Before this class, I thought about game design mostly in terms of the mechanics and systems required to make a great game based on what I observed in other games. For example, in Zelda, Breath of the Wild (BotW), I enjoyed climbing, so I considered that a “good mechanic”, and I disliked how weapons broke, so I considered breakable weapons a “bad mechanic.”
This class taught me to think more about the whole picture of a game. What struck me the most was the different types of play discussed in lecture. A game designer is trying to make the player feel something, typically a type of fun, and the mechanics are ideally working in tandem to help achieve this goal. In BotW, it might be no fun when your favorite weapon breaks, but its to serve a larger goal of getting the player to be creative and experiment with new things. The overall fun I felt as a result of breakable weapons outweighed the moment of dissatisfaction when they did break.
Types of Play stuck with me and it is something I incorporated into my work. For both P1 and P2, I focused on expression as a key goal for the games I developed. My P1 game, Monster Match, incorporated expression with competition play. My P2 game, The Dalle Aljemist, incorporates expression and exploration play. I found myself gravitating towards expression because it was the type of fun I started to recognize in the games I enjoyed. As for board games, I enjoyed King of Tokyo, which provided players with expression and competition play. For video games, I enjoy games like Zelda and Pokemon, which this class showed me were targeting expression and exploration play.
I implemented expression play into my work by allowing for open-ended solutions to problems in my games. For Monster Match, many types of monsters can be built in accordance with the aesthetic and strategic preferences of the player. The goal was for there to not be “one best” strategy but for strategies to be malleable with the situation and type of player playing.
I implemented expression play into The Dalle Aljemist by having expression being the core mechanic of the game. The player has the freedom to choose what items they wish to combine to solve a problem. There are many different possible solutions, so the player is encouraged to make combinations that express themselves.
Throughout this class, I experienced many challenges. It was difficult to nail down game systems and mechanics from a technical standpoint while also collaborating in a team and taking feedback from players to make the game more fun. It was all a very overwhelming set of experiences.
One major challenge was figuring out how to make game systems within Unity that can be interacted with by the other developers without having them required to be able to write code in Unity. Scriptable Objects came in handy and allowed me to build robust systems that allowed for more content to be created in the game utilizing existing systems.
Another major challenge was in working with the AI Model, DallE mini, which was in development as we were building the game. Updates and changes to the model and demo while we were working made it difficult to generate images. For example, we wrote code to automate a web demo and output images. As we were still working on the game, a youtube streamer made a video about the web demo, which introduced a lot of traffic and caused the site to crash repeatedly. As a result, we had to put in additional work to make our webpage automation code more robust to crashes and problems with the webpage in order to generate combination images.
This class taught me about the importance of communication in a team and paying close attention to what play testers have to say. Oftentimes, what play testers say is emblematic of some bigger problem or other problem with your game. This was eye-opening to me as I did not expect players reactions to be so unique and varied. The goal was to pick out common threads and figure out what we could put more effort into to improve the game.
Next time, I will focus more energy on playtesting, even outside of class, and from an early stage to narrow in on what makes a game fun and how it could become greater.