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. 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 the education sector, I've figured out that what makes a game good is if understands 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.
A well-designed game, then, is chocolate-covered chocolate.
Everybody likes chocolate. Let's make some chocolate.
RPG Template Design
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 has long been a life goal. To kickstart this, 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 the opportunity to make something using this tech to teach 6th graders about viruses. Working with a talented team of creatives (graphic artists, illustrators, and animators) 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. And 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 full-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.
It was some of the hardest work I'd ever done. And the most fun. And I'd do it again
in a heartbeat.
...Can Often Go Your Way
Yes, Murphy's Law still applies, but there's no denying that planning is better than winging it, especially when you're in the software world. If you don't want your game to be written with spaghetti code, it helps to be following 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 programmers don't have to guess about what your intentions were and course correct 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 even use these to "play" a game in my head; 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.
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 they need to be, and the design of it should be immediately clear so that the results are 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 the 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 our ideas.
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 were as good as they sounded or if they fell flat. That's fine; I'd just get to figure out why for my own edification.
Either way, they were a gold mine 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 meeting.
I was able to use all that knowledge to design my own card game with a talented friend and pitch it to a publisher. It was no small feat creating a game with a 100-card deck that would let you create 875,000 unique and interesting combinations that
all still 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!
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 thought it'd be.
Or maybe you are just getting started and just 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 call away. And I have a proven track record of helping designers get unstuck fast.