teaching machines

Literati – Challenges for Game Designers

“Challenges for Game Designers” is a game design book by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber. It is a lot like the book we read for class, “The Art of Game Design”, in that it spends a long time on describing and explaining the process of game design to beginning game designers. The first chapter lists a handful of terms that deal with game design, and attempts to define them in a general way. It also goes through different techniques and processes used in creating games, and a few hints on how to do it.

 

Chapter two focuses on explaining the different areas of expertise required for game design, and what parts of a game they create. Each chapter in this book actively involves the reader in game design by giving them a number of challenges to solve. In this chapter, for example, the reader is given a theme or gameplay mechanic and instructed to design a game around that specification.

 

In chapter three, the authors talk about different kinds of puzzles, defining and explaining them, and relating them to game design. It also briefly discusses level design, and how mind games and logic puzzles are used in creating levels that are interesting to play.

 

The next few chapters each deals with a different, unrelated topic, including converting digital games to physical games, the role chance plays in games, and the types of decisions a player can make. They are all very short, only a few pages each, before their usual Challenges section. I could not find very much useful information in these couple of chapters; a lot of the material they presented was common sense, or just explaining the different topics, and not really giving any help to an aspiring game designer.

 

Chapters 7 and 8 had topics very similar to the book we read for class: they discussed different types of skills, including strategic skill and what they defined as “twitch” skill, or the ability of the player to play the game. They also talked about how to incorporate both kinds of skill into a game and find a balance between skill and chance to avoid making the game boring, and at the same time, make it not too difficult. These chapters were much more helpful than the previous few in actually making a game, however, for the most part they still listed off the different types of games that tend to be closer to one of the skills or chance, and didn’t go very far into what would actually help make one game better than another.

 

The book includes a large section devoted to dealing with games made after a specific story or character, what they call IP, or Intellectual Property. It discusses copyright issues with such property, and also gives insight into what issues are associated to them, such as developers having to give “pitches” to the company owning the material in order to get the opportunity to take on the project. Developers have to research the story behind the property, and design a game around the owner’s standards. The authors also tell us how sequels become so successful, and why it is a good idea for many original games to create a sequel. While the sequel is never as original as the first game, people buy it anyways, because they know it will be a good experience.

 

Again dealing with creating games for a specific purpose, there are topics such as targeting specific markets and audiences, and creating games in a genre that is unfamiliar to the designer. Companies often approach developers with a specific game in mind, and if for example the developer wants an online roll playing game aimed at twelve-year-olds, and the developer has only ever made platform games, then it will be very difficult for the developer to know how to make the game, or even how it should work. The book suggests a few solutions, one being to play games of every type of genre in order to get a feel for how different game mechanics should work and what players are used to. The book also goes into detail about designing the game around a story, including linear, branching, open-ended, and other types of stories.

 

A big topic in the book that the authors stress is the ability for the game to be multiplayer. They say that making a game multiplayer is a must for a large majority of games, because it lures in players that regularly play social games with friends, but don’t ever play games that are single-player. Multiplayer games are much more popular because they have more replay value than other games; people who don’t know what video game to buy are likely to play the game with a friend, and then go and buy the game just because they are familiar with it.

 

This book is written very methodically, with almost every paragraph starting with a bold header, and then some list of terms or types in the middle. Each chapter is broken up into the introduction to the topic, then a few example sections, and then a “do it yourself” section at the end, usually taking up about half of the chapter. Personally I didn’t get as much out of the book as I could have because I didn’t take part in these activities, but from what I could tell they were very important to the content and enjoyment of the book. The content is geared very much towards beginning game designers, and helping them understand the terminology related to it.

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