Here’s a new piece from Frictional Games, the creators of Prenumbra, 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:

There is a new article up on No Hidden Info. It’s an attempt to explore the very nature of interesting decisions in a less “vague and unsatisfying” manner than many of its precursors. The heart of the essay lies in the concept of “tension”:

Rules (player actions and environmental rules alike) come into tension with one another as a result of three properties interacting to create clashing incentives: exclusivity, situationality, and indirectness.

Check out the full text:

Keith Burgun weighs in on the recent discussions about score systems in strategy games. His new article basically argues for getting rid of them since they lend themselves better to short-term tactics or race-like structures than well-planned strategic decision making.

Thinking of your game in terms of points, and these short loops of getting points, I think lends itself to a game that repeats many short arcs. It also lends itself to thinking of a game as sort of arbitrarily expandable. […] The inherent nature of “gathering points” is, perhaps, less suited for a strategy game than for a contest. A strategy game is a structured thing with a beginning, middle and end. A contest is a measurement.

Check out the full article:

Today’s article is a nuts and bolts dive into a specific implementation of the information horizon. Push The lane currently uses fog of war to manage the point at which new information is presented to the player over the course of a match. This is crucially important to the design of strategy games, especially single player ones, as single player games are not able to rely on other player’s future actions as a source of ambiguity. You can find the full article below!

Ethan Hoeppner continues his previous exploration of using a continuous “par” number to adjust a game’s difficulty. To further support this approach, he this time makes a case for continuous goals in contrast to a binary win/loss states, arguing that the latter lead to a loss of important feedback information:

Ultimately, the problem with the win/loss system can be thought of in this way: The player attempts to maximize their probability of victory, but they aren’t told how well they did at that, instead the feedback they receive is just a single bit of information; the “win” or “loss”.

Find the full article on Hoeppner’s blog:

Our editor Fabian Fischer has a new article on up Gamasutra about something that’s pretty near and dear to the cause of 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:

You recently might have found Raph Koster’s little “brain teaser” about abstract games to be interesting. Well, now you can hear an in-depth conversation between himself and host Keith Burgun on the Clockwork Game Design Podcast. They touch on a range of topics from the broader state of the game design craft and the surrounding discourse to more concrete guidelines for designing abstract games.

Give it a listen:

You might recall the discussion on Skinner Boxes we highlighted a couple weeks ago. Now Reddit user VMaikel continued that discussion in a new thread, partially taking it to a meta level by pointing out the difference between internal and external operant conditioning.

Clear language and a willingness to understand each other is what’s needed for better game design philosophies. We have to be aware of our own design goals and those of others. If we want to have more meaningful discussions we need to make a difference between disagreeing with a design goal and the methods used to achieve that goal. The fact that you disagree with a design goal does not automatically mean that the methods used for that design goal are ineffective.

Check out the thread that, again, already generated quite some additional discussion:

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: