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  • The Game Design Process

    - Game Design Ed
  • [Game Design Ed is an online resource that collects game design hints, strategies, and solutions and distributes them to followers via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Here, Ed outlines his personal game design process, to inspire anyone looking for advice in the field of game creation. Check out more of Ed's tips at Backyard Game Design.]

    When you're designing a game, you are designing a complex system, so you'll want a series of steps called a process to help you build up and improve upon ideas as you create and improve that system.

    What is your game design process?

    When you're designing a game, you are designing a complex system, so you'll want a series of steps called a process to help you build up and improve upon ideas as you create and improve that system.

    So I'll share my game design process.

    My game design process includes 6 stages - capture, brainstorm, prototype, playtest, iterate, and implement.

    These stages aren't necessary consecutive, different stages can occur simultaneously, and stages can be repeated.

    The best example of this involves the prototype, playtest, and iterate stages, which generally form a cycle that is repeated multiple times as the game is iterated upon and improved.

    Let's look at the 6 stages of my game design process in turn.  

    1. CAPTURE

    My game design process begins with the on-going practice of capturing artifacts.

    This is the stage of research. And you need to research a wide variety of fields: art, philosophy, rhetoric, marketing, mythology, literature, poetry, music, psychology, sociology, technology, economics, history... and anything else that can be combined to create a new and innovative experience.

    You need to know a little about a lot of different subjects... the world is your classroom. So get out there and learn!

    Sure, this includes playing games, but so much more:

    Identifying the mechanics and how they balance with each other and connect to the theme and how it motivates the player, and incentivizes continued engagement...

    It's not just playing games, it's studying them!

    Seeing what's going on in games and knowing how other people have handled things in their games and being able to discern when you should use what others have done and not unnecessarily reinvent the wheel or when you could improve upon what they've done and knowing how to improve.

    So this stage is a lot of research and study and inspiration. And you need a way to keep track of all this stuff.

    If you have a great memory, great!

    But if you're like me (and probably most other people), you don't. So you'll need to find a way to record all this knowledge for later use. I have notebooks full of my research, ideas, and inspiration.

    How do you capture artifacts?


    Brainstorming is the stage of the process where you take all of those artifacts you've captured and combine them in new ways to come up with innovative ideas.

    Brainstorming starts with wild ideation. Combining artifacts and coming up with some crazy ideas.

    However, it's not all out of the box thinking. As the brainstorming stage continues, you have to start introducing limits and constraints because games have limits - whether it's a limit of space or time or technology or money or culture or the norms of the game that supply reasons for not doing certain things you are physically capable of doing or whatever...  

    Brainstorming isn't all just coming up with out of the box, crazy ideas without limits.

    It isn't just letting your mind run free.

    Sure, that's part of it, but it's only the beginning.

    You need to subject your ideas to limits and constraints, make them sweat, see how they manage, and this is when you come up with the best ideas.


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