Video game design

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Video game design is the process of designing the content and rules of video games in the pre-production stage [1] and designing the gameplay, environment, storyline and characters in the production stage. The designer of a game is very much like the director of a film in many ways; the designer is the visionary of the game and controls the artistic and technical elements of the game in fulfillment of their vision. [2] Video game design requires artistic and technical competence as well as sometimes including writing skills. [3] As the industry has aged and embraced alternative production methodologies such as agile, the role of a principal game designer has begun to separate - some studios emphasizing the auteur model while others emphasizing a more team oriented model. Within the video game industry, video game design is usually just referred to as "game design", which is a more general term elsewhere.

Contents

Video game programmers have also sometimes comprised the entire design team. This is the case of such noted designers as Sid Meier, John Romero, Chris Sawyer and Will Wright. A notable exception to this policy was Coleco, which from its very start separated the function of design and programming.

As video games became more complex, computers and consoles became more powerful, the job of the game designer became separate from the lead programmer. Soon game complexity demanded team members focused on game design. Many early veterans chose the game design path eschewing programming and delegating those tasks to others.

With very complex games, such as MMORPGs or a big budget action or sports title, designers may number in the dozens. In these cases, there are generally one or two principal designers and many junior designers who specify subsets or subsystems of the game. In larger companies like Electronic Arts, each aspect of the game (control, level design) may have a separate producer, lead designer and several general designers. They may also come up with a plot for the game.

Overview

Video game design starts with an idea, [4] [5] [6] [7] often a modification on an existing concept. [4] [8] The game idea will fall within one or several genres. Designers often experiment with mixing genres. [9] [10] The game designer usually produces an initial game proposal document containing the concept, gameplay, feature list, setting and story, target audience, requirements and schedule, staff and budget estimates. [11]

Many decisions are made during the course of a game's development about the game's design; it is the responsibility of the designer to decide which elements will be implemented. For example, consistency with the game's vision, budget or hardware limitations. [12] Design changes have a significant positive or negative impact on required resources. [13]

The designer may use scripting languages to implement and preview design ideas without necessarily modifying the game's codebase. [14] [15]

A game designer often plays video games and demos to follow the game market development. [16]

It is common for the game designer's name to misleadingly be given an undue amount of association to the game, neglecting the rest of the development team. [17]

Funding game publishers must be taken into account, who may have specific expectations from a game [18] as most video games are market-driven — developed to sell for profit. [19] However, if financial issues do not influence designer's decisions, the game becomes design- or designer-driven; few games are designed this way because of lack of funding. [20] Alternatively, a game may be technology-driven, such as Quake (1996), [21] to show off a particular hardware achievement or to market the game engine. [21] Finally, a game may be art-driven, such as Myst (1993) and Journey (2012), [22] mainly to show off impressive visuals designed by artists. [22]

In Rules of Play (2004), Katie Salen and Eric Zimmermann write:

A game designer is a particular kind of designer, much like a graphic designer, industrial designer or architect. A game designer is not necessarily a programmer, visual designer or project manager, although sometimes he or she can also play these roles in the creation of a game. A game designer might work alone or as part of a larger team. A game designer might create card games, social games, video games or any other kind of game. The focus of a game designer is designing game play, conceiving and designing rules and structures that result in an experience for players. Thus game design, as a discipline, requires a focus on games in and of themselves. Rather than placing games in the service of another field such as sociology, literary criticism, or computer science, our aim is to study games within their own disciplinary space. Because game design is an emerging discipline, we often borrow from other areas of knowledge — from mathematics and cognitive science; from semiotics and cultural studies. We may not borrow in the most orthodox manner, but we do so in the service of helping to establish a field of game design proper.

Game designer

A game designer is a person who designs gameplay, conceiving and designing the rules and structure of a game. [23] [24] [25] Many designers start their career in testing departments, other roles in game development or in classroom conditions, [26] where mistakes by others can be seen first-hand. [27]

Compensation

In 2010, a game designer with more than six years of experience earned an average of US$65,000 (GBP GB£44,761.22), $54,000 (GBP £37,186.24) with three to six years of experience and $44,000 (GBP £30,299.90) with less than 3 years of experience. Lead designers earned $75,000 (GBP £51,647.56) with three to six years of experience and $95,000(GBP £65,420.24) with more than six years of experience. [38] In 2013, a game designer with less than 3 years of experience earned, on average, $55,000 (GBP £37,874.88). A game designer with more than 6 years of experience made, on average, $105,000 (GBP £72,306.58). The average salary of these designers varies depending on their region. [39] As of 2015 the salary of experienced workers has shifted to approximately US$87,000 (GBP £59,911.17) [40] As of January 17, 2020, the average annual pay for a Game Designer in the United States is $130,000 a year. [41]

Disciplines

World design

Unreal Engine character creator UnrealCharacter.png
Unreal Engine character creator

World design is the creation of a backstory, setting and theme for the game; often done by a lead designer. [42] World design can also be the creation of a universe or a map, as well as topics or areas that are likely to be pursued by the player. It is a map referenced for creation of everything as it shows where it is and allows for the most logistical design in any given game.[ citation needed ] World design shapes the direction the game goes towards.

System design

System design is the creation of game rules and underlying mathematical patterns. [42]

Content design

Content design is the creation of characters, items, puzzles and missions. [42]

A secondary definition of Content design is the creation of any aspect of the game that is not required for the game to function properly and meet the minimum viable product standard. In essence, content is the complexity added to a minimum viable product to increase its value. An example of this is the item list from Final Fantasy. None of the items are necessary for the game to function, but they add value and complexity to the game as a whole.

Game writing

Game writing involves writing dialogue, text and story. [42]

This is one of the first steps that go into making a video game. This encompasses many different elements of the process. Writing in video games also includes the elements in which the literature is presented. Voice acting, text, picture editing and music are all elements of game writing.

Level design

Level design Edge (video game) level layout.png
Level design

Level design is the construction of world levels and its features. [33] [34] [35] [42]

Level design makes use of many different fields to create a game world. Lighting, space, framing, color and contrast are used to draw a player's attention. A designer can then use these elements to guide or direct the player in a specific direction through the game world or mislead them.

User interface design

User interface (UI) design deals with the construction the user interactions and feedback interface, like menus or heads-up displays. [42]

The user interface also incorporates game mechanics design. Deciding how much information to give the player and in what way allows the designer to inform the player about the world, or perhaps leave them uninformed. Another aspect to consider is the method of input a game will use and deciding to what degree a player can interact with a game with these inputs. These choices have a profound effect on the mood of the game, as it directly affects the player in both noticeable and subtle ways.

User interface design in video games has unique goals. A conscious decision has to be made regarding the amount of information to relay to the player. However, the UI in games do not have to be absolutely streamlined. Players expect challenges and are willing to accept them as long as the experience is sufficiently rewarding. By the same token, navigating or interaction with a game's UI can be satisfying without the need to be effortless. [43]

Audio design

Audio design involves the process of creating or incorporating all of the sounds that are in the game, like music, sound effects or voice acting. [44] This includes the theme song and jingles used in title screens and menus.

User experience design

The disciplines listed above all combine to form the discipline of game feel. [45] It ensures that the flow of the game and the user interaction with the game elements are functioning smoothly. [46]

Game elements

Narrative

Numerous games have narrative elements which give a context to an event in a game, making the activity of playing it less abstract and enhance its entertainment value, although narrative elements are not always clearly present or present at all. The original version of Tetris is an example of a game apparently without narrative. Some[ who? ] narratologists claim that all games have a narrative element. Some go further and claim that games are essentially a form of narrative. Narrative in practice can be the starting point for the development of a game or can be added to a design that started as a set of game mechanics. [47]

Gameplay

Gameplay is the interactive aspects of video game design. Gameplay involves player interaction with the game, usually for the purpose of gameplay is entertainment, education or training. [48]

Design process

The design process varies from designer to designer and companies have different formal procedures and philosophies. [49]

The typical "textbook" approach is to start with a concept or a previously completed game and from there create a game design document. [50] This document is intended to map out the complete game design and acts as a central resource for the development team. This document should ideally be updated as the game evolves throughout the production process.[ citation needed ]

Conceptual art for video game Video Game Design on Paper at Game Jam.jpg
Conceptual art for video game

Designers are frequently expected to adapt to multiple roles of widely varying nature: For example, concept prototyping can be assisted with the use of pre-existing engines and tools like GameMaker Studio, Unity, Godot or Construct. Level designs might be done first on paper and again for the game engine using a 3D modeling tool. Scripting languages are used for many elements—AI, cutscenes, GUI, environmental processes, and many other behaviors and effects—that designers would want to tune without a programmer's assistance. Setting, story and character concepts require a research and writing process. Designers may oversee focus testing, write up art and audio asset lists and write game documentation. In addition to the skillset, designers are ideally clear communicators with attention to detail and ability to delegate responsibilities appropriately.[ citation needed ]

