6 ways for improving your game design

 

In this post I would like to give you some basic game design concepts to create better games and videogames. This are some of the notes and lesson I’ve learned watching talks and, more importantly, creating my own games. Coming from a programming background I tend to not give the proper importance to game design, so I’ve decided to give it the right importance and to try training myself to use game design concepts more easily, studying and going on depth in more and more aspects.

 

1 – Expand your background

The first advice I can give you is to expand your background, I mean your general knowledge. Since game design involves a creative process, the more things you know, have seen, have touched, have experienced, the more you can pop out ideas. Starting doing new experiences is a good way to start. You can start watching more films you haven’t watched yet, read more books, visit some art expositions, ect…Game design is creative but is also ruled by some essential rules and best practice, so to understand it more you can play different videogames and try to learn from them, for example how the thing works on the same genre of games, how the controls works, progression and so on…

 

2 – Try to give more, not just gameplay

Once you have a good mechanic and your game is fun to play, try to give more than that by creating a world to put the player in, work on immersivity and flow and give the player the right space to breath. The player has to acquire the will to play your game, once again to feel new sensations every time he plays. Giving more than a clear and guided goal but a more complex and variegated set of goals or purpose, can help to create the feel of an infinite play.

 

3 – Remember all types of players

When designing a game, keep in mind to visualize all possible scenario about the type of operation you allow and what the players can do with it. On this matter it is useful to remember yourself all the type of players. There are a lot of different types of players and some famous game designers categorized them in different ways, but the way I like the most is “The four types of players” (link). Try to design a progression that is suitable not for only one genre of player.

 

4 -Tune carefully your challenges

The progression of the players is one of the most important things that are not visible but are there, and the player can feel it very well. I mean the progression can be felt but not directly seen. Its sensation property makes the progression a crucial thing, and for this reason you have to carefully design the player progression, with the right challenges at the right time, and the gathered skills have to keep the mind flow of the player active. And remember this: easy to learn, difficult to master.

 

5 – Social Games

When designing a social game, think at all the tools you give to become social. Probably all of them are communication tools. Every communication tool lets the player use the tool in different ways. If you give too much space, you probably have to face problems of misuse of the tool. In the first place, you have to find the right tool for communication that can avoid misuses and secondly, think a proper way to both punish the misuse and reward the right use, in a fair way.

 

6 – Decide: game or market

A game can be a pure expression of art and technical skills or can be a mere selling product that has to satisfy the market in some specific ways. For me both sides are a little risky to make and they have both pros and cons, but I think that the truth is in the middle, as they say. A good game designer should find a good compromise between art and selling purposes.

 

Game developer & designer. Unity 3D lover. Movie fanatic.

GGJ 2017 Post Mortem

 

Once again I’m going to describe and share my experience at the Global Game Jam in Milan, that was the world’s fourth site in terms of participants in this edition, even if in Italy there was almost 10 sites around the country. I have to renew my thanks to the organization crew of the event that did a really good job for both organization and security matters.

This was my second participation (last postmortem here) and this time I felt to be more prepared than the first time. Logistically I already knew the venue and how the event is structured, so my organization for the event was all ok and smooth. On the site I’ve found a lot of good friends and passionate people  about videogames, willing to share their games and thought about game development, some of them were also very skilled and professional people. Like said, I’m going to analyze my experience on this GGJ, instead of focusing on the game we made.

 

The jam experience

This year I decided to go on the venue in the afternoon. The morning conferences are very interesting but since I had to travel for 3 hours from Trento to Milan, I decided to skip the morning session and rest a little more. Once arrived and registered, I started to walk around and look at some of the games from the guys of the Politecnico. Like the first time, the team building was very random: while walking around, after refusing some interesting offers using Unreal Engine (I don’t use Unreal and I think it’s not a good choice to learn how to use it on a jam), I found a game designer who was searching for a team. Ok, we were in the same situation and we started to search for an artist, and the search was literally 2 seconds long. Then the artist found some sound designers. At that point we needed another programmer and we found one programmer and another one with a game designer badge who joined our team. Our team was good to go and we went to the theme revelation conference (like always, one of the best moment of the jam) and then jumped into the development for the following 48 hours. I have to admit that the spirit and the mood of your jam can drastically change along with the components of your team 🙂

 

What went right

Self wisdom: that was my second GGJ and my third game jam, so I faced all the phases of the development with some extra wisdom, avoiding the common mistakes and the mistakes I’ve done in the past jams, and the fact that I was the only member of my team who already done a game jam, was pretty vital.

Right Idea, very fast: we found some decent ideas for the game pretty fast, with a well-ordered brainstorming. We had the right inputs from the others members, using different phases of brainstorming, and with the right time for each phase we didn’t loose much time or find stucked.

Good rest: This time I decided to schedule the rest during the jam in a proper way. I worked every day to 2am and rest until 7am. Five hours are a good compromise to me, and I didn’t felt exhausted at all.

 

What went wrong

Bad task assignment: As the only one who have already participated to a jam, I had the “privilege” to coordinate and assign tasks to the other two programmers. I started with the first things that came to my mind and assigned them, but on second thought I should have thought to the big picture and assigned tasks for a certain aspect instead of some braided tasks that have almost compromised the project.

Engine issues: In the middle of the jam we encountered a little problem with Unity (the causes are still unknown). There are some project files corrupted that they forced us to waste a lot of time in redoing some tasks. Fortunately they weren’t dramatic, and we solved pretty fast.

