Foundations: What’s a Game?

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I want to start this article with a big fat disclaimer: I’m no academic. I’m not interested in deep chin-scratching debate about academic topics - especially game design! I’m a hands-on practical “gimmie-what-I-can-use” kinda guy.

With that disclaimer in place, let’s tackle two of the more academically debated game design questions:
  • What is a game?
  • What is fun?
So why ask such fundamental questions? The better you understand what you’re making, and what you’re trying to elicit, the more successful a designer you’re likely to be! So let’s get started.

A Theory of Fun for Game Design

Thankfully, I discovered Raph Koster’s “A Theory of Fun for Game Design” early in my design career. In it, Raph answers these questions, and others, rather brilliantly (also with cute drawings). I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy of his excellent book if you’re serious about game design. To give you some idea how strongly I believe in it, it’s mandatory design reading at Halfbrick.

Foundations: Quality Feedback Checklist

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I’m back! My holiday was lovely, thanks for asking. :)

So in my previous article I bore my soul over the infamous Balloon Game.

This final feedback article is all about giving you a summarised, checklist-format reference to stress-test your designs. Bookmark it for when feedback has you beat!
Scared Cat
Stay cool!

The Quality Feedback Checklist

You’ve designed some feedback. How can you know it’ll sit harmoniously in your game and do its job? After all, there are so many pitfalls for quality feedback.

Foundations: Case Study - The Balloon Game

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I expect this article to be a bit of a diversion. Hopefully a good one!

I’ve decided to recount one of the more interesting and revealing game design experiences I’ve had. I think it holds a number of interesting design lessons, as well as demonstrates some of the approaches I covered in my previous article.

The Balloon Game

The Balloon Game (I think it was actually called “Cheesy Balloon” ... but who cares) is a minigame included in the critically reviled GameBoy Advance game “Nickelodeon Barnyard” developed by Halfbrick way back in 2005. It was my first design gig. I share my shame so that you may learn.

Speaking of sharing; never make a minigame collection.

Foundations: Adding Feedback to Your Designs

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So in my previous article Feedback is Awesome!, we looked at how feedback is the game speaking, and covered the various roles of feedback.

In this article, we’re going to focus on adding feedback to your designs, as well as share a few hard earned pearls of wisdom. While this article will talk specifically about games, the information can easily be applied to other areas of design.
Palette
Let’s start with a little process.

Foundations: Feedback is Awesome!

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So in my previous article, What is Feedback?, I introduced the concept, and purpose, of feedback. Please check it out now if you haven’t yet.

In this article, I want to delve deeper. Now that we know roughly what feedback is, let’s look in detail at the varied roles feedback performs.

Feedback Is the Game Speaking

So I’ve only briefly alluded to this, but the conversation metaphor of game design would suggest that feedback is the game speaking to you. Your input is you speaking to the game. Simple enough.
Conversation

Foundations: What is Feedback

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In this series of articles, I’ll be exploring feedback; a concept that you’re probably familiar with without realising it. Once we label it and define its purpose, we’ll begin looking at how it can improve your designs.

What is feedback?

Generally speaking, feedback is how games communicate with you. You speak to the game with input, it responds with feedback.
Dog Looking at and Listening to a Phonograph, "His Master's Voice", The Original RCA Music Puppy Dog Logo Symbol for Advertising
While technically true, this is stupidly broad. Let’s forget games for now...

Hello World!

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Hi there!

I'm Daz and I'm itching to share all my hard-earned game design lessons with you.

I've been a professional game designer for Halfbrick for over 6 years and I've spent much of that time training up new designers - so I'd like to think I've got something of value to share.

Design Seeds isn't my ivory tower. It isn't a soapbox that I'll preach from. And I don't expect to get rich and famous. I want to give you practical information, and I want to hear how you use it. I want regular visitors to help the new guys. And I want to foster a community of designers who appreciate good design. After all, design is too big for any of us to fully know - so there's no point hoarding!

Content

I'm keen to focus on topics that I feel are often overlooked by new designers and a lot of institutions. I'm going to start things off with foundational game mechanics, probably with a dash of psychology and a pinch of responsible design attitudes. The first series of articles is going to cover feedback! :)

I really hope you decide to stick around and maybe even subscribe!

Cheers,
Daz