Design approval[ clarification needed ] in the commercial setting is a continuous process from the earliest stages until the game ships. [51]

When a new project is being discussed (either internally or as a result of dialogue with potential publishers), the designer may be asked to write a sell-sheet of short concepts, followed by a one or two-page pitch of specific features, audience, platform and other details. Designers will first meet with leads in other departments to establish agreement on the feasibility of the game given the available time, scope and budget. If the pitch is approved, early milestones focus on the creation of a fleshed-out design document. Some developers advocate a prototyping phase before the design document is written to experiment with new ideas before they become part of the design.[ original research? ]

As production progresses, designers are asked to make frequent decisions about elements missing from the design. The consequences of these decisions are hard to predict and often can only be determined after creating the full implementation. These are referred to as the unknowns of the design and the faster they are uncovered, the less risk the team faces later in the production process. Outside factors such as budget cuts or changes in milestone expectations also result in cuts to the design and while overly large cuts can take the heart out of a project, cuts can also result in a streamlined design with only the essential features, polished well.[ original research? ]

Towards the end of production, designers take the brunt of responsibility for ensuring that the gameplay remains at a uniform standard throughout the game, even in very long games. This task is made more difficult under "crunch" conditions, as the entire team may begin to lose sight of the core gameplay once pressured to hit a date for a finished and bug-free game.[ original research? ]

Game Design Tools

Traditionally, game designers used simple tools like Word, Excel or just plain pen and paper. As the field has evolved and player agency and localization started to play a bigger role in game development, the need for professional tools has emerged for this particular field. [52]

Twine: Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories. This tool is free and largely used by students to design simple stories. Games created in twine can be exported to HTML5. [53]

articy:draft 3: is a professional tool for narrative design that offers a complete solution for writing interactive content, game planning and content management. Games designed with Articy Draft 3 can be exported to Unity, Unreal and JSON. [54]

See also

Related Research Articles

A game programmer is a software engineer, programmer, or computer scientist who primarily develops codebases for video games or related software, such as game development tools. Game programming has many specialized disciplines, all of which fall under the umbrella term of "game programmer". A game programmer should not be confused with a game designer, who works on game design.

Gameplay is the specific way in which players interact with a game, and in particular with video games. Gameplay is the pattern defined through the game rules, connection between player and the game, challenges and overcoming them, plot and player's connection with it. Video game gameplay is distinct from graphics and audio elements.

Video game genre Classification assigned to video games based on their gameplay

A video game genre is a classification assigned to a video game based on its core gameplay rather than visual or narrative features. A video game genre is normally defined by a set of gameplay challenges considered independently of setting or game-world content, unlike works of fiction that are expressed through other media, such as films or books. For example, a shooter game is still a shooter game, regardless of where or when it takes place.

Action-adventure game Action-adventure video game genre

Action-adventure is a video game genre that combines core elements from both the action game and adventure game genres.

Video game development is the process of developing a video game. The effort is undertaken by a developer, ranging from a single person to an international team dispersed across the globe. Development of traditional commercial PC and console games is normally funded by a publisher, and can take several years to reach completion. Indie games usually take less time and money and can be produced by individuals and smaller developers. The independent game industry has been on the rise, facilitated by the growth of accessible game development software such as Unity platform and Unreal Engine and new online distribution systems such as Steam and Uplay, as well as the mobile game market for Android and iOS devices.

In tabletop games and video games, game mechanics are the rules that govern and guide the player's actions, as well as the game's response to them. A game's mechanics thus effectively specifies how the game will work for the people who play it.

Emergent gameplay refers to complex situations in video games, board games, or table top role-playing games that emerge from the interaction of relatively simple game mechanics.

In video games, a level is any space available to the player during the course of completion of an objective. Video game levels generally have progressively-increasing difficulty to appeal to players with different skill levels. Each level may present new concepts and challenges to keep a player's interest high.

Game testing, a subset of game development, is a software testing process for quality control of video games. The primary function of game testing is the discovery and documentation of software defects. Interactive entertainment software testing is a highly technical field requiring computing expertise, analytic competence, critical evaluation skills, and endurance. In recent years the field of game testing has come under fire for being extremely strenuous and unrewarding, both financially and emotionally.

Vehicle simulation games are a genre of video games which attempt to provide the player with a realistic interpretation of operating various kinds of vehicles. This includes automobiles, aircraft, watercraft, spacecraft, military vehicles, and a variety of other vehicles. The main challenge is to master driving and steering the vehicle from the perspective of the pilot or driver, with most games adding another challenge such as racing or fighting rival vehicles. Games are often divided based on realism, with some games including more realistic physics and challenges such as fuel management.

A sandbox game is a video game with a gameplay element that provides the player a great degree of creativity to interact with, usually without any predetermined goal, or alternatively with a goal that the player sets for themselves. Such games may lack any objective, and are sometimes referred to as non-games or software toys. More often, sandbox games result from these creative elements being incorporated into other genres and allowing for emergent gameplay. Sandbox games are often associated with an open world concept which gives the player freedom of movement and progression in the game's world. The "sandbox" term derives from the nature of a sandbox that lets children create nearly anything they want within it.

Dynamic game difficulty balancing (DGDB), also known as dynamic difficulty adjustment (DDA) or dynamic game balancing (DGB), is the process of automatically changing parameters, scenarios, and behaviors in a video game in real-time, based on the player's ability, in order to avoid making the player bored or frustrated. The goal of dynamic difficulty balancing is to keep the user interested from the beginning to the end, providing a good level of challenge.

Game design document Living software design document

A game design document is a highly descriptive living software design document of the design for a video game. A GDD is created and edited by the development team and it is primarily used in the video game industry to organize efforts within a development team. The document is created by the development team as result of collaboration between their designers, artists and programmers as a guiding vision which is used throughout the game development process. When a game is commissioned by a game publisher to the development team, the document must be created by the development team and it is often attached to the agreement between publisher and developer; the developer has to adhere to the GDD during game development process.

An adventure game is a video game in which the player assumes the role of a protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and/or puzzle-solving. The genre's focus on story allows it to draw heavily from other narrative-based media, literature and film, encompassing a wide variety of literary genres. Many adventure games are designed for a single player, since this emphasis on story and character makes multiplayer design difficult. Colossal Cave Adventure is identified as the first such adventure game, first released in 1976, while other notable adventure game series include Zork, King's Quest, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Myst.

Game art design is a subset of game development. It is the process of creating the artistic aspects for video games. Video game art design begins in the pre-production phase of creating a video game. The video game artists are visual artists involved from the conception of the game and they make rough sketches of the characters, setting, objects, etc. These starting concept designs can also be created by the game designers before the game is moved into actualization. Sometimes these are concept designs are called “programmer art”. After the rough sketches are completed and the game is ready to be moved forward those artists or more artists are brought in to bring these sketches to life through graphic design.

Ludonarrative dissonance Conflict between a video games narrative in its non-interactive elements as opposed to its gameplay

Ludonarrative dissonance is the conflict between a video game's narrative told through the story and the narrative told through the gameplay. Ludonarrative, a compound of ludology and narrative, refers to the intersection in a video game of ludic elements (gameplay) and narrative elements. The term was coined by game designer Clint Hocking in 2007 in a blog post.

Game design Game development process of designing the content and rules of a game

Game design is the art of applying design and aesthetics to create a game for entertainment or for educational, exercise, or experimental purposes. Increasingly, elements and principles of game design are also applied to other interactions, in the form of gamification. Game designer and developer Robert Zubek defines game design by breaking it down into its elements, which he says are the following:

Video game writing is the art and craft of writing scripts and narratives for video games. Similar to screenwriting, it is typically a freelance profession. It includes many differences from writing for film, due to the non-linear and interactive nature of most video games, and the necessity to work closely with video game designers and voice actors. There are many differing types of text in video games in comparison to stage shows or movies, including written text, foreign or made-up languages, and often situation-based information. Especially when developing Triple A games, more than one writer will be required to create the game, split into different roles.

In the context of video game design, a tutorial is any tool that teaches players the rules and controls of the game. Some tutorials are integrated into the game, while others are completely separate and optional. Games can have both of these at once, offering a basic mandatory tutorial and optional advanced training. Tutorials have become increasingly common due to the decline of printed video game manuals as a result of cost cutting and digital distribution. Tutorials can be important since they are a player's first impression of a game, and an overly tedious tutorial or one that does not allow for player freedom can negatively affect their view of a game. However, the lack of a tutorial can also harm a game by causing the player to become frustrated, since they cannot figure out essential game mechanics.

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