🕹️ I impusively signed up for a game jam

It was probably not the best idea. I have a newborn, and I’m helping the studio I work at launch its first game in the next couple of months… so time isn’t something I have a lot of.

Anyways: I decided to make a card game for the Godot Wild Jam. The theme is “Train”

  • I established the data structure for shuffling and dealing out the deck of cards
  • Picked the color palette for the game
  • Got a basic visual representation of cards to show up on the screen

The Concept: You’re a personal trainer for trains.

  • Your goal is to help them get fit by helping them shed their extra cargo
  • You’ll play cards and powerups to help them lose the right amount of cargo

Next up: I gotta work on the functionality for allowing the player to play cards.

🕹️ Clarify your game design with "If-Then" thinking

Why it matters: Gameplay becomes stronger when you talk about it the same way players talk about it.

  • If you drink the potion, then you heal” (Every game ever)
  • If you rest at a bonfire, then it unlocks a checkpoint” (Dark Souls)
  • If you throw your axe, then you can press triangle to recall it” (God of War)

Pro tip: “If You” is one of the best ways to start a gameplay concept:

  • If” implies choices and possibility
  • You” puts the player at the center of the design

This method serves as a way to check how intuitive the concept is. If it’s confusing as a sentence, it will be confusing as gameplay.

Yes, but: Add a “but” at the end of the statement to introduce a twist to the concept. The Dark Souls example becomes, “If you rest at a bonfire, then it unlocks a checkpoint… But, it also respawns all the enemies in the area.”

Bottom line: Good game design starts with clear and easy-to-understand concepts.

I started working on a roguelike for the Playdate 🕹️

  • I’ve always loved fantasy consoles and the constraints that come along with designing games for them

🕹️ Game Design Tip: “If the player doesn’t see it, it may not exist.”

Why it matters: If you have something in your game that the player can’t perceive, those areas may not benefit your design.

Learn more: Ep. #236 of the Game Design Round Table with designer Tanya X. Short of Kitfox Games

Doing nothing in games should be meaningful.

Why it matters: In game design, not pushing a button can be just as important as pushing a button. Choosing not to do something should have gameplay consequences.

  • If there’s a benefit to doing something in your game, there should also be a benefit to not doing it. This approach creates tradeoffs. Tradeoffs are one of a player’s most fun decisions in a game.
  • For example: Say you have a treasure chest in your game that the player can destroy to earn a reward; what are some ways to reward them for not destroying it?

    Maybe they could:

  • Gift the chest to an NPC to increase friendship with them
  • Use the chest to climb onto a ledge that’s out of reach
  • The bottom line: You can increase the depth of a single interaction if you consider how the player can benefit from not doing the interaction. 🕹️

    🕹️ Player verbs are gameplay.

    Why it matters: “But what does the player get to do?”

    This is the question I have to ask after most game announcements and trailers.

    The bottom line: Cinematic trailers are not gameplay. Backstory and lore are not gameplay. Beautiful graphics are not gameplay.

    Signs and Feedback are the language of video games.

    The player sees a sign, they provide input, and then receive feedback. Repeat. This loop is the heart of how games create a dialogue with the player.

    Why it matters: Sending clear messages and feedback about the state of the game allows the player to react and make informed choices. This is a critical element to making a game more enjoyable.

    The bigger picture: Creating gameplay that provides clear signs and feedback is more than just crafting a more fun experience. It’s about making a more accessible experience so that more people can enjoy games.

    Deeper dive: If you’re interested in this area of game design, check out GDKey’s excellent article (5 minute read).

    I can finally talk about what I’ve been working on for the last few years! Life By You is an open-world life simulation game coming to Early Access in September 2023. 🕹️

    Design the game, not the player. Let the player’s choices and actions shape their own experience.

    I wish more live service games would embrace this philosophy. 🕹️

    It’s been a relaxing break, but it’s rained quite a bit. So, we decided to go through the Sinister Six campaign. Just got to the final villain.

    Got to check out a penny arcade museum at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco yesterday and it was pretty awesome. However, I did see a bunch of games I used to play as a kid in the museum. So, now I feel old. 🕹️

    🕹️ I’m calling it now: the GOTY will be an action-adventure game, because, if we’re honest, that’s pretty much who wins every year. #TheGameAwards