Don't think "random", think "statistics"

Principle : Make die rolls random, but outcomes statistical. While dice and other random number generators may appear to go against the notion that players should be in control of their fate, they are, in fact, a great way to mimic complex systems without having to simulate the myriad elements that make up the real thing. You don't make a game like Civilization by constructing accurate models of medieval weapons, or by modeling the human musculoskeletal system and pitting simulated humans against each other; what you do is come up with a statistical model for battles and incorporate that into your game's mechanics. Think of a roll of the dice as obtaining a single sample from a statistical model: The number that comes up is determined at random, but it's the state and rules of the game which determine what happens when that particular number comes up. Players win by making choices, manipulating the game state (or, sometimes, the rules) in such a way that random outcome

Play to Conceive

Principle : Play without a purpose for new or better experiences. As you develop your game, engage in unstructured play to get a feel for the game's mechanics and the gameplay opportunities they offer. Approach it as a curious child would, by looking, observing, grabbing, manipulating, throwing, arranging, assembling, taking apart, and putting back together everything around you to develop an intuitive sense of how it all works. While playing, allow yourself to think of new mechanics or ways to improve the existing ones. Is there some mechanic that stands out as particularly fun or interesting? Could a seemingly unimportant mechanic be brought to the foreground? Is there something about the objects in the game that could make for a new and interesting mechanic? This is different from playtesting in that it's intuitive, unstructured, and completely informal. You're not looking for bugs, flaws or balance issues; You're just playing around while looking out for inter

Narrative and Consequences

The holy grail of narrative game design is a game with a carefully constructed narrative that players can influence to the same degree as their real lives. The goal is to have stories that are every bit as engaging as traditional narratives but created in such a way as to enable a rich variety of player experiences. For games in which content is written primarily by human beings, creating such flexible narratives is almost certainly impossible given the number of potential choices for the player -- far too many for any author to account for. On the other hand, for games in which content might be generated dynamically with the aid of computer algorithms, current Artificial Intelligence approaches aren't advanced enough to produce engaging narratives. A less ambitious goal, therefore, is to make games in which players' decisions are limited but significant: limited because the possible choices and outcomes are only a small subset of those that would otherwise be available, and si

Controlling Aspect Ratio in Unity

Games made with Unity allow users to pick a screen resolution on startup through Unity's Display Resolution Dialog . While it's possible to disable this feature and force a game to use a particular resolution, it's generally not a good idea to deny users the ability to set the game's resolution to whatever they think is best. Such flexibility comes at a price, however, and one of the costs is the loss of control over the game window's aspect ratio. Differences in aspect ratio aren't necessarily a problem, but I think it's generally a good idea to keep things as consistent as possible regardless of the system on which a game is running. For the camera, such consistency ensures that what you see during development and testing is also what players see once your game is released: Objects visible from a particular vantage point will be visible on all systems, and those that aren't visible will likewise remain out of view. A consistent view across systems mea

A History of the Amiga

A History of the Amiga, from Ars Technica: Part 1: Genesis Part 2: The birth of Amiga Part 3: The first prototype Part 4: Enter Commodore Part 5: Postlaunch blues Part 6: Stopping the bleeding Part 7: Game on!

Saving, Reloading and Player Failure

When the subject of free versus restricted saving comes up , people often end up conflating the issues of players being free to save their progress at any time and games requiring players to replay certain segments upon failure . The assumption is that the proper response to player failure is for the game to reload the latest save state, thus leading to a framing of the issue of loss of player progress in terms of free versus restricted saving. Unrestricted saving mechanisms are essential in modern games in that they allow players to quit the game at any time without losing progress. This does not, however, mean that loss of progress upon failure is an illegitimate mechanic. Countless commercially successful game designs that purposely incorporate just such a mechanic show quite clearly that loss of progress upon failure is a perfectly legitimate mechanic. Ultimately, the answer to the "free save" dilemma is not to design a game such that progress can never be lost, but to d

Emotions in Games

Authors and filmmakers who wish to evoke particular emotions in their audience often rely on the audience's ability to empathize with the characters portrayed in the narrative, and especially with the protagonist. The author sets up situations in which characters experience particular emotions in the hope that the audience will themselves have similar feelings, or at least understand why the characters feel the way they do. The author is in control of the characters' emotions, while the audience's emotions derive from sharing in those characters' feelings and experiences. Game designers who wish to evoke particular emotions have it somewhat more difficult. Unlike books and movies, where the author is in full control of the protagonist, it is the audience itself that is largely in control of a game's principal character or characters. Although designers can script particular emotions into a game's protagonist by taking control away from the player or reducing the