A short and practical guide for beginners

Defining Game Design or what constitutes a Game Designer is as inexact as its field of study itself. For some authors, such as Schell (2008), says that the process of game design comes from making any decisions on how a game should be. In that sense, a Game Designer is a constant role that can manifest in many people involved in making a game.

Other authors limit the definition of game design to aspects and terms that are more strictly related to games. …

A numerical game design approach for progression and fairness

While playing games, players strive for victory through goals and objectives, which are determined by many factors. Skills, motivation, resources, practice, and, more important, power play a crucial role in this process. The comparison between these elements is an important game design activity to achieve a fair gameplay experience.

For a more general study, I argue that the term fair is more appropriate than the term balance since the latter can be more easily misinterpreted and might also be unwanted. Fair is meant in the sense that the players' experience is acceptable, moderate, or plausible. A fair gameplay experience is…

A game design tool based on in-game morals

There has been an on-going discussion for years on the influence of games on society. One side protests that video games stimulate aggressive behavior and normalize violence (Grossman and DeGaetano, 2014). According to this line of thought, killing (human) beings in a video game should trigger a negative reaction from gamers. As the opposite happens, players have fun and amuse themselves while playing such games, it is understood that their morals and values have been damaged.

On the other side, violent media, including games, use a strategy called moral management that allows its viewers (and players) to cope with its…

Empowerment, deadlocks, and a small mathematical analysis

A game's economy is an internal system within a game responsible for all the mechanisms related to the game's resources [1]. In the game’s economy, the term resource is very open and comprises concepts from collectible items (such as coins) to the player’s journey itself. In general, a resource is any concept that can be measured numerically [1]. (For a more in-depth analysis on resources, refer to this previous article).

Resources are handled by the game's economy using 4 basic mechanisms (or 4 pillars), which are: Sources, that create resources out of nothing according to a production rate; Drains, which…

How narrative theory can be used to improve game design

Final Fantasy IX is a JRPG released in July of 2000 by Squaresoft. It marks a return to the first Final Fantasy games' medieval style, which had been changed to a more futurist setting in Final Fantasy VII and VIII and then became dominant from Final Fantasy X onwards.

Final Fantasy IX plot is centered on the consequences of a war between nations. Besides the theme of warfare and its outcomes to society, the game deals with other issues such as trauma, the search for meaning in life, and the struggles to accept mortality.

The game's main cast is composed…

Do more with less code and greater flexibility

Computer programs and digital games are composed of many algorithms, tasks, and processes that create the expected software experience. You can execute these operations in parallel, meaning at the same time or in a sequence (also known as in serial).

Although most non-technical users would assume that executing operations in parallel is always better, this approach has its shortcomings.

Synchronization is one of them. Even if the physics system in a game executes in parallel, it must be synchronized with the graphics system before updating the image displayed on the screen, as an example.

On the other hand, executing all…

Breaking the “good/bad” dichotomy for the sake of more diverse games

While games proceed to permeate pop culture, their influence in society inevitably continues to be questioned. Different studies argue on both sides of whether the impact of video games is positive or not, and even on the degree or spectrum in which such influence is manifested.

This discussion is well summarized by Anderson et al. (2012), which states that there is an apparent overreaction on both sides: one side claims video games are training generations of killers, while the other claims video games do not affect players at all and are merely entertainment. Both sides are clearly, and scientifically wrong…

And how to spot and solve them using simple questions

Working as a Game Development & Game Design teacher for over 5 years so far, I have the opportunity to oversee and guide a high number of beginner game designers in their initial efforts. Most recently, as part of my job as a lecturer at Saxion University of Applied Sciences, I am responsible for supervising the concept and development of almost 100 students' games per year.

How to engage players using evolution, discovery, and rewards

Progressing through a game is commonly done by using said game's mechanics and resources. While the player's skill definitely increases as they get more experienced, these very mechanics and resources are also changed during the game session to enhance the player's capacities and expand the possibilities. In a generic and open interpretation, these changes in the mechanics and game resources can be referred to as upgrades.

As an upgrade, we can understand any general improvement, not necessarily power, on the player's capacities, options, skills, and/or resources (including resource mechanisms). For that, we avoid using the more specific term powerup, which…

The story of MoonGun, or, how to turn prototypes into complete games

During November of 2020, I participated in the Github Game Off Game Jam (a mouthful, I know) and developed a game by myself in the period. The experience also allowed me to apply many of the skills and topics I have been writing in these past months about game design and development.

MoonGun, the game I developed, was the 85th Overall Best Game, from a rooster of over 500 games, and achieved the 38th position for Best Theme Interpretation, 40th position for Best Audio, and 48th position for Best Graphics. It also gathered a good amount of positive feedback.


Yvens Serpa

I'm a Brazilian teacher currently working at Saxion University (Enschede, NL) for CMGT. I write every day for education, programming, and as a hobby. [@yvensre]

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store