Randomness and Game Design

For thousands of years, we’ve relied on randomness of various kinds to help our interactive systems work. While there will always be a place for randomness of all sorts in some kinds of interactive systems, I believe the current assumptions with regard to randomness in strategy games are largely wrong.

The major point I’d like to make is that noise injected between a player’s choice and the result (here referred to as output randomness) does not belong in a strategy game.

dice

What is “randomness”?

For the purposes of this article, randomness refers to “information that enters the game state which is not supposed to ever be predictable.” The process by which random information is generated is designed to be something that humans can never figure out. Classic examples of random systems are rolling dice, shuffling cards, or random number generators. Continue reading

Why Elegance Matters: The Lifecycle of Games

EmpireHeader

Editor’s Note: Hello all! Since I’m done with my book and Auros finally out, I can get back to writing game design articles, and I’ve currently got a few in the pipeline. Today, however, I have a great guest article from Fabian Fischer. Fabian has a German-language game design blog of his own over at Nachtfischer’s Ludokultur. Enjoy!

Many modern videogames are content-based. They can be “beaten” or “completed” and have, once started, a more or less strictly defined “expiration date”. Some tell a linear story, others provide a set number of pre-built levels. What they all have in common is that their lifecycle, the period of time during which they are able to provide “fun” or value to the player, is directly dependent on the amount of content included. Once the player literally “sees it all”, there’s no more enjoyment to be had and it’s time to buy the next title. But on the other end of the spectrum, there are systemically complex games of strategic decision-making, which are usually much more replayable and therefore tend to follow a match structure: You win or lose and then play again. But even these games are not infinitely interesting. It’s just that the player determines when they stop providing value and then decides to stop playing. The following article takes a closer look at this decision-making process and the involved factors, making a case for elegance, depth and efficiency in game design. Continue reading

Site Redesign

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on redesigning my site, for a few reasons. One, I finished my second book – Clockwork Game Design – and I am changing the visual design of this site to reflect that of the book (hence the black gears around the place). What you’re seeing now isn’t necessarily final, and there are probably still bugs, but let me know what you think overall.

One of the coolest things is an idea I got from David Sirlin’s site. For a long time I’ve wanted a way to show all my best articles in a more digestible format than just some giant list. What Sirlin did was put them into a nice grid. I’ve done pretty much the same thing. Tap on “Design Articles” above to check it out (or click here).

I’ve also gone back to many of my old articles and improved them a bit; I’ll continue doing that in the future. Your article is your baby! I’ll also take some offline when they’re no longer relevant or are covered by another newer article.

As to the book: it’s scheduled for release sometime in early 2015, but I’ll certainly have more information soon!

Comments: I’ve now re-enabled comments. It was too much of a pain to use the Dinofarm Games forums for discussions. Bring on the comments!

Auro is out!

Hey – remember that game Auro that I’ve been working on since… God, 2010? It came out the other day, on Android. I’ll be writing a big article about its game design and why it’s so special soon. I am really, really proud of this game, and I just can’t wait to hear what people think of it.

play store screen 1

 

The game will be coming out on iOS and PC pretty soon too, so keep an eye out for that stuff.

In the meantime, Android users, go play it now!

Weekly Design Problems Complete List

Here is the complete list of Weekly Design Problems on the reddit/r/gamedesign subreddit (which I moderate). Note that I haven’t had time to do one every single week since it started, although most weeks I do. Some good discussion in many of the threads, so it seems worth documenting. I will of course continue to add the problems to this list as they get created. Enjoy!

Continue reading