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  • Gameplay Deconstruction: Elements and Layers

    - Paolo Tajè

  •  Definitions and Layers

    From a strictly ludological point of view, gameplay can be defined as a set of relationships, present in a game, that show themselves by means of interaction. Clarifying different game elements and their relationships can help to grasp a fluid idea like gameplay.

    Let's describe our six different layers, from the lowest to the highest.

    Layer 0: TOKEN
    Layer number zero spots every game element or entity that modifies its state after player input or that has a remarkable role on gameplay: e.g. player's avatar, enemies, various bonuses...

    Layer 1: PROP
    This layer contains fundamental properties elements, i.e. limitations or opportunities directly or indirectly connected to game tokens. Game input is represented in rectangles.

    Terms, as we are describing properties, should be nouns or adjectives.

    Layer 2: DYN
    Game dynamics are those actions that give life to gameplay in the course of time through interaction. Terms in this layer should be essentially verbs.

    It's not difficult to figure out if a certain element belongs to one of the previous layers; you have to evaluate if its modification or exclusion has a considerable effect on gameplay.

    Layer 3: GOAL
    The third layer describes impulses driving the player to behave in a certain way within the game. These elements can often be connected to verbs in DYN layer.

    Layer 4: META
    Some parts of a videogame are outside of the game itself, but they affect gaming experience, and consequently gameplay. Examples are subdivision in levels, or the use of lives to justify a limited number of trials.

    Layer 5: PSYCHO
    The last layer lists the desirable emotional responses of the player (all the different emotions, impulses, feelings, which are part of the game experience) and tries to connect them with the various sub-layer elements.

    In order to simplify their reading, the diagrams can be divided vertically in sectors according to the elements theme. Dashed arrows can link elements belonging to different sectors. If a sector can be considered as primary, it should be in the leftmost part of the diagram.

    Now two example analysis follow, respectively about Pac-Man and Tetris; I recall that this technique doesn't have to fully describe every element o rule composing the game, but only to understand which of them are fundamental to gameplay.


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