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    5 Game Design Tips - Simon O'Callaghan

    *Header Image Credit: Aurore



    Start With a Small Idea

    Everyone has grand ideas, projects involving mountains of details with complex gameplay systems. The problem with these ideas is that they are extremely difficult to know exactly where to start. They often involve so many different steps with such complex planning that they can easily be abandoned long before they reach a finished prototype stage.


    I find creating a small experimental idea using existing or placeholder assets can be the perfect way to gain momentum on starting a larger project. A small idea can also give you immediate feedback and be the perfect moral boast for when working alone or in a small group.


    Create Prototypes

    Game design rarely starts with an exact schedules or detailed project plan; it usually starts with a prototype. A short burst of inspiration to see if an idea is worth pursuing and developing into a larger (more organized) project.


    Never underestimate the power of prototyping or architectural/art style experiments. Inspiration is rarely a factory line or an on demand process and fresh ideas often need space and time to develop. Always set an end date or goal for a prototype so that it does not drift or lack direction and bear in mind what you are trying to achieve.


    Always Iterate

    Game design ideas are always shaped by iteration and it is highly unlikely an idea will be perfect first time around. The trick is not to be afraid of change and let ideas flow in several different directions before settling on the final choice.


    Many game designers rely on feedback from trusted sources or people who can articulate their issues with constructive feedback. Try to find a diverse collection of individuals who can help with quick iteration cycles. Not everyone can separate their emotions from feedback and see the bigger picture of what the idea is trying to be.


    Try to Avoid Dilution

    Be careful about 'watering down' an idea if it has gained a strong negative feedback reaction. An idea which creates an extreme reaction does not necessarily mean it is bad; it might be the implementation that is wrong. Always remember that bold ideas can be the defining moment of a game/map and should not be shied away from.


    The problem with dilution or 'design by committee' is once the core idea is compromised the overall quality of a game/map can lose its edge. The other side of the coin is that bold ideas can also be unpopular and create bipolar feedback. As long as you are happy not to win the popular vote then don't be afraid to pursue uncompromising ideas.


    Look for Patterns in Feedback

    There are many different types of feedback to consider when looking for advice on game design. The trick to understanding feedback is being able to filter out the opinions from the constructive advice. It is not easy to divorce emotion from feedback, but allowing time between reaction and response is always a good idea.


    One way to spot good advice is to look for feedback that forms patterns, advice which is similar or repeated by several different people. If many people are experiencing the same response there is a good chance that the presentation or implementation is wrong for the target audience.


    Even though feedback can be passionate and destructive it is by no means all bad as people will often only be bothered to create feedback when they care about something. The classic bipolar response of "I hate" or "I love" can be frustrating but this is better than no response at all. Some of the best games are often communicating to us on an emotional level which can generate such strong responses and this is what great games are all about.




    *Note: This article is published in accordance with Creative Commons Guidelines

    Source: http://www.simonoc.com/pages/articles/gamedev_advice.htm



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    Article Preview: One of Simon's top tips on Game Design is 'Try to Avoid Dilution', where he says "Be careful about 'watering down' an idea that's gained a strong negative feedback reaction. An idea which creates an extreme reaction does not necessarily mean it's bad

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