Saturday, 17 March 2012

The importance of game design

In this post I will talk about Game design. Now the first thing we need to do is understand: What is game-design ? Game designs are the rules of play. Imagine being in an empty world, Game design would be every wall you encounter. Game design is making the Game play. Setting the goal, the winning and losing condition, the difficulty the guidance and punishments, the way a character progresses and such.
It's there for a key element in games, some say even more so than the art.

How has game design evolved

Most genre's have evolved in their own way so i will give a few examples to give a short description on how certain things have changed. To start off What would be the difference between pacman and a game such as Fear?  Old games such as pacman were a lot less forgiving. The game was designed to punish and to give players a challenge and there for in my opinion reward the player by advancing to the next level if they became better each time. While a game such as fear which is mostly story driven has things like health so your able to be hit several times without having to redo the whole thing. Something they have in common is the "maze" aspect. Both games play in a maze and you run around collecting stuff/finding your way to the exit. In case of fear this would be covered in graphics but the idea stays the same have a look at the following 2 images.

On the left is a map from pacman and on the right a map from america's army.
So to sum things up a few things these games have a like:

- They play in a "maze"
- Enemies will chase you when "Spotted"
- The losing condition is when dead

the difference between the two games would be:
- The winning condition is to collect all the orbs in pacman and with fear it's to travel from point a to point b
-   The losing condition, even though when dead is something they have a like pacman is a lot less forgiving in this perspective.
- Fear has a safe button
- Fear has ranged attacks where pacman needs to pic-up certain items in order to beat the antagonist
- Where pacman would be considered a top-down game fear is first person.

The characters are almost as scary !!!!! Yet in fear their less dangerous than in pacman !

To go a bit more in examples I'd like to take the final fantasy series created by square enix ( square soft before). One of the reasons for this is because it's all the same series and has existed for 25 years now and has changed a lot .If you compare the first few final fantasies and not take the graphics in account you'll see that their turn based, where the series later on added timed elements to speed things up and with the latest few almost completely taken out the turn based fighting system.  These changes were made to suit their current target market.  Another example of big game companies that make gameplay changes to suit their market would be Blizzard with Diablo 3 and World of Warcraft. Both games have been toned down severally over time. Where world of warcraft has become easier each expansion Diablo 3 's gameplay is still getting big overhaul's each patch. These things are being done to suit a more casual market rather than just the hardcore audience. Unfortunately for them but at the same time it does broaden their sales and allows more people to see end content. Because in the end of the day Game design is also about guiding the players through your game. On the topic of guiding I think the best example would be Left 4 Death. Left 4 Death made by Valve is a Survival FPS with a lot of chaos elements. It's a dark game and one can get lost easily. To prevent this Valve has put in several game design decision, a few of these were if other players are behind a wall you get to see their outlines. This way you can't lose the group since teamwork is very important. But this doesn't guide you through the levels yet so they implemented lights on key points as a subtle pointer for the players. From my own experience you'll often run to these points without thinking.  Sadly these days the big game design companies don't allow much space for innovate game design. It costs them too much money and is considered too much of a risk. EA's mirror edge is a good example. It has original gameplay and was actually brand new to the industry but after it's success while making mirror's edge 2 it got canceled for another battlefield.  So most innovate game design comes from the Indy market these days ( Minecraft for example) luckily there's also bigger companies that do allow creative/new gameplay. Valve again.. is one of those with portal ( original Narbacular drop  created by a team of students ).

* mirror's edge


Game design evolves all the time, but due to big companies holding innovative game design down things haven't changed for the last few years. Luckily Indy game developers and a few bigger companies such as valve are still bringing original idea's out in the world. It's important to a game as it sets the rules and makes or breaks the game, there for most gameplay will be adjusted to suit the audience. 

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