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  • Gameplay Deconstruction: Elements and Layers

    - Paolo Tajè

  •  Goals and Uses

    A similar tool can be very useful for designers, and can have many purposes.

    GD:EL could be fundamental while prototyping, because it allows to understand in which areas the designer have to operate to improve playing experience. It can be used to evaluate early prototype, or to foresee the consequences of necessary modifications to gameplay in an advanced state of development.

    You can use it, also, to compare games belonging to the same genre, to understand where the real gameplay differences are (if there is any).

    Another possible use is the alteration or elimination of some elements to evaluate repercussions on gameplay. Here are a couple of examples: what if we remove Space Limit element from Tetris? The stack would continue to go up, removing the Survive target and then decreasing Tension; we would have to place a new element against the player in order to balance gameplay. Rotate-90° element could instead suggest us to use blocks rotated by 45 degrees, possibly introducing a different gravity that makes block slide on their diagonal side.

    You surely have noticed that terminology in diagrams tends to be apart from the game considered. It's important to use a common vocabulary to ease understanding of basilar dynamics and elements, which can also be shared by very different games.

    Guiding Principles

    • Ease of communication: many previously suggested methods wanted to introduce an analysis model that would succeed in unifying critics, academics and developers vocabulary. It is clear, however, that their diffusion depends on their actual use; dozens of pages long analysis or definitions will be hardly read by many people. This is why GD:EL adopted a visual diagram, in order to speed up and improve reading.
    • KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid! It's better not to use too many elements: just select those really important. Moreover, you should try to maintain an ordered diagram structure.
    • Openness to modification: this method is completely open to criticism and improvement, both in layer subdivision and in syntax diagram definition. You can give all your suggestion to Bloody Monkey Design.
    • Web 2.0: web 2.0 is a new way to think and live the Internet, as a community opened to everyone contribution. To support this "community" aspect I used to draw the diagrams. is a site that allows you to create all kinds of graphs directly in your browser and then share them with everyone: you can invite collaborators who can freely and safely modify your work (as in a Wiki).


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