Game Development Reference
People trying to understand games often compare entire games to
each other and try to pick out how their differences affect play. But it's hard
to find design principles this way. There are so many differences between
the games that it's impossible to isolate the effects of any single one.
Better learning comes from inspecting the effects of tiny changes.
The designer watches three people play a game, and observes the patterns
in their experiences. He sees them understand certain things but not
others, take certain actions, remember certain events. Then the designer
changes one variable in the design. With the next three testers, he watches
the experience change in some specific way—one new idea understood
or lost, one memory gained or erased. The designer learns that their one
small change caused that one characteristic effect.
And that effect will be consistent. Amateurs think games are mysti-
cally incomprehensible; professionals have watched the repeatable effects
of isolated changes enough to know that games are rational systems like
any other. While the experience of play can be magical, the mechanisms
behind that experience are not. Let's take a look under the hood.
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