 

Tips for the future

My personal tips for future jams are:

  • (again) give more meaningful choices to the player.
  • Think more to different game genres that are suitable for a jam
  • Explore more games from the previous jams to get the feel of them

 

Final result

The final result of all the efforts is Make Babushka Proud (lots of infos here). We are currently working on it to resolve some bugs and maybe publish the game for Android in the Play Store. I leave the time lapse of the “making of” and link for downloading the game on itch.io

Game developer & designer. Unity 3D lover. Movie fanatic.

LD36 Post Mortem

 

With a little delay, I will write a short post-mortem for my first Ludum Dare I’ve ever done.

Preparing for the jam

I live in Italy and August is a “ghost month” since everyone are in vacation… After some unfortunate team searching I decided to partecipate to the compo (which lasts 48 hours) also because the jam was 72 hour long and I had to work until Monday night which was not possible for me. The main rule of the compo is that all the work has to be done by one person, so I jumped in the compo by myself.

Since I was doing all the work, I started to set up my workstation at home and my software environment for coding with Unity, making 2D assets with Gimp, making sound effects with Sfxr and making music with LMMS. Ok ready, all set. Let’s start! The theme? Ancient technology.

 

What went right

It was my first time on doing all the work (programming, art, music & sfx) and I’m pretty happy on how I faced this challenge, but not completely on the final results. The workflow I used was very smooth and I scheduled all the task with meaning. I’ve the opportunity once again to test my skills and expose all the things I’m good at, and also the things I need to work on. After all the experience was very challenging in a good way and I’ve learned new concepts that I can reuse in my future projects.

 

What went wrong

First of all the time, but not the remaining time. I mean the time zone: in this jam everyone starts at the same time regardless of your time zone, and since I live in Europe I started my jam at 3am. So the lack of sleep influenced the rest of the jam for sure.

Secondly the theme was a hard one for me, so I struggled in the beginning for finding an idea, and I end up with using a poor game-logic idea. At some point during the event I thought to quit the jam and rest, I felt really stressed and I wasn’t sure if I was able to continue, but fortunately after a little nap I carried on.

I was recording my screen to do a time lapse (like I did for the last GGJ) but sadly after some hours of work since I thought to quit I stopped the recording and I hadn’t turned on again, so no time-lapse video this time.

 

Tips for the future:

  • Concentrate more on the theme.
  • Try to come up with a game logic that has the theme involved, not just mentioned.
  • Spend more time on choosing the graphic style.
  • Sleep more during the event.

 

Final Result

This time the results of all the efforts was Titus Discovery (ld36 entry). I think I won’t work on new features or bugs, we will see.

 

 

Game developer & designer. Unity 3D lover. Movie fanatic.

GGJ 2016 Post Mortem

 

I’m very pleased and honored to have taken part of this year Global Game Jam in Milan, one of the biggest jam site in the world. I’d like to thank all the participants for creating such an inspiring and creative environment and the organizers, as well, that made a really good job (especially Pier Luca Lanzi) handling almost 400 nerds. This was my very first time on this kind of events and I went pretty prepared, I’ve read lots of articles and tips to face a game jam, and besides all the obvious things, this research was very useful. I’m going to analyze the experience of the jam instead of focalizing on the game we produced, so this is a post mortem of my jam.

 

The jam experience

From my point of view, the team building was very random: I was searching a nice place to eat, (without luck), and I found three nice guys (Mauro, Simone, Emanuele) that were wearing the jam badge that knew a place to eat, a really good one 🙂 So I joined the group and we start knowing each other. Then it was time to form a team and we knew that we were making it together, then we started to search for some illustrators or 2D artists and we found Martina. That’s it, no big deal. 

The execution of the jam itself is one of the most exhausting and pleasant experience at the same time. Non stop working, creativity, joy and challenges are the usual ingredients of the day. 

The best moment for me was the theme revelation: the excitement of that moment is a very good feeling, thinking of all the thousands of people around the world that wait this very moment feeling the same emotions you feel, it’s awesome.

 

What went right

Great team: Everyone in the team was very professional and everyone knew what to do, once the game idea was fixed. From the organization point of view we found each other on the same page using the same tools for programming and producing art (by the way we used Unity engine).

Development Flow: During the development process we listed periodically what were the necessary things to progress and we automatically assigned different tasks to the right persons.

 

What went wrong

Hard Brainstorming: Among all the things I regret, maybe the most important one is the brainstorming phase. We had a lot of struggle brainstorming the first hours of the jam, we couldn’t find the right gameplay mechanics, and in next morning we didn’t have a clear idea yet, deciding very quickly a gameplay idea that could be made in the time we have left.

Repository handling: Another problem we had (especially me and Mauro) was a repository problem. Almost at the end (with all the pressure of the moment) I wasn’t able to push the modification on the shared repository, because there was permission matters and we had to integrate some modifications by hand. We also encountered some difficulties working on the same scene file, because the auto-merging done by the versioning tool messed up the file.

The time (obviously): And last but not least, the timing: lack if sleep and a lot of things to do in so short amount of time can drive you crazy, but we were able to handle it and the final results was satisfying.

 

Tips for the future

My personal tips for future jams are:

  • try to create auto esplicative game design (no tutorial needed)
  • avoid the temptation to create a game merely based on a certain technical requirements that can modify the game design and misinterpret the theme.
  • give meaningful choices to the player.
  • create a game “universe” to put the player into.
  • remember to stay comical and funny 😀

 

Final result

The final result of all the efforts is Temple Saboteur (lots of infos here). Don’t hesitate to test it and to share feedback or advice. We are currently working on it to resolve at least some clamorous bugs.

Game developer & designer. Unity 3D lover. Movie fanatic.