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Practical Game Design

Book Description

Design accessible and creative games across genres, platforms, and development realities

About This Book
  • Implement the skills and techniques required to work in a professional studio
  • Ace the core principles and processes of level design, world building, and storytelling
  • Design interactive characters that animate the gaming world
Who This Book Is For

Whether you are a student eager to design a game or a junior game designer looking for your first role as a professional, this book will help you with the fundamentals of game design. By focusing on best practices and a pragmatic approach, Practical Game Design provides insights into the arts and crafts from two senior game designers that will interest more seasoned professionals in the game industry.

What You Will Learn
  • Define the scope and structure of a game project
  • Conceptualize a game idea and present it to others
  • Design gameplay systems and communicate them clearly and thoroughly
  • Build and validate engaging game mechanics
  • Design successful business models and prepare your games for live operations
  • Master the principles behind level design, worldbuilding and storytelling
  • Improve the quality of a game by playtesting and polishing it
In Detail

If you are looking for an up-to-date and highly applicable guide to game design, then you have come to the right place! Immerse yourself in the fundamentals of game design with this book, written by two highly experienced industry professionals to share their profound insights as well as give valuable advice on creating games across genres and development platforms.

Practical Game Design covers the basics of game design one piece at a time. Starting with learning how to conceptualize a game idea and present it to the development team, you will gradually move on to devising a design plan for the whole project and adapting solutions from other games. You will also discover how to produce original game mechanics without relying on existing reference material, and test and eliminate anticipated design risks. You will then design elements that compose the playtime of a game, followed by making game mechanics, content, and interface accessible to all players. You will also find out how to simultaneously ensure that the gameplay mechanics and content are working as intended.

As the book reaches its final chapters, you will learn to wrap up a game ahead of its release date, work through the different challenges of designing free-to-play games, and understand how to significantly improve their quality through iteration, polishing and playtesting.

Style and approach

A practical step by step guide to get you up and running with Game Design from scratch

