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. (more…)

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Why Elegance Matters: The Lifecycle of Games

EmpireHeader Editor's Note: Hello all! Since I'm done with my book and Auro's 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. (more…)

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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!

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Anti-Design Philosophies: Quantity Design

There are a few philosophical positions on game development that are, I would say, "anti-design". In this short series, I will go through a few of them. We'll begin with an article about what I call "the quantity design philosophy". Recently there was a discussion on the Google+ development group for the game Hoplite. The creator, Doug Cowley, is making some improvements to the late-game and asking people for advice. Then, sort of in the middle of the discussion, another game developer chimed in with:

"At some point you'll have to accept that it's impossible to make a perfect game and stop tweaking :) (Also, make more games!)"

This statement really angered me, precisely because it's such a common sentiment in the world of game development these days. Perfect can indeed be the enemy of the good, but really, who's even going for "perfect"? Are any games you've ever played in danger of being "perfect"? Perfect, in this context where a person is simply trying to do the right thing and improve their game, is a strawman. (more…)

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Some 2014 News!

Hello! If you're reading this - hey, thanks for reading my blog! I appreciate it. I'm sorry that I haven't been writing more articles, but as you may or may not know, the reason for that is primarily that I am writing a book! Not my first book, which came out in 2012 - a different book! Let me take you through the things that I've been doing.   New Book - I'll probably write more about it later, but for now, it's a game design textbook. My first book was more of a treatise or something; an overall look at the state of game design, an analysis, and lots of theory. This book, on the other hand, is going to be much more hands-on, direct, and rather than pointing out specific problems, I hope this book gives people the tools to identify problems themselves. Anyway, I'm excited for it.   Auro - Also, I'm burning the midnight oil trying to get Auro together, which should be released at some point this summer. It's really coming along, and I am so, so proud of it. It's the kind of thing where, even if we had released it 6 months ago, I think it would have been one of the strongest single player games ever made. But now the level of polish and tightness is just so high - I really think people are going to love it.   Empire 1.3 - Empire: The Deck-Building Strategy Game (iOS | Android) just released its 1.3 patch, which I had been working on the design for for months. If you haven't given the game a shot yet, now's the time, for sure. It's vastly improved. Monsters now roam around the map wildly, unit production requires you to build new cities, and tiles can be improved (and destroyed by them roaming monsters!)   Reddit - This doesn't really make up for the lack of game design articles, but I do run the official "gamedesign" subreddit - go check it out. Every week (or, roughly every week, at least), I try to write a "weekly design problem", which is like a question about game design in general. It's pretty fun, and gets some decent responses.   Beyond that, you should definitely come by the Dinofarm Forums if you haven't already. I'm there every day working with the Auro beta testers and getting into fights about various stuff. If I have any other big news, I'll be sure to post it here. And I do have 5 or 6 half-written article drafts lying around... perhaps I'll finish and publish one of those soon. Again, thanks for reading.  

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