Tuesday, November 11, 2008

exponential design

Someone emailed me a link to a flash program for creating virtual snowflakes. If you've ever made a paper snowflake ornament, then you know how this works. You fold a piece of paper five or six times, then cut out shapes with scissors or a knife. When you unfold the paper, the removed spots have been multiplied into symmetrical patterns.

It's ironic that in this virtual version, the unsteadiness of your cursor movements often contribute to the uniqueness and surprise of your designs.

Anyway, I think this snowflake program can be a metaphor for good game design. The best design is exponential. By that I mean that the player gets out of the game more than what the designer puts in.

A few examples:
  • The ability to throw a person in Saints Row 2. Some content in the game is designed specifically for this feature, but as much or more related content is emergent. The player can throw someone against a wall, in front of a train, onto a car, off a building, over a rail, into breakable furniture, into another person, into the ocean, down a stairway, etc.
  • The ability to change spell order in Fable 2. Though there are only a dozen or so spells in the game, the ordering and charge up of those spells, and their combination with melee and ranged skills, enable good variety. When abilities can be combined or linked somehow, those abilities often gain far greater affective power.
  • The encouragement of trade in Monopoly and Settlers of Catan. Because trade in those games relies mostly on human intelligence (individual, dynamic, reactive, etc) more than fixed rules, players are free to adapt gameplay to suit their own preferences and momentary desires.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.