Game Development Reference
out its own small market space by pushing a single, unique value into the
stratosphere. And after half a decade of owning its own market segment
almost unchallenged, Garry's Mod had sold more than a million copies.
Even at $5 to $10 apiece, that's not bad for a game made by one person.
Looking at a list of successful small games, we find that almost all
of them focus relentlessly on one or two values that are underserved by
bigger games. Their value curves look like tall, narrow spikes. Here's a list
of some of them:
Primary market value
Secondary market value
Charming characters and
retro game references
Hardcore tactical FPS
Creative world building
Platformer puzzle solving
Wild beat 'em up
Funny cartoon art style
When we look at failed games, we find the opposite: short, wide value
curves resembling tree stumps, without a single value rising above the
competition. These games are merely mediocre versions of a big-budget
game. Such a game has no reason to exist, and players have no reason to
play it, because they can get their fix better elsewhere.
Usually, stump-shaped value curves are the result of naïve overambi-
tion. A designer sees another game he likes, and decides he wants to do
the same thing, but better. But without superior development resources,
he is almost guaranteed to fail. He spreads himself too thin and ultimately
produces no unique value at all.
I have made this mistake myself. During my hobby game design days,
I created a modification called Elemental Conflict. . My plan was to create an
amped-up, futuristic version of the tremendously popular Counter-Strike .
So I kept the same round and team structure, economy, and hardcore
weapon balance as Counter-Strike . I tried to differentiate the game using
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