7 Delusions and Mistakes in Game Design

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Mistakes we make in game design

Everybody loves to talk about victories and good moves in game design but nobody wants to talk about mistakes. So game designers are not different: we explain what to do using perfect examples like Angry Birds, Fortnite, Dark Souls and so on. It creates a false belief: “Do as that developer did and you will make a good game!”. It is not.

In this article we will tell you about 7 delusions about game design that nobody talks about.

Delusion #1 — everyone can design a game

While we were kids we invented our games on paper, with cards, balls, sticks and toy soldiers. The rules were fun and blurred: we changed them just not to lose against a friend. But it doesn’t mean that our games would have interested someone else if they were transferred on mobile phones or PCs.

Same idea works for bedtime stories. If you have kids, you’ve often told stories to them. Your kids may really enjoy them, but it doesn’t mean that you can publish a popular book of fairy tales.

game design mistakes

And in game design it means that the game which seems perfect in your imagination may look awful as a prototype. You have to be ready for this.

Delusion #2 — videogames are “games”

No, videogames are puzzles. The game means something competitive, where there is only one winner. Snakes & Ladders is a game, but would it be fun to throw virtual dice and watch how the player’s chips are climbing ladders? No.

Videogames are puzzles, because they create a challenge, throw a player into a situation with complicated rules and give him tools to fight for the victory. While “games” are about “there’s only one way to win. Throw dice!”, the real video games are about “there’s you and there’s a game world. Now fight!”

snake and ladders game design

While designing the game you must think about the challenges the players will face, not about the “process”.

Delusion #3 — there is a secret formula for a good game design

No, even the most experienced game designers do not have the rules for making a good game. What is good in one case may be considered as bad in another.

secret formula game design

Example: an epilogue scene in Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, when Zack fights endless hordes of soldiers, the game spawns enemies without limits until they totally outnumber the player. This scene is considered as one of the most heartbreaking in the whole Final Fantasy series.

But when the same things happen in Call of Duty gamers are going nuts. They don’t like endless spawn, although technically it’s the same as in Crisis Core.

So game designers are always trying something new or adopting mechanics which were successful in other games of the same genre. But you can boost your chances of developing a good game by ordering game market research.

Delusion #4 — you can develop a perfect setting on your own

There are more than 2 billion gamers. They are humans with their own taste, preferences and bugs in their heads. Everyone is unique. So if you ask a sea diver what game he wants to play he will say: “I want a game about diving!” A racer will ask for a racing game, a sportsman — for a football simulator. I, as a screenwriter, have created a professional book writer in Sims 4.

You are a unique person too. And you may like something that only a small percent of gamers like, so some of your ideas may not interest the players. It is the sad reality of game development.

There are some examples of games so well made but with a narrow niche that it resulted in total failure in sales: Steep, Death Stranding, Driveclub and so on. Even Demon’s Souls, the predecessor of Dark Souls, was a failure for the month after it was released. And Steep at least had great “Game Over” screen.

steep game over screen design

So while you are designing your game you must ask a lot of people what setting and gameplay they like and what could make your game better.

Delusion #5 — realism is everything

In the early 2000’s game designers tried to make FPS gameplay as real as real life. For example, Operation Flashpoint where the crosshair moves as your weapon moves, one bullet kills and you need to crawl in the grass for a half an hour to get to the objective. The game was somehow fun, but it wasn’t as popular as unrealistic Call of Duty, Medal of Honor and Battlefield 1942.

realism in video games

Same goes with any genre: there are more people playing Warcraft 3 than “realistic” Crusader Kings, more gamers enjoying Need for Speed than hardcore Colin McRae Rally. The only game where realism is fun is a VR chess simulator where you can throw the pieces off the board.

Another example is behind developing the Doom (1993). id Studio level designer tried to make some maps for the first chapter. He studied the plans of real military and scientific bases to create realistic locations. Even bathrooms were included. Those maps were quite good but boring to run and kill demons. So Carmack let John Romero do the level design, because Romero did what he considered fun without thinking about “realism”.

Realism is important until it doesn’t affect the core gameplay and doesn’t enjoy the fun.

Delusion #6 — the gamers want hundreds of different enemies, swords, NPCs and locations

No, the gamers want the limited choice. Pick any popular game and you’ll find 10-20 enemies, 20-30 weapons and less than 20 maps. Gamers don’t want a wider variety for one simple reason: their memory is not limitless.

A typical gamer wants to meet the enemy and know what it is capable of and how to deal with it. If there will be 100 of different enemies the player will be confused. If there would be 100 different mechanics for every type of enemy he would drop the game.

game items design

Even in MMORPGS there are only 20 real types of enemies and 10-15 models for each of them.

Variety is good, but you need to focus on the quality of every element and not on their quantity.

Delusion #7 — game design is fun

Yes, it’s fun when it comes to brainstorming and discussing ideas. But the other parts of gamedev are routine work with code, art, story and managing the people.

It is still fun from a position of an artist who enjoys the working process. When you see how every iteration of routine work makes your game better and better.

Conclusions

If you have read this and still want to become a game designer or make your game — read our other blog articles, you’ll find a lot of useful information.

If you wanted to develop a game and now you are not sure if it is possible for you — contact us. We’ll take care of your game because we got rid of those delusions a long time ago.

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