Downloading the example code for this book You can download the example code files for all Packt books you have purchased from your account at http://www.PacktPub.com. If you purchased this book elsewhere, you can visit http://www.PacktPub.com/support and register to have the files e-mailed directly to you.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Copyright and Credits
    1. Practical Game Design
  3. Packt Upsell
    1. Why subscribe?
    2. PacktPub.com
  4. Contributors
    1. About the authors
    2. About the reviewers
    3. Packt is searching for authors like you
  5. Preface
    1. Who this book is for
    2. What this book covers
    3. To get the most out of this book
      1. Download the color images
      2. Conventions used
    4. Get in touch
      1. Reviews
    5. Disclaimer
  6. Introducing the Game Production Process
    1. Game design roles
      1. Specialization and T-shaping
    2. Development teams
      1. Responsibilities of a game designer
    3. Software development models
      1. Waterfall
      2. Agile
        1. Scrum
    4. Production schedule and milestones
      1. Greenlight gates and vertical slice
      2. Traditional milestone structure
      3. Validation funnel in-game development
      4. Role of a games publisher
    5. Summary
  7. Game Concept
    1. What is a game concept?
      1. The "hook" or "elevator pitch"
      2. Description
      3. Key feature set
        1. Finding your USP
      4. Platform
      5. Audience
        1. Age rating systems
      6. Genre
      7. Business model
    2. Know your competition
    3. The ideation process
      1. Coming up with ideas
      2. Twisting familiar mechanics
      3. Creativity through constraints
      4. Finding the fun
        1. Prototyping
          1. Iteration
      5. Defining the fantasy
        1. Creating the fantasy through game mechanics
      6. The mood, or "how the game looks and feels"
    4. Summary
  8. Scoping a Game Project
    1. Game structure
    2. Game content
      1. Content burn
        1. Avoiding content furnace
        2. Depth and possibility space
        3. Randomization and procedural generation
          1. User-generated content
        4. Managing content treadmill
    3. Common game structures
      1. Linear
      2. Structured nonlinear
      3. Open nonlinear
      4. Endless and sandbox
      5. Notes on structure
    4. Scoping practices
      1. Content lifespan
        1. Real-world examples
          1. Player progression flow
          2. Unlock matrix
      2. Game flow
        1. Example of a menu flow
    5. Planning design work
      1. Estimation techniques
      2. Priorities and dependencies
        1. Start from the middle
    6. Summary
  9. Design Documentation
    1. What is the purpose of a GDD?
    2. Characteristics of a good GDD
      1. It is modular
      2. It starts with goals and requirements
      3. Is the result of a discussion
      4. Is clear, brief, and concise
      5. Is multimedial
      6. It leaves space for creativity and debate
      7. It comes in different formats and sizes
      8. It is online
    3. Tools for writing a GDD
      1. Word processors
      2. Presentations
      3. Mind maps
      4. Spreadsheets
      5. Project management (PM) tools
      6. Wiki
      7. Illustration tools
    4. Writing techniques
      1. Use of style
      2. Layering details
      3. Prioritize
      4. Use of keywords
      5. Table of Contents
      6. Bullet points
      7. Images with captions
      8. Diagrams
      9. Variables
      10. Redundancy
      11. Hyperlinks
      12. Write incrementally by drafting
    5. Elegance in game design
      1. Keep it short and simple (KISS)
      2. The less-is-more principle
    6. Summary
  10. Adaptation of Mechanics
    1. What is a game mechanic?
      1. Examples of game mechanics
        1. Jump!
        2. Shooting and reloading
        3. Action points
        4. List of common game mechanics
      2. Game mechanics interact with each other to develop dynamics
      3. Mechanics and dynamics are part of a feature
    2. Approaching mechanic design
      1. Rules and game mechanics
      2. Mechanics and dynamics produce feedback
    3. Finding the right reference
      1. Deconstructing your references
    4. Additive and subtractive design
    5. Putting it all back together
    6. Summary
  11. Invention of Mechanics
    1. Developing an idea into an experience
      1. New mechanics to solve a problem
      2. New mechanics to innovate
      3. Building a new game mechanic
        1. Bartle's types of players
        2. Lazzaro's types of fun
        3. Shell's taxonomy of game mechanics
          1. Mechanic 1 – space
          2. Mechanic 2 – objects, attributes, and states
          3. Mechanic 3 – actions
          4. Mechanic 4 – rules
          5. Mechanic 5 – skill
          6. Mechanic 6 – chance
    2. Game loops
      1. Game's model and player's mental loops
      2. Interactive loops
        1. Core loops
        2. Extended loops
      3. Designer's loops
    3. Games as systems of conflict
      1. Opponents
      2. Obstacles
      3. Dilemmas
