Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Salvation - Focusing on the Design

As I mentioned on my tweetar I'm currently reading through The Art of Game Design a Book of Lenses. I am realising more and more that my design experience is pretty much 100% from a software engineering background. I think of things in a pretty binary way. This needs to do this, then it'll work.

Trying to design fun is a pretty tricky thing to do. I have always been pretty opinionated about designers and how they think but the more I look into it the more I see just how important their way of thinking really is. And how difficult it can be to get right. I often scoffed at having to waste time thinking about stuff like Lore, Backstory, whether a specific mechanic was fun. As long as it worked efficiently and correctly it was fine.

It wasn't until I played through my game a few times that I started to realise it was lacking something. I am still not sure that this something is or if it consists of a bunch of missing elements. As such I am trying to get to grips with game design in a more formal sense. Seeing as how I am stepping back from the GUI stuff for the moment, I am using my current build and applying things I am learning from this design book.

I am already realising a lot of things I have not been keeping in mind. Additionally I have seen a lot of stuff I just did, to actually be a technique in games design. Being able to read up on new things and improve upon what I've been doing bad/well is a great help at the minute. Especially for morale :P

So my current plan is to spend at least this week reading through the book and applying what I learn to my current build. I want to expand the games functionality. I want to add more mechanics and assets to the game and start working on the technical side of the art style. To do this, it's no longer sufficient to just go "a spaceship .. just cause they are awesome!" This is fine in the short term of a basic game or prototype, but a bigger game will require some planning and forethought.

I'm hoping that by doing this, once I start putting in the mechanics they'll make sense and be fun. I'm hoping to start doing this asap so that I can get some people to play test my prototypes. To see what works and what doesn't work so well.

I also hope to have a solid picture of what I want the game to be once it's complete. Right now I have been winging it design wise. As long as I could build buildings and have people live in them I was happy. But now that I have hit a complicated design area I am a bit out of my depth.

The design I'm currently thinking over are the buildings my game will use / currently uses. Many city building games that I have played use many different types of buildings. All these many types of buildings are built, for a reason. This reason is normally to house your inhabitants/feed them/keep them happy/make money/trade etc. 

These elements never seem to be very large when compared to the number of ways to achieve them. Meaning that the player has a multitude of (fun) ways to achieve their goal (of having a trade income of X or entertainment value of Y for example). The goal objectives are limited, as to not make things to complicated and overwhelming. Therefore, from what I have seen, the buildings available to a player in a city building/grand strategy game, will always be more than the end goals the player can achieve with these buildings.

This can become an issue, as in some games there are so many buildings, requiring so much micro management, that the player becomes overwhelmed. Giving the player a lot of choice is not always a smart move. So finding a balance is important.

Not only is a balance important, but having buildings work in a fun way is just as important. Especially for Salvation as buildings are pretty much a core feature. I'll have to achieve this by minimising micromanagement but still have it present. And using my buildings or building space in an interesting way. As I said before, I have to try and model a fun gameplay mechanic. I can model and code a gameplay mechanic that functions well, but what will make it fun and to whom is something I am struggling with. Hence the reading.

Anyhow, lunch is over and it's work time again.
Thanks for reading!

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