Game Development Reference
Only after this foundation is solid and certain do we need to add some-
thing else to the stack. Now is the time to open the design backlog, choose
something that looks right, and add it to the design, on the top of the stack.
We'll be well equipped for this choice because we will know with certainty
what we're basing it on.
After that, it's just a matter of repeating the process through more
iteration loops. Every time the design solidifies, we rummage through the
backlog, pull out another piece, and place it on top. Every time we have a
new idea, we write it into the backlog and forget about it until later. Most
of the backlog will never be implemented. That's fine—it means that the
parts we do use are probably very good. And the design grows upward, one
solidified piece at a time.
Of the 22 elements in the Fantasy Castle design, I chose to put all but three
in the design backlog. But notice that we could still make an emotionally
meaningful game with only characters , construction , and farming . Those
three pieces by themselves would form a very minimal but playable game,
because these three subsystems form Fantasy Castle 's core gameplay .
CORE GAMEPLAY is what emerges from the irreducible mechanics of a
game at the bottom of its dependency stack. Remove everything that
can be removed without making a game emotionally worthless, and
what's left is core gameplay.
Try this exercise. Think of a game that you know well. Now cut some-
thing from its design. Now cut something else, and something else, and so
on. Keep cutting until the game no longer creates a meaningful experience
at all—until it just becomes a trivial and uninteresting piece of software.
Reverse your last cut. What you've got is the game's core gameplay—the
minimum set of mechanics that make the game work.
If you chose a modern video game, you could probably cut 95% of the
game or more, including almost all the content, most interfaces, and most
controls. If you chose a classic game or a board game, you could probably
cut much less. It's hard to see how one could reduce checkers and have
it remain functional. But even chess can be sliced down—remove every-
thing but pawns and the game still works.
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