      4. Quality over quantity
      5. More choices, not best choices
      6. Wrapping up the theory
    4. Combat systems
      1. How to design a combat system
        1. Holistic game design
        2. Types of combat system
      2. Combat depth
        1. How to achieve depth
          1. Emergent gameplay
        2. Depth and complexity
          1. Reducing complexity
    5. Teaching game mechanics
      1. How to design a tutorial
      2. Tutorials in Free to Play games
    6. Summary
  12. Prototyping
    1. What is a prototype?
    2. Why a prototype?
    3. Prototyping techniques
      1. Paper prototyping
        1. Advantages of paper prototyping
        2. Limitations of paper prototypes
      2. Digital prototyping
        1. Common prototyping mistakes
          1. The never-ending prototype
          2. Spending time creating systems
          3. Using the prototype as a code-base for the production project
          4. Spending time adding features, art, and effects
          5. Seeking confirmations
    4. A step-by-step guide to prototyping
      1. Prototyping exercise
    5. The hands-on game designer
    6. A paper prototype case-study
      1. Questioning a combat system
      2. Addressing the problem
        1. Asking the right questions – step 1
        2. Selecting the tools – step 2
        3. Creating the rules – step 3
        4. Implementation – step 4
        5. First play – step 5
        6. Iteration – step 6
        7. Final step
    7. From paper to digital
      1. Abstraction versus reality
      2. Moving on
    8. Summary
  13. Games and Stories
    1. Narrative
      1. Do all games have a narrative?
      2. Why are stories good for games?
    2. Traditional narrative models
      1. Three-act story
      2. Monomyths
        1. 17 stages of the hero's journey
          1. Departure
          2. Initiation
          3. Return
    3. Designing narrative for video games
      1. Linear narrative
        1. Linear with extended space of action
      2. Modular narrative
        1. Graph
        2. Open structure
        3. World state
      3. Environmental storytelling
    4. Narrative review process
      1. Step one – Read
      2. Step two – Review
      3. Step three – Analyze
      4. The benefit of narrative review
    5. Summary
  14. Level Design
    1. What is level design?
    2. The level design process
      1. The premise
      2. The sketch
        1. Example – written sketch
        2. Example – imaginary playthrough
          1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (FPS) – Pripyat assassination
      3. Grayboxing
      4. Art implementation
      5. Final polish
    3. Level design and storytelling
    4. Level design practices
      1. Functional level design and realism
      2. Evolving game features
        1. Introduction
        2. Development
        3. Twist
        4. Conclusion
      3. Pacing from day one
      4. Lock and key
      5. Geometry and gameplay
        1. Manipulating space
          1. Height
        2. Emotional significance of exploration
      6. Effects of lighting
      7. Vision as a mechanic
      8. Level design in multiplayer action games
    5. Summary
  15. Characters
    1. Playable characters, NPCs, and enemies
      1. The function of characters
        1. Friend/Assistant
        2. Lover
        3. Mentor
        4. Minions (enemies)
        5. Allies
        6. Boss
        7. Antagonist or the Villain
        8. Hostage
        9. Vendor
        10. Quest Giver
        11. Competitor
    2. Character Statistics
    3. A step by step character design
      1. Acquire a deep knowledge of the game
      2. Write down the design pillars
      3. Write a high concept
      4. Define and balance the stats
        1. Weapon
        2. Abilities
      5. Prototype and iterate
      6. Final implementation
    4. The bad guys
      1. Types of Villains
      2. Types of enemies
        1. Chaser/Aggressor
        2. Patroller
        3. Guard
        4. Shooter
        5. Swarm
        6. Cannon Fodder
        7. Tank
      3. Enemy behaviors and stats
      4. Enemies exist to entertain the player
    5. Diversity
    6. Summary
  16. User Interface and User Experience
    1. User Experience
      1. Player input
        1. Control types
          1. Digital input
          2. Analog input
          3. Complex analog input
          4. Touch screen controls
      2. Camera systems
        1. Camera types
          1. Static
          2. Manual camera
          3. Tracking camera
          4. Compound Camera
        2. Viewing perspectives
          1. First person
          2. Third person
        3. Choosing camera settings
      3. Feedback
    2. Designing UIs
      1. Listing and prioritizing information
      2. UI mockups
        1. Paper sketches
        2. Digital wireframes
        3. Animated and interactive prototypes
      3. UI Tips and Tricks
        1. Choose a fitting state and progress indicator
        2. Consider using notification badges
        3. Match the pop-up with the context
        4. Understand the limitations of tooltips
        5. Consider labeling your UI
