One of the most important decisions you will make when designing a game is what type of gameplay to focus on. A card game, for example, should have a strong emphasis on strategy and speed. On the other hand, FPS games should have an emphasis on accuracy and reflexes. This list goes on and on! In order to design your perfect game, it’s important to think about what kind of gameplay you want your players to enjoy the most! So if you’re into gameplay mechanics, keep reading!
The basic fundamentals of gameplay design
There are many different types of gameplay design, but we’ll focus on the most basic ones used by aspiring game designers. First, there’s the focus on the player’s actual strategy. This type of game design is often seen in board games and puzzle games. In these types of games, the player has to think ahead and plan their moves carefully in order to win. The game rules are an important part of the design process here.
Then, there’s the focus on the player’s speed. This type of game design is often seen in arcade and platform games. In these types of games, the player has to be quick on their feet and react quickly to survive in order to achieve a winning condition.
Finally, there’s the focus on the player’s skills in combining the two. This type of design is often seen in FPS (first person shooters). Both the player’s strategic decision as well as the player’s ability to master his video game mechanics are required to play the game at a high level.
These basic different elements of game design can be used to create the different types of popular gameplay mechanics in your average game world.
The gameplay mechanics of different popular genres
Now that we know about the different types of gameplay design, let’s take a look at some popular game genres of the past decade and see which mechanics they use.
First up is the card game genre. Card games usually focus on the player’s strategy, as mentioned before. This type of game often requires careful planning and thinking ahead in order to win. Puzzle games, like Tetris, also focus on the player’s strategy with the respective game pieces. However, they add in a time limit so that players have to think quickly as well for increased difficulty.
Next up is the arcade game genre. Arcade games focus on the player’s speed and reflexes. This type of game often has a high difficulty level so that players have to react quickly in order to survive. Platform games, like Mario, also focus on the player’s speed. They do this by having levels that require fast reflexes in order to complete.
Another more advanced style of game is the RTS game (real-time strategy). These games focus on both the player’s speed and skills in combining both of the previous gameplay mechanics. This type of game requires players to plan far ahead while forcing them to react quickly. Games like Starcraft are perfect examples of this.
Finally, there’s the FPS genre. These also focus on the player’s skills in combining both strategy and speed into their gameplay. The popular Call of Duty franchise is one example of an FPS that is notorious for being a ‘mindless shooter game’. Some would argue that speed is much more important than strategy in these types of games, at least when comparing them to RTS games.
Ways to spice up your Gameplay Mechanics
There are many ways to spice up your game mechanics, but we’ll focus on the most basic ones. First, you can add in a time limit. This will make the player have to think quickly and react quickly in order to survive various game modes.
Second, you can add in a difficulty level. This will make the player have to react quickly and think quickly in order to pass the level. Difficulty increases can come in the form of tougher / smarter AI opponents or simply less game resources to work with. Another way to boost difficulty is to make it more complex, by combining even more game elements such as resource management and other game mechanics.
Third, you can add in a combo system. This will make the player have to think quickly and react quickly in order to get a high score. This type of game world rewards skilful players.
Finally, perhaps the best way of all – many games have a universal leaderboard where players can compete to be the best of the best in their respective game world. Famous examples of highly competitive games are League of Legends & Starcraft where players who make it to the rank of Grandmaster can often compete in tournaments for huge money prizes.
The Starcraft game’s mechanics are often considered one of the most difficult to master of all multiplayer games. A true game master of Starcraft needs to have an extremely high APM (actions per minute – mouse / keyboard inputs) while constantly making the correct strategic decision inside of the game world.
Have rewarding game goals & game mechanics
Be it party games with multiple players or even gambling games, if there’s not way to let meaningful decisions reach a rewarding goal than there is not much point in playing. The game mechanism in video games needs to reward critical evaluation skills in order to stack the playing field in the favour of smart players.
Playing a game can have different forms of goals. Is it a mindless game to appease boredom where you stack up the in game currency as much as possible and that’s it? Well then you won’t have to think about the game storyline and game’s rules all too much.
If you’re looking to get into action games then it becomes a steeper learning process. You can choose between a game with brainless core elements (just shoot & nothing else) or you can add other elements such as (don’t shoot person X, Y, maybe shoot Z). A designer creates a formal structure where players play with the game world they’re given, to figure out for themselves what needs to happen.
A good game designer doesn’t need to tell the player how to play the game. Whatever action points are ahead of the players will help guide them without the need for a dialogue from the game designers. Winning conditions must feel natural and not forced in nature. If you need an educational tool to help explain your game, it sucks!
The game determines how the player acts, any potential new abilities must also make sense to how you play the game. To sum it up, a game can’t be rewarding without taking in mind the game context.
So what did we learn today?
Becoming a game designer is all about balancing different game elements to create an enjoyable experience for the player. If you focus too much on one aspect, like speed, then the game may feel too rushed and players won’t have time to think. Alternatively, if a game designer focuses too much on strategy, then the game might be too slow and boring. It’s important to find the right balance for your specific game types in order to keep players engaged.
Engagement is the key to good game design, role playing games are highly specialised in this as they focus so much on character development. Your typical board game is also an inspiration for video game design. Game design fundamentals are universal, whether you are a game developer working on computer game systems or you prefer real life game playing.
Nothing works without a rewarding player interaction, so take these core concepts and design your game content around these basic elements and you’ll be making serious games in no time!