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Subject: Designing Around Goals rss

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Carl Frodge
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This is just me rambling about nonsense. Enjoy.

I have been coming up with potential game mechanics, ideas, and so on for probably 3-4 years now. I've always been interested in game design, and I've always thought it would be cool to make and publish a game.

The problem is, mechanics don't make a game. And I only really realized this today. You can put as many or as little mechanics into a game as you want, and that game may never be finished. Because, as I said, mechanics don't make a game. Goals make a game.

The only game I ever got to the prototype stage was a game where I started designing around a goal. You win if...something happens. And usually the goal is some variation of two possible outcomes: Either 1.You get the most. Or 2.You get there first. With cooperative games, it's a little different.

Anyway, I'm getting off track, my point is, you can come up with 10+ notebooks full of ideas for game mechanics, theme, components, and so on, and never make a game out of any of it. Not without a goal.

And I'm finding in my design process that it can be really difficult to come up with a goal. For me especially, "getting the most victory points" is way too vague. There has to be some thematic sense to be made, or some additional thematic inspiration.

I also find designing around goals makes figuring out how to accomplish those goals a little easier. Because now the design process becomes "how does a player do this thing? What does it take?" Rather than "I have a cool idea/mechanic, how can I make it a game."
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James Arias
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Yeah it's good to confirm "what's the point" with the game. Most of my ideas are "I'd like to make one of those ..." so the goal is already loosely defined, so I've never really had to think much about what the goal is. Most of my time is on how to get there and is it fun.

E.g. doing a dudes on a map game, how to keep the tension and engagement up, not a system where you onow you've lost early on and must either concede or play out a humiliating long decline
 
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JT Schiavo
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I learned the importance of goals from teaching games to others.

I had one friend that, as soon as a new box is cracked open, would immediately ask, "How do I win?"

If you don't have that, you don't have a game, you can't shape mechanics to provide that, etc, etc.


As far as coming up with a thematic and specific goal, it can be challenging. Look at your theme and ask "What does the player represent? What is success to that entity?" Look at your mechanics and ask "Why are players interacting with these systems? What output are they gaining?" Just ask yourself "What would make me feel accomplished? What would be a cool/nifty/fitting way to end the game?"
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Charles Ward
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Matsumoto
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agentkuo wrote:
I said, mechanics don't make a game.

Game designers make games
The goal is central to the game. Points, finishing first, or simply surviving - this last one lends itself to solo, or coop, or just adds an "AI threat" into a competitive game. But surviving is usually accompanied by a points based rank. Whatever it is, creating options for the players to explore opens up the theme and styles of play.
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patrick mullen
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There are so many elements that go into a game. There are a set basically all have, and there are some that not all of them have. For example, a theme. Abstract games usually don't have much of one, if at all. But I do think most games have a way to win, or a goal as you said

I also think that most designers come to game design being interested in and spending a lot of time focused on only ONE of the elements. When I started designing games, it was mostly theme. As I tried to make games, I found that my mechanics were always boring, and players had no decisions to make.

It sounds like you may have come to designing with an interest in mechanics, which is great! Many designers I run into are the opposite (myself included). But like all of us, you will have to either learn how to increase in the areas you are missing, or collaborate a lot
 
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JT Schiavo
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As a side note, keep an eye on Greg's Design Blog. He's working on a game called Infinite Legacy that is meant to be a sandbox game without game-defined goals. Maybe it's possible?
 
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Jeremy Lennert
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I'd suggest that it's useful to distinguish between a goal and a victory condition.

The victory condition is how you determine the winner of the game; for instance, "capture the enemy king" or "be the first player to score 25 points".

The goal is the overall direction or thrust of the game; for instance, "build up your economy" or "gain control over the board".

You need a goal pretty early in development, because it's what tells you the sorts of things the player will try to make happen (or prevent from happening), so it often permeates every detail of the design.

On the other hand, the exact victory condition can often be decided much later, once you have a better idea of the strategy, pacing, and overall progression of the game.
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