Great games emerge from great ideas and great ideas can be as simple as Pac-man or as complex as Resident Evil. It is not necessary that the idea must be unique, but what is required for making a game concept is the right blend of well thought-out creative inputs and defined theme. The genre to which the game fits then becomes more evident. This is the first thing that intrigues a player.
The game’s structure can be crafted mindfully when there’s a concrete concept with engaging gameplay and a good story. There are successful games with simple story (like Angry birds) while there are unappreciated games with bad story (like Gods at War). Story, thus, plays a crucial role in engaging the player and making the player get associated with the game and wear the shoes of protagonist. Surely, great stories leave cherishing residues in players after playing the game.
Anyone who played Diablo knows that there are three prime evils; Diablo, Mephisto and Baal and that he must destroy them before they take over the earth-realm. For RPGs, an engaging story can make the player own protagonist and play the game with the player’s own sense of exploration. For RTS games, a good story will help player define a sense of purpose in the game. Good or simple stories certainly add to the game’s success, but bad stories are certainly detrimental.
A game typically consists of four elements: goals, rules, feedback and voluntary participation. Goals defines a set of objectives to accomplish. A game may have single or multiple goals or sub-goals leading to the main goal. Goals give a sense of purpose to the player. This can be strengthened by story line as it makes the player explore some parts of the story through conversations or journals found. Missions and optional missions also contribute to the goal. Rules define ways and means of achieving goals in the game. They define what the player can do and the possibilities of using different probabilities of rules is completely left to player’s discretion. Rules also define what the player can’t do in a game. In sandbox games, the rules can be minimal yet there are endless possibilities of achieving goals (Red Dead Redemption).
A comprehensive feedback system informs the player about his state and performance in the game. This depicts how far has he come and how far does he need to go in order to accomplish goals. State feedback provides information pertaining the player’s position and control in the game. This helps the player gauge how close is he to be successful in accomplishing a mission. This is usually done by HUD (heads up display) and feedback messages like ‘combo hit’, ