Game Development Reference
In a way, every game exists already. They're out there, hidden in the logic
of the universe. We don't create them. We find them like a sculptor finds
the statue in a block of marble—not by adding anything, but by taking
away the excess material that obscures the form within.
EVERY GAME MECHANIC HAS a price tag. It costs design effort, since it
must be implemented, tuned, and tested. It costs computing resources
which we could have used somewhere else. It might force changes in the
fiction, or blur the focus of the game's marketing.
Most importantly, however, it costs player attention. Players must
work to understand a game. They have to follow instructions, make mis-
takes, fail, and try again. Some won't be able to, and will leave. Others will
become confused and frustrated.
Players submit themselves to these costs because they want a mean-
ingful experience. Good design means maximizing the emotional power
and variety of play experiences while minimizing players' comprehension
burden and developer effort. This form of efficiency is called elegance .
Elegance from Emergence
The game of checkers has just a few simple rules, but can generate an
endless variety of different games. Some games are long struggles. Others
are quick sweeps. One game might have a remarkable tactical upset, while
another teaches an important lesson. And the price tag for all this? A
few minutes of simple instructions at the start of the first game. That's
elegance: countless powerful, varied experiences generated by a simple,
This level of elegance is impossible in other media. A good screen-
writer can write a line that creates three or four experiences on different
viewings, but a good game designer can create a mechanic that generates
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