Firstly what is game design? Well it is the skeleton of the game, it determines the rules, the world, the people, the console...etc. I could go on but it is vast and incorporates all areas of making the game in-order to create a written and visual feel. Game design happens in the pre-production stages in order to firstly determine if the game is worth making, this is the design proposal. If the green light is given then it's up to the game designer to specify everything in the game, this is called the design document. These are normally huge documents. I remember doing one for the production of a flash game and even though it was small, it was still fifteen pages or so (a professional could stretch that to be 50 pages).
Game design doesn't just exist in computer games. If you look at chess, this is a game is it not. Therefore it has a world, characters and a set of rules.
”If you take away the fancy graphics of today's games, most of the time you're left with a shell of a game that has been done to death a million times.”
If you look at games this is true. If you break down the game to it's key fundamentals. For example lets take Saint's row as an example; you have main character, objectives set over the game world. Challenges in-between to strengthen character and suspend players disbelief for longer. Main antagonist, has minions to fight player...etc. Some every generic plotting of the game there but it does describe what you have to do. Now what games have all these things in it, well, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Darksiders, Half-life, Portal, AOM...the list can go on. I won't go into who did what first, it was just an example but as Mike has said on multiple occasions every game has the principles of Pacman or space invaders. Look at draughts this board game has multiple characters, they have objectives of defeating opponents and getting “crowned”, so strengthening their characters.
"If you have SOS Syndrome, remember to have the 'bad guys,' bonus items, bonus areas, and other things in different places each time the game is played. No matter how unoriginal your game is, at least it will be tolerable." - Duane Alan Hah
Unfortunately this is true, well mostly. I would argue the word tolerable for absolute bollocks. Unoriginal content is just spammed because its predecessors did well so that means the same game with different graphics will do well also. This can be seen a lot in franchises, as I said on a different blog if you have enough fans it's hard to not get them buy the game unless it's absolute balls. In the past couple of years all I've seen is FPS's on the market and it's soul fryingly annoying, Call of Duty 165, FallOut, MAG, Battlefield and more is set for 2011, Duke Nukem, Killzone, Homefront, Crysis 2... when will they actually start producing good original games? Answer, never, as long as FPS's keep selling they'll keep on making the same game over and over again. Yet what FPS am I looking forward to this year? Of course, Portal 2, it looks amazing, they've increased the level difficulty, it still has it's charm and is an awesome game. Also split screen multi player, hurrah, I dunno if I’ve mentioned this before as my mind is like a sieve but where has all the co-op games gone? I don't want online shite or system link, good old fashion getting your mates over and trying to squint as the screen is divided into four. Playing with people you know, it's all so much better than these crap MMORPG's out there.
What makes a good game?
One word...fun. If the game's not fun then it won't sell. Recently I have been playing Arkam Asylum and it's fun. Why do I like trying to find the collectables, why do I purposely wait until a guard is under me to kill him, why do I try to stay undetected? Not because of achievements but because it's fun. Game designers have to think about everything to make their game successful.
"The most common mistake of modern games is that they mistake setting for game design. A great plot does not make a great game. Nor does a great player model or animation engine. These merely provide contextual support for the game's reward system. If the rest of the game design is broken, a multi-million dollar investment in setting will still fail to produce an enjoyable game." - Daniel Cook from Evolutionary Design
I don't understand how setting can be mistook for game design but anyway the thing I wanted to take from that quote is the reward system. Another word for this is gratifications, this is based on the uses and gratification theory, this can change from game to game. For example The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a text game with no high visual impact. It uses a unconventional way of giving the player gratification. Since the game is for adults as children don't have understand the words, the sheer fact that the player wants to play the game is a reward in itself. But because of the difficulty of the game the player feels proud when completing a section that they found difficult to begin with, and they return so they can solve more puzzles, so the loop continues (until the frustrating game leads you into a trap and you have no idea what to do, I had to replay and replay levels in order just to understand them, never mind actually solving the puzzles). The joy of completing a part compels the player to continue. But if we take a completely different game like Fahrenheit, the main gratification I would say is unfolding the branching storyline. The player sees both perspectives on the murder through the murderer's eyes and the detectives, and often the player will favour one side and try to handicap one role and further advance the other. The role as detective and solving the crime in the game is something that people enjoy, and with every sequence you get right the player gets a rush of enjoyment and with multiple endings this is a another reason why the audience is urged to play the game. I know mike you don't particularly like these type of cinematic games but I love them because it's something different. I don't envy game designers because they have a lot to do, I just hope in the future I will still enjoy gaming and the fan boys haven't took over the world and made it brown with hints of crap, levels full of shit and lighting that you can't see your hand in front of your bloody face. I leave you with a picture that will cheer you up after just reading my bad blog.