Thursday, September 27, 2007

Game Design Questions

Some questions every game designer should ask during the game development process:
  • Are the game's interfaces and user controls consistent throughout the game? If they're not, is there a good reason why they shouldn't be consistent? Do the inconsistencies make logical sense?
  • Do the controls adhere to known conventions for the game's genre? If not, in what ways is the game's control scheme superior to that of its predecessors?
  • Are there objects in the game that behave contrary to reasonable player expectations? Are there objects that look like they should do something they don't do? Are there objects that do things that are not suggested by their form?
  • Does the player feel lost ("where am I" / "what am I supposed to do next") when I don't intend him to feel that way? If I do intend it, do I have a very good reason for it? Does my approach convey the desired emotions, or is it merely frustrating?
  • Does the game provide sufficient cues for the player to anticipate danger? If there's any surprises, am I giving the player a fair chance to react to them?
  • Is the game's failure response (e.g., whatever happens once the player's avatar dies) tied to the game's save system? Wouldn't it work better if the two were uncoupled?
  • If the game features cutscenes or other narrative elements at the beginning of the game, how long does the player have to wait until he gains control of his character? What about other cutscenes in the game?
  • If players skip a cutscene or forget some important detail, can they watch it again?
  • If the game does not allow players to skip particular cutscenes, do I have a good reason for it? Why not just let players skip and replay these cutscenes at will?
  • If there's an in-game tutorial, does it interfere with the player's sense of free will? Does he feel he's being played like a puppet, or otherwise constrained?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Design Flaw: In Your Face

The Game: In Your Face

The background: In Your Face is a street basketball game for the original Nintendo Game Boy. At the beginning of every game, a coin-flip animation is shown to represent the practice of flipping a coin to determine which side gets control of the ball.

The problem: The coin-flip animation is purely cosmetic, for the human player always gets initial control of the ball. The virtual coin's behavior does not agree with the player's expectation that a coin flip should produce random outcomes, thus the game's implicit promise to the player is broken.

The solution: Allow the coin flip to determine who gets control of the ball, or else get rid of the coin flip animation.