        6. Do not reinvent the wheel!
        7. Use movement, contrast, and saturation to grab the user's attention
        8. Request or create a style guide and enforce it
        9. Keep theme and pacing in mind
        10. Confirm risky actions
        11. Count the time and steps to play
        12. Screens differ – often widely
        13. UI placement is a science
    3. Summary
  17. Accessibility
    1. Increasing accessibility
      1. Reducing cognitive load
        1. Avoiding mental challenges with binary outcomes
        2. Limiting initial complexity and interplay between rules
        3. Lowering the knowledge cliffs
      2. Limiting the complexity of interaction
      3. Maintaining visual clarity
      4. Making audio optional
      5. Restricting negative consequences
      6. Building on common knowledge
    2. Teaching game systems
      1. In-game teaching techniques
      2. Teaching outside gameplay
      3. Best practices
        1. Don't kill (with) the messenger
        2. Understand the effects of the training mode
        3. Focus your efforts on innovative and obscure
        4. Pick the right moment to work on tutorials
        5. Make a tutorial plan
        6. Try a 3 step process
        7. Test and iterate
        8. Some things are best left unexplained
    3. Localization
    4. Playtesting
      1. What to playtest?
      2. Playtesting formats
        1. Individual sessions
        2. Group playtesting
        3. Public testing
        4. Remote playtesting solutions
      3. Sourcing candidates
        1. Personal and professional network
        2. Recruited testers
        3. Strangers
      4. Running playtesting sessions
        1. Supervised individual sessions
          1. Session introduction
          2. Playtesting session
          3. Post-session interview
        2. Unsupervised group playtesting
          1. Setting an objective
          2. Gathering feedback
        3. Playtesting questionnaires
    5. Summary
  18. Balancing
    1. Gameplay balancing
      1. Balancing methods and tips
      2. MBT balancing
      3. Layered Modifiers
        1. Tier 1 – Globals sheet
        2. Tier 2 – Character Classes sheet
        3. Tier 3 – Character Archetype sheet
        4. Tier 4 – Character Upgrade Path sheet
        5. Tier 5 – Troop Level Data sheet
        6. Use case summary
    2. Game difficulty
      1. Static difficulty settings
        1. Embracing mono-difficulty
      2. Automatic difficulty adjustment
        1. Rubberbanding
        2. Multiplayer matchmaking
        3. Progression-driven difficulty
    3. Pacing
      1. Mental and sensory stimulation
      2. How to approach pacing
        1. Pacing linear content
        2. Pacing via rules and mechanics
        3. Pacing tips
          1. Investigating actor removal
          2. High-intensity and storytelling
          3. Multiplayer pacing and level design
          4. Utilizing threat and anxiety
    4. Summary
  19. The Final 10%
    1. Putting the pieces together
      1. Feature creep
        1. Less is more
    2. Polish
      1. How to polish
        1. Stability and performance
          1. Perceived performance
        2. Audio and visual
        3. Design polish
          1. Play
          2. Talk
    3. Quality assurance
      1. Game designers and QA
    4. Tips for closing a game project
    5. Summary
  20. Games As a Service
    1. Terms of engagement
      1. Basic stats
      2. Marketing and analytics
      3. Economy and balancing
    2. Basics of Free to Play monetization
      1. Vectors of monetization
        1. Time
        2. Difficulty
        3. Playable content
        4. Non-playable content
      2. Establishing a game economy
        1. Adjusting the monetization strategy
        2. Balancing player progression
          1. Example – Planetside 2
        3. Gacha
          1. Pillar 1 – Quantity and quality
          2. Pillar 2 – Player capacity
          3. Pillar 3 – Desirability
          4. Pillar 4 – Sustainability
          5. Pillar 5 – Duplicate handling
          6. Weight-based loot tables
          7. Packaging and opening
          8. Maintaining consistency
          9. Kompu gacha
          10. Box gacha
        4. Bundles and targeting
          1. Utilizing EV in bundle creation
          2. Adjusting your offering based on individual player spending
        5. Purchase rationalization
          1. Evaluate your audience!
          2. Players have limited budgets
    3. Live operations
      1. Staffing
        1. Efficient live ops
      2. Live-game balancing
      3. Planning
        1. Live ops calendar
        2. Release cadence
      4. Tools and setup
      5. Events
        1. Event classification
        2. Event components
          1. Totalizers
          2. Prestiging totalizers
          3. Scored leaderboards
          4. Knockout
        3. Event rewards
        4. Event participation and engagement
        5. Event intensity and player burndown
      6. Community and customer support
    4. Tips and tricks
    5. Summary
  21. Other Books You May Enjoy
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