Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Elements of a Great Game

I decided to do a post about a discussion we've been having on the forums. The topic?

The elements of a great game! (duh...)

The reason I decided to lay my thoughts out in blog format is that I hope to seem less like a gibbering mental patient than I did on our forums. Here I can ramble on without interruption until I make my point or until they come to take me away.

“but I know I've got one thing I got to do, Ramble on!”

Lately I've been thinking a lot about game design. There are number of reasons. For one thing I got into computers because I wanted to write games. My life and career moved around until I've dedicated years of energy to preserving and providing classic games for other fans such as myself. This has kept me so busy that I haven't worked on a video game for, well, let's just say a long time. I hope that, one day, I will finally get my chance, but there's more than that.

I have also played D&D for many, many years. I have been the Dungeon Master for I don't know how many hours of my life. I've written good campaigns and not-so-good campaigns. I've played where I was caught up and enjoying every minute of it and I've played where I just sat there rolling my dice watching the clock and dreaming of the moment when the game wrapped up.

What do these two things have to do with each other? Everything. I'm not just talking about what makes a great video game, I am talking about what makes a great GAME. I believe there are common threads that connect all gamers and all games. It is those threads that I am considering.

What makes people want to play games? A lot of things really. The challenge, the reward, the atmosphere, etc. I want to boil these motivations down to their basic elements. Why? Well, someone on the forums compared these base elements to chords in music. I think that is an excellent example. As chords to a musician or a palette to an artists so these basic driving elements should be to game developers.

A lot of people might believe that these game “chords” are already well known or that they don't exist. Well, I believe I have an answer for each of these objections. First, games are much like books, television or movies. In all those forms of entertainment there are certain formulas that are used. That is why there are classes on writing and cinematography. They teach people what the basic “palette” is that they should use. Now that's not to say that you can plug in the formula and BAM you have a best seller or a block buster. Even if you know the chords you have to be able to play.

“Well, how can we have descent instruments when we don't really even know how to play?”

“That is why we need Eddie Van Halen!”

As in all forms of art the artist is really what makes it art. However, if Van Halen had never learned his chords would he have still been a great musician?

So, I believe those elements exist. Which is why “Save the girl” is a running theme in books, movies and games. Man has a natural desire to save the girl! (and if she doesn't want to be saved hilarity ensues .)

Now, as to these themes being common knowledge, they may be, but I'm not familiar with such a school of study. Plus when I look at some of the games that have come out I have to believe that I'm not the only potential game developer that has never heard of them. Some games just make me think “Who would have ever wanted to play this and WHY?”

This post is getting a bit long, so I am going to cut it short. I plan to do another post soon touching what I believe is one of the “Colors” of game development.

I hope my sanity has been established and that you could see what I was saying.

No comments:

Post a Comment