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Natural Game Design: How to Birth Games Without Cloning

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Natural Game Design: How to Birth Games Without Cloning

  1. 1. Natural Game Design Creating Games Without Cloning Greg Costikyan gcostikyan@bossfightentertainment. com Casual Connect 2015
  2. 2. As Markets Mature, They Become More Conservative Financial Risk…. Design Risk….
  3. 3. But Cloning is a Mug's Game • Market Leader Has Great Data • They've Tuned Their Game Carefully • They Have a High LTV • You are Competing for the Same Players • Your Customer Acquisition Costs: Sky-High
  4. 4. Genre •“Genre is the name we give to one hit game and its imitators.” •– Dan Scherlis
  5. 5. New Play Patterns Create Hits
  6. 6. Innovative Design High (Potential) Reward High Risk….
  7. 7. Our Usual Methods Don't Innovate •As designers we: • Tweak numbers in spreadsheets • Document stuff • Iteratively Refine. •...none of this will get us there.
  8. 8. Methodologies... •...for blue-ocean innovation.
  9. 9. 1. Agile Design •We pretend to be agile, but… • Set budgets. • Set time frame. • Develop to spec. •Actually, it's waterfall, with a bit of agile frosting.
  10. 10. Stage 1: Find a Novel Core Mechanic Dream up a Core Mechanic Prototype and test Is it fun yet?On to Stage 2! Does it have potential?Yes N o Yes N o
  11. 11. Stage 2: Is the Possibility Space Big Enough? Build more stuff Test (with users!) Are we convinced? On to Stage 3! Does it have potential?Yes N o Yes N o Start Over
  12. 12. Stage 3: Scale Up Staff Up Planning & Preproduction Build this Game!
  13. 13. Basic Rules • Tiny team at start. • Stages 1 & 2 take as long as they take. • Don't be afraid to throw away work. • Gear up only when you've found the fun.
  14. 14. This Seems to be How These Guys Work:
  15. 15. Pros & Cons • Likely to work best for mechanically simple games. • Casual, ahem. • No guarantee of success. • But then… nothing guarantees success
  16. 16. 2. Recombinant Game Design Patterns •“...patterns are simply conventions for describing and documenting recurring design decisions within a given context, be it game design or software engineering.” •– Bernd Kreimeier
  17. 17. Game Design Patterns? • Essentially, mechanics or collections of mechanics/UI/ visual expression. • Staffan Björk & Jussi • Holopainen Jussi was my boss at Nokia.
  18. 18. Games in a Genre • Vary in theme and detail, of course, but • ALL adopt the same game play patterns. • With almost never any deviation.
  19. 19. Real-Time Strategy Patterns • Fog of war • Resource gathering • Building & unit construction • Two or more races/civs/whatever with asymmetric capabilities and differing dominant strategies • Early game build up/end game battle • Speed & interface mastery key to victory
  20. 20. Innovate by…. • Taking play patterns that haven't been used together before and… • Figuring out how to put them together in a way that feels fun.
  21. 21. Spelunky • Platformer • Levels always fixed. • Rogue-like •Levels always algorithmically • generated • Platformer with algorithmically • generated levels • Infinite replayability! Mario Bros. + Rogue =
  22. 22. Portal Quake + weird physics + puzzles = • It's an FPS • Where you don't kill things. • Instead it's all nav puzzles... • With bizarro-word physics • FPS, physics, puzzles: • All well-understood play • patterns. • Never seen together before.
  23. 23. Minecraft • Sandbox world-construction • Typically single player • Survival horror elements • Crafting • A new genre: survival crafting. Second Life + Legos =
  24. 24. Pros & Cons • You're starting with proven mechanics. • We know they work in some context • But not everything works with everything else. • Less whole-cloth innovation than agile design • … but maybe better suited to more complex • games (ahem, midcore). My current game is a mid-core build & battle game that replaces
  25. 25. 3. Trope Inversion • Take one aspect of a genre that everyone knows is core and essential to the form. • Do exactly the opposite. • Defy the common wisdom.
  26. 26. “Player cooperation is essential in tabletop roleplaying.” Paranoia: A light-hearted game of terror, death, bureaucracies, mad scientists, mutants, dangerous weapons, and insane robots, which encourages players to lie to, chat, and backstab each other at every turn. – 2 nd edition backcover copy Maybe not.
  27. 27. “Permadeath in an MMO is Always Bad.” • Die? Start over from level 1, • buster. • The game ends. MMOs • never do that! And then – • it resets. Guess not.
  28. 28. Pros & Cons • It's so simple! • And you're leaving everything else unchanged, pretty much, and you know this play pattern works. • But…. Conventional wisdom exists for a reason. • You may utterly fail.
  29. 29. Get Out of Your Rut • Yes, making games is hard (even without innovation) • Yes, being innovative is hard. • But it's not THAT hard • And there are proven ways to do it. • No more excuses, please. Just do it.
  30. 30. That's Three Ways to Innovate •I'm sure there are more. •“There are four and twenty ways • Of writing tribal lays • And every single one of them is right.” • – Rudyard Kipling
  31. 31. Sadly, you may never get the chance.. Financial Risk…. Design Risk…. Game designers and suits are class enemies, I fear.

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