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DESIGN MATTERS

Game Design, Mechanics Building, Narrative Integration, Gameplay Loops, Scoping, Fun

It's easy to play. Everyone plays. Play has no boundaries. It's limitless imagination. Play can pivot instantly. Play is fun.

Not everyone will like a game. Not everyone plays games (at least that they're aware of). Games have boundaries. Games are constrained by rules. Rules can't change easily. Games can be fun.

More importantly, games should be fun.

Designing a game can be tedious, challenging, and laborious, but also incredibly rewarding.

Like most of you reading this, you've grown up playing games, perhaps even making games for others to play. Working on games in primarily in the education sector, I've figured out that what makes a game good is first understanding that learning itself is inherently fun. Kids don't want chocolate (game)-covered broccoli (learning). They just need to see that learning is the chocolate. Educational or not, a good game is one in which you never stop learning. Once you know or have mastered everything, you'll inevitably get bored and want to move on to another game.

A well-designed game, then, is chocolate-covered chocolate.

Everybody likes chocolate. Let's make some chocolate.

Game Design: Welcome

CLIENTS

Game Design: Text

WORLDGAME ENTERTAINMENT

Impartial

C. BURMAN

Altar

J. GARCIA

RPG Template Design

ZELOS AND 
FABIEN

Nox City

DRUNKEN CLAN

Multiple Game Prototypes

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GAMEPLAY AND NARRATIVE DESIGNER

Game Design: Pro Gallery

Grant cares about the big picture in gaming just as much as the minute details, and he was passionate about everything from the home-screen navigation, to the sound design, to the little animations of characters' hair feeling as immersive as possible. His tireless work resulted in a full-feeling, living, breathing world that was as fun to play in as it was to look at and listen to."

Elizabeth Hollingshead, formerly at StrongMind

AN ADVENTURE FOR ALL AGES

Designing a Grown-Up Game for Kids

I grew up on classic LucasArts and Sierra point-and-click adventures (Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, Space Quest, etc.), and making one of my own was always a childhood dream. To kickstart making this dream a reality, I spent a long weekend making a playable prototype I could demo to colleagues to see if I could get any bites. Shortly thereafter, I was presented with the opportunity to make something using this tech to teach 6th graders about viruses. Working with a talented team of creatives (graphic artists, illustrators, animators, and writer) and science experts, we came up with a plan. I just needed to figure out how to make it all work. And design it. And build it in Unity by myself. In 4 months.

 

But we did just that.

With a narrative and dialog (with multiple branching paths and minimal hand-holding) that had kids laughing out loud during playtests, teaching complex objectives in a stealthy way that made the learning fun, and being fully featured and bug-free (even after adding some very outside-the-box mechanics for a game of this type), it was a great success. We even won the Silver award at the 2020 Serious Play Conference on our first big endeavor.

And yes, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

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BEST-LAID PLANS...

...Can Often Go Your Way

Sure, Murphy's Law still applies, but there's no denying that planning is better than winging it, especially when you're making software. If you don't want your game cobbled together with spaghetti code, it helps to follow a recipe. Not one that squashes the creative liberty of an engineer to find new paths forward and write efficient functions, but one that can give them a solid roadmap of gameplay logic to follow. It's always good when your engineers don't have to guess about what your intentions were and correct course later.

That's what a good user flow can do for you, and I've been making these for years. I can take your idea and map it out so that everyone on the team can have a legible map to follow. I use these to play the game in my head long before it's realized in code; they help to root out blind spots and plug holes before you encounter them in playtesting.

If you're having trouble conveying the logic of your game design, or you just need to take your idea and evolve into a game plan, I can help. 

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WIREFRAMES

A UI/UX Guide for Your Graphic Designers

It's not just the software engineers you need to convey your ideas to. Your game needs to function well, yes, but it also needs to look and play well. You achieve this by ensuring an easy-to-grasp user interface and by ensuring all interactions are following good user experience best practices.

A design can be gorgeous, but when art is something to interact with, it also has to make sense. Visual real estate is finite. Placement is important to ensure needed functionality can be accessed exactly when it needs to be, and the design of it should be immediately clear so that results are always as expected.

A good wireframe provides those guidelines for a designer. As an outline, it provides appropriate boundaries, but it's kept generic enough to not stifle an artist's creativity and unique contribution to the product. Just as a user flow can inform one part of the team, the wireframe can inform another. I can help you block out a visual design for your ideas.

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ALL A-BOARD

Board Games and Card Games
and Tabletop Games, Oh My

Some people play board games and RPGs.

 

I devour their rulebooks.

Okay, I play the games too, but for years I've loved just sitting with a good rulebook and studying the mechanics, playing the game out in my mind. Then when I'd get the game to the table, I'd get to see if the rules created a game that was as good as they sounded... or if they fell flat. If they did, I'd get to figure out why.

 

Either way, these rule tomes were a goldmine of brilliant (and sometimes not-so-brilliant) ideas for a game designer. Unlike with video games, the inner workings of a board game are laid bare. It's almost like being able to read the code in the Matrix and interpret its meaning.

I was fortunate to get to use all that knowledge to design my own card game with a talented colleague and pitch it to a publisher--no small feat considering it was for a game with a 100-card deck that would let you create 875,000 unique and interesting combinations that needed to all just work.

Do you need help drafting a rule book? Would your game benefit from a bit of paper prototyping? Let's find a solution that fits your needs!

CONSULTATIONS

In Case You Don't Need All That

You've got this. You know what you're doing. This isn't your first rodeo. But maybe you've hit a particularly tricky situation that's given you a case of designer's block. Maybe an element of your game is functioning exactly how you thought it would, but after playing it, it's just not as fun as you'd hoped it'd be.

Or maybe you are just getting started and want to chat about some game design fundamentals so you can start making progress on the game of your dreams.

Whatever your situation, I'm just a phone/Slack/Zoom/Discord call away. And I have a proven track record of helping designers get unstuck. Fast.

Image by Luke Southern
Game Design: About

 READY TO CONTINUE?

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