no doubt it will teach me a few things.

And what changed your mind about getting inspiration from anything. So now that includes other games? I thought you said that was useless?

I didn’t change my mind as far as I know. :/

Games can be inspiring, but if you compare games with EVERYTHING, games don’t have nearly as much stuff in them for you to get inspired by.

Enjoy the book, RTL.

 
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Well, yeah. A game is an attempt to convey an experience upon the player, and having little life experience outside of games will probably make your storytelling weak as a whole but I don’t think anyone was arguing against that.

GB, what you are talking about is looking around elsewhere from games for inspiration which is a creative thing and that’s just great, but what I (and I believe RTL is well) am talking about is the sort of necessary technical skill to take a great idea and modify it into a workable, feasible, game concept. Books can’t really teach you that, you need experience.

Even if you know about that kind of thing theoretically, it’s not the same kind of practical ability as what you get from actual game creation.

Game design isn’t just about coming up with wonderful ideas, it’s also about fitting those ideas into something workable and reasonable without losing that precious spark of something that made the idea so attractive in the first place.

 
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Originally posted by draganviper:

what I, and I believe RTL is well, am talking about is the sort of necessary technical skill to take a great idea and modify it into a workable, feasible, game concept.

But that’s what game designers do. I’m really confused. :P

 
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Originally posted by GameBuilder15:
Originally posted by draganviper:

what I, and I believe RTL is well, am talking about is the sort of necessary technical skill to take a great idea and modify it into a workable, feasible, game concept.

But that’s what game designers do. I’m really confused. :P

Sorry, I tend to write my posts in an iterative manner involving a first draft and then repeated edits so that my post doesn’t end up in a different position than I first intended, however that seems to have caused some confusion this time.

Also these forums seem to have a hacky quoting system that’s really just formatted text, rather than actually pulling the quote. That’s kind of lame.

These forums don’t usually move this fast >.>

 
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I know game design isn’t just about coming up with wonderful ideas. That’s what I was trying to say when I was talked about CliffyB before.

 
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I know game design isn’t just about coming up with wonderful ideas.

Um… anyone can have ideas about what sort of game to make. It takes real skill (or luck) to make original gmae ideas. And if you can make really challenging levels that apply the concept well… wow.

 
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Originally posted by jasonjie88:

I know game design isn’t just about coming up with wonderful ideas.

Um… anyone can have ideas about what sort of game to make. It takes real skill (or luck) to make original gmae ideas. And if you can make really challenging levels that apply the concept well… wow.

Originality is nice as well, but it isn’t really all that important overall. If you make an unoriginal game that is good enough, people will think of your game when they think of that idea. Call of Duty and Halo were NOT the first FPSs, Starcraft wasn’t the first RTS, League of Legends wasn’t the first MOBA, WoW wasn’t the first MMO, etc.

It’s not just true for AAA titles. Minecraft wasn’t the first of it’s kind, neither was the Binding of Issac or to take a Kongregate example the Don’t Touch my Gems! series. They just did it really well and through a combination of polish, dedication, and luck managed to become the somewhat genre defining games we now think of as ‘original’ because they overshadow other games of the same concept.

 
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Thanks for all the comments guys. I wasn’t intending to mean that you should ignore bad games or games in genres that you don’t like. I was using the “Do what you love” philosophy. If you just do not get FPS games and you tried to make one, sure it might be decent but you probably wouldn’t have much fun doing it and it may lack in polish as a result.

I did say creativity takes some time to learn. I did not mean to say that creativity only comes from playing games. Certainly life experience plays into it. I believe much of the life experience when it comes to making games is by playing games though.

That book will certainly be on my list. Books do have their place in teaching.

Also, I added writing things down because making games is hard. If you try to keep it all in your head you’ll probably miss something. I have quite a few ideas and a few games out. Some ideas are in my head, some are scribbled on notebook pages and three have game design documents in a standard format. Of those three, two are well done. I left one alone for awhile, just came back to it and said man this is still a good idea. I should really get around to doing it.

Of course, I’m a big procrastinator so hah.

Edit: Jason, I believe the horror genre is lacking here if you’re into that. Also I’ve heard a couple people looking for good text based adventure games.

 
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Originally posted by KMAE:


Edit: Jason, I believe the horror genre is lacking here if you’re into that. Also I’ve heard a couple people looking for good text based adventure games.

You could actually do a better job with one of those these days, if you spent time on coding a good natural language interface, and avery interactive world.

In the original Zork, during testing, a player managed to repeatedly crash the game when they tried to perform an action. It was “put bathtub in backpack”. It was a valid command at the time, the developer had just never thought anyone would be silly enough to try and do that.

 
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Originally posted by vikaTae:
Originally posted by KMAE:


Edit: Jason, I believe the horror genre is lacking here if you’re into that. Also I’ve heard a couple people looking for good text based adventure games.

You could actually do a better job with one of those these days, if you spent time on coding a good natural language interface, and avery interactive world.

In the original Zork, during testing, a player managed to repeatedly crash the game when they tried to perform an action. It was “put bathtub in backpack”. It was a valid command at the time, the developer had just never thought anyone would be silly enough to try and do that.

Hmm, see if I had done a game like Zork I would have had a default/error catcher so that instead of breaking anything it didn’t understand it would perhaps say “Isn’t that a silly thing to do.”

 
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That was the problem, it did understand, and it was a valid command. The problem was, there was a weight system involved, and nobody had envisaged that anyone would try to pick up a huge object that weighed 10 or 20x the maximum inventory capacity, then stick it in inventory.

That’s what testing is for of course. But the point is, players are often far more creative than the developers give them credit for. If you had a textual natural language interface where you could do practically anything, you would find players do practically everything.

 
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KMAE, you should write down all of your ideas so you won’t forget them. Jesse Schell stresses that people’s memories aren’t good.

 
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Originally posted by GameBuilder15:

KMAE, you should write down all of your ideas so you won’t forget them. Jesse Schell stresses that people’s memories aren’t good.

That’s just common sense. I know you’ve recently become a cultist worshiping The Art of Game Design, but you really don’t need to somehow work it into every discussion.

 
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Cultist truly is the word. Seriously, it’s getting creepy.