Game Development Reference
If a game fits the conventions of a genre, use the genre-standard con-
trol scheme. In a game without nuanced fiction, give the villain a pointy
moustache and let him twirl it so that everyone knows immediately who
he is. Include nothing unique without good reason, because unique things
take extra effort to understand.
Everyone wants to break ground and express creativity. But creating
new conventions doesn't just cost the designer—it also costs players. If
we're going to do it, we have to make sure we're doing it where it's worth
the price, not arbitrarily changing a perfectly good convention for no
reason. Real originality does not come from changing the surface details.
It comes from changing the fundamentals.
Even very original designs are often combinations of preexisting ideas,
so even an original game can benefit greatly by using commonly under-
stood symbols and interfaces to communicate its unique content.
Mechanics that work on a similar scale as existing mechanics smell like
Consider a game where the player alternates between controlling an
action hero on foot and piloting a fighter jet. This variation may be refresh-
ing, but it comes at a price because it splits the game into two clusters of
mechanics with little interaction between them.
When the hero is on the ground, it matters where enemy soldiers run.
An enemy who runs 10 feet to the left may be vulnerable in the open, while
one who runs 10 feet to the right may be hidden behind a wall. But in the
jet, such on-foot movement is meaningless. A 1,000-pound bomb will kill
a soldier whether he runs left, runs right, or hides behind a crate. Walls
and buildings don't matter since they all get flattened by the explosion.
This means that when the player is in the jet, the soldier's on-foot
movement is meaningless. All the effort the designers put into imple-
menting it and all the mindspace the player devoted to understanding
it is worthless. The costs have been paid, but the benefits are not being
The scale gap between the jet and on-foot sections is so large that the
game is essentially two separate games in one box. You can switch back
and forth between the two modes, but they never come together into an in-
tegrated system. When the player is in one mode, all the complexity in the
other mode is wasted because the scales are so different. That's inelegant.
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