Designing A Better Game: Part 1
Here’s a little secret: game designers are human. Intelligent, creative, and persistent, but still human.
And so are you.
Why point out our common humanity? Because it’s easy to forget that we share the ability to design a fantastic game. We’ve played games for years; you and I are chock full of ideas born from bad and good gaming experiences.
It’s high time we go beyond nitpicking or praising games on forums and websites and start creating our own.
It’s time to design a great game.
Let’s start with a genre. My favorite genre by far is Role Playing Games. I grew up on a steady diet of Japanese RPGs dating back to the NES. RPGs give much more than their asking price: $60 for 100 hours of story and gameplay? Yes please.
After writing a recent article “What if Mario Was A Girl?” I thought about the effect that small changes can have on our gaming experience. RPGs could use a few changes of their own: some stereotypes and clichés that exist in the genre need to die. To zero in on what we do want in our great game, let’s focus first on what we don’t want to include.
Three Role-Playing Design Anathemas (Anathema= something or someone you really dislike; just so we’re all on the same page)
Anathema #1: Killing vermin
Spiders. Rats. Bats. Blobs. I’m not sure when this phenomenon first started, but vermin of all kinds have become the norm in most RPGs, Eastern and Western. I’ve never had an exciting battle with any of these enemy types; they seem like a lazy safety net especially at the beginning of an RPG. But these are not enemies worthy of a hero.
Let’s do away with vermin and come up with better alternatives.
Anathema #2: Heroes motivated by destroyed villages/murdered family
Every hero needs a motivation; otherwise, why journey out into the world? Something has to disrupt his life. Too many RPGs have destroyed villages and murdered families to push our heroes out of their comfortable lives. I understand how easy that makes it for our character to move forward but at this point, it’s tired.
Will we just complain about it? No, sir. We’ll create a few good motivations too.
Anathema #3: Reused enemy models
One orc, two orc, red orc, blue orc. I’m sure we’ve all groaned and died a little when we fought the same enemy at level 1 as we did at level 25, except with a different color or haircut. Most RPGs are set in expansive, original worlds with their own geographies and cultures. Using only a handful of enemy skins limits an otherwise infinite world of imagination.
We’ll make a stand and create unique enemies that are available only in specific parts of our world. I personally have an even more ambitious idea for enemy types, but that will have to wait until another part of our game design.
We’ve established what we don’t want in our great game, so what we’re striving for is clearer:
• Worthy enemies
• Compelling and original motivations, and
• Unique enemies
As we design our RPG, we’ll develop each idea above in detail.
In the next part, we’ll discuss one of the most important aspects of our game: our goal. Having a clear goal for our game will make it easier to work backwards and plan each component precisely.
But this is a collaborative effort, so contribute your thoughts below. What do you NOT want to see in your dream game?