Tuesday, February 17, 2009


From time to time I’m asked how we go about designing and developing games. After all, a game is like any other creative project, there isn’t an objective doneness to it. A game’s doneness is entirely feel-based. There is always something that can be added, removed, or changed.

A game starts with me putting together an initial design. Holly and I then sit down to play. Rarely does a game survive the first player turn, before huge problems are found. We talk about it and try to figure out how to keep the good while fixing the bad. Holly is great at dissecting a design.

This repeats dozens of times. An important point to mention is that a game’s design is not linear. At many points in the process, the design gets scrapped and a new design is started. I use the term scrapped intentionally, because we don’t just throw out the old design, but we carefully examine it to find the good, which gets transplanted into the new design.

Game designs evolve both evolutionarily and through random mutation. In many cases you can see how one version leads to the next, but sometimes there is a huge gap between one version and the next.

Anyway, we work on a game until it is “good”. Then we keep working on it until it is “great”. And finally, we keep working until it is “obvious”.

By “obvious,” I mean that when we show the game to a new person they look at the design and say, “Well of course that’s how the game works, it’s obvious that’s the best to have designed it.”

Although it’s completely subjective, it’s obvious when we’re done with a design.

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