Game Development Reference
SINCE THE START OF modern game design in the 1970s, designers have
learned a tremendous amount. But this knowledge is spread among a thou-
sand designers in a hundred studios. One studio has mastered branching
narratives, while another can perfectly balance strategy games, and a third
makes games soaked in atmosphere. This part of the topic aims to link
this disparate knowledge into a teachable set of design principles.
There is no one great theory of game design because every design
decision has many different consequences. Adding a tutorial character
may make the game easier to pick up, but harder to implement and less
fictionally coherent. Adding art might make the game more beautiful but
encourage wrong player choices. These multiple consequences demand
multiple explanations. That's why this part of the topic covers many differ-
ent design viewpoints, none of which are supreme. Each viewpoint helps
us understand a different aspect of a problem.
Game design cannot be learned from a topic. It requires experience.
The ideas written here are just a framework. To be useful in making
design decisions, they must be filled in by experience. You need to push
ideas too far and too short. You must watch different designs succeed and
fail in a hundred ways. These kinds of reference experiences give you
calibration. They give that intuitive sense of when each idea in your game
design framework becomes important, and to what degree.
But not just any experience will do when learning game design.
The best game design learning comes from observing the effects of
small, isolated changes to a game.
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