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Subject: Game design philosophies rss

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Phil Walker-Harding
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When I look at the work of a famous game designer, I can't help but notice certain characteristics that make their games unique. The mechanics and themes they use seem to say something about their entire approach to making games.

This got me thinking about how I approach design, and this is what I came up with:

Themes should be rich and fun to play, creating a 'virtual world' within the game.
If the theme doesn't inspire some sort of child-like excitement in the playtesters, I go back to the drawing board. How much more fun is it to be a cut-throat priate exploring a jungle island than a medieval farmer! (well at least for me). Also, I try to design games where the art and mechanics work together to make the players feel like they are really within the game world. They aren't 'playing a game', they really are that pirate for half an hour!

Mechanics should be intuitively linked to the theme.
Some games seem to be described as having rich theme, due to their complex rules and detailed artwork or components. I think theme is at its strongest when the mechanics of the gameplay make the players intuitively feel like they are in the world of the game. For a simple example: in Carcasonne when you place a meeple on a road, you 'feel' like you have taken that road. There is a visual and active connection between what the player has done in actuality, and what has happened in the game world. In Lost Cities, when you put down a card, you don't really 'feel' like you've progressed in an expedition for treasure.

'Weight' should come from strategic decision-making, not complexity.
For me, even if a game is brain-burning to play, it should have simple streamlined rules. The feeling of depth should come from the strategic options clearly presented to the player, not a large amount of detail and rules... I guess that basically means I like euro games.

So there we go.

What would you say is your game design philosophy?


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Frank Strauss
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I agree to all you´ve wrote and I will add something that´s important for me:
Theme, this is the first
Before even thinking about making a game out of something, there has to be a theme that interests me.

Background
If I´ve got the theme, I like to know as much as I can about the topic and then I begin to think about how to make a game out of it.

Mechanics
What game mechanics should I use for a game ?
I prefer a low luck factor, the player should always have the feeling that he controls the game and not that he is controled by the game.
The mechanics should fit the theme.
If possible, I try to find some new mechanics for a game.

Playability
That´s the hardest thing to work out.
I first put everything into a game that is possible to be a part of it.
( Example: A Busdrivers age may be important for his driving skills, also the sort of Tires the bus uses, the weather, the kind of fuel and the amount of passengers )
Then I remove everything that slows down the game and isn´t nessesary for the "feel" of the game.
( Example: All in the example above can be added together in a simple wear factor )

Winning conditions
I try to give players more than one way to win a game, so that even a player who is bad in one kind of strategy may be able to win in another way.

Components
I would like to see a game published with nice bits that fit the theme and/or are of high quality.


There is very much more to think about, but these are the main things that came in my mind before even working on a prototype.
Unfortunately I´ve never ( for now ) found a publisher for my games.
I´m lucky that my p&p game "Wheels of Steel" has found some attention here at BGG and now I´m working on a game about the medieval ages and the crusades.
Let´s see what happens.



 
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Sandy Mackenzie
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I agree with all of the above and would add one more thing that I think is intuitively obvious but very difficult to implement, it sort of comes under your "winning conditions" heading - that it has to be possible to get good at playing the game, one should be able to advance as one of its players through more than one match. Obviously some games have this quality more than others.
 
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