Fabian Fischer has a new featured piece up on Gamasutra today about the “transparency” of game mechanics.

If players have to deal with adding and subtracting numbers constantly, there’s little time left for truly deep and interesting decisions. That’s why information should, whenever possible, be represented in more intuitive ways. A typical example of this is a tactical grid in turn-based strategy games that represents complex mathematical relations in a very accessible way. And if there are still bare numbers involved, they should ideally be small have a very discrete range, so that a human brain can easily deal with them without having to take any intermediate steps of abstraction first.

Check it out here on Gamasutra: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/FabianFischer/20170810/303441/Game_Design_Principle_Transparency.php

Phillip Zupke wrote an interesting philosophical piece on game design over at Gamasutra.

As soon as we start asking ourselves why a certain change leads to a particular outcome, we step into the realm of “selfconscious design”. The result would be that we can abstract the reasons for an emerging behavior of our design. By knowing why something works, we have the power to apply generic rules to intentionally instigate a certain user-behavior or emotion through our design.

Read the full post here: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/PhilippZupke/20170509/297644/The_Uncertainty_of_Design.php

Here’s a new piece from Frictional Games, the creators of Penumbra, Amnesia and SOMA. It offers a somewhat new way of looking at the relationship between mechanics and “story”, although it seems like they use the word “story” interchangably with “theme”.

This article goes over a framework for understanding how videogames work. It divides games into systems, story, and a mental model, and then shows how these interact. Using this system makes it easier to make design decisions and enables one to have insights into the workings of a game.

Read the full article here: https://frictionalgames.blogspot.de/2017/05/the-ssm-framework-of-game-design.html

In a new Ian Bogost article, he writes about on the relationship between videogames and stories:

Players and creators have been mistaken in merely hoping that they might someday share the stage with books, films, and television, let alone to unseat them. To use games to tell stories is a fine goal, I suppose, but it’s also an unambitious one. Some of the best games in history haven’t had a plot per say, for example Pacman, Super Mario Bros., and most escape game room titles which are my favorite.

Check out the full article here: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/04/video-games-stories/524148/

Our editor Fabian Fischer has a new article on up Gamasutra about something that’s pretty near and dear to the cause of gamedesigntheory.org: improving the discourse surrounding game design and game design theory.

“That’s just my opinion!” This sentence or a variant of it is often put up as a kind of protective shield for people’s statements and arguments when talking about games. Of course this phenomenon can be observed in other forms of media as well. At first sight, the critical discourse about art and entertainment is primarily concerned with the audience’s personal opinions. However, given the youth of the professional industry and its still fairly underdeveloped theoretical foundation, the “opinion safety factor” is especially high when it comes to video games.

Check out the full post here on Gamasutra: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/FabianFischer/20170412/295910/Toward_a_Productive_Games_Discourse.php

Ryan Rothweiler, who has been working on a tool for strategy game designers to quickly prototype their new ideas, also recently wrote an article about how we can improve the process of game design.

The process of game design is filled with difficulties and road blocks. I’m not talking about games as software development — I’m talking about games as rulesets design. The wants and desires of software developers are entirely separate from the wants and desires of a game designer, yet both use many of the same tools. Game ruleset designers need better tools if they want to push the boundaries of the medium.

Read the full article here: https://medium.com/@ryanrothweiler/improving-game-design-process-9e392ebf73af

A new piece by Vivafringe talks about a common pitfall in some kinds of strategy games, using Fire Emblem as an example.

Fire Emblem mostly has a good, clean interface, but scanning for abilities is an annoying exception. A given character can have different abilities, and these can only be noticed by proofreading the tiny ABC circles in the upper right corner. If you don’t immediately recognize an icon, you need to longpress it to see what it does.

Try to avoid having long-distance interaction unless it adds a lot to your game. Make pieces more like Go, where stones can only affect adjacent spaces, than Chess, where a Bishop can threaten a square from across the board. If you do want a Bishop-like character, try to have the squares it threatens show up as dangerous in the UI, rather than forcing the player to trace all of its paths himself.


Check out the article here: https://vivafringe.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/avoid-proofreading-in-your-strategy-games/

Redless has a new blog post about gameplay mechanics and how they relate to goals, and what it means when you allow players to play toward a different inexplicit goal in a competitive game.

I suspect that many of my teammates and opponents are playing the game with a different goal that informs their decisions in the game. Specifically, I think they aim to make a lot of kills on opposing players, ideally amassing an overwhelming advantage and proving their dominance over said other players. Let me be clear; I think this is a fine (if unsustainable) thing to get enjoyment out of, but it’s problematic to me when players trying to enjoy self-improvement are playing the same game as players who are trying to enjoy dominating their opponents.

Read the full article here: https://redless.github.io/Mechanics-Should-Match-Goals/