The First Rule of Game Design

December 28, 2016

It's been a while since my last post, been busy with the day job. But, I really did want to continue this topic because I feels it's the single most important lesson I've learned over the years.

 

There's alot of ego that appears in game development. We create entire worlds, we build the universe and the ways that people can interact in it. We invest our own hearts and souls into every one of our creations in hopes of expressing ourselves, selling copies, and making people happy. Sometimes, we even succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

 

But, there's a risk that comes with this. The belief that it was all OUR power that lead the successes. "I'm a designer, I get paid for this. Therefor, I know more than the rest of you." 

 

This is very dangerous thinking because it ignores the first rule of game design: THE PLAYER IS EVERYTHING.

 

You may have created what you believe to be a brilliant satirical look at the generic FPS. You may have created the ultimate solution to gaming imbalances. You may have created a masterfully work of technological achievement.

 

But if players don't feel the same way, you failed.

 

Players aren't machines and can't be treated like a series of check boxes. No matter how much love you put in, no matter how well crafted your project, no matter how hard you worked... the only thing that matters in the end is how a player feels. 

 

It's about emotion. Messy, illogical, and unpredictable emotions.

 

It's why so many AAA titles can be polished until it's shines like the sun, perfectly crafted to the focus group, and yet flop in the real world.

 

It's why Dark Souls can be technologically messy, clunky to control and designed to be downright mean, yet still earn the love of so many of us.

 

It's why "No Man's Sky" can do the impossible with a full universe to explore, yet still experience the disappointment of millions of players crying out in unison their disappointment.

 

It's why some of our greatest hits of recent days are Flappy Birds and Goat Simulator.

 

Game Design isn't always about games. It's about people.

 

As designers, it's our job to look outside ourselves to the people that play our games. Our choices will influence how they experience our game. How can we craft the right emotions that this game will resonate with the player?

 

How the player feels is everything.

 

Hopefully before vacation is up I'd like to have put together a post on how specific mechanics can be used to create the right emotions. Think of it like a list of ingredients with the situations they can influence.

 

Thanks for reading, and maybe I'll see you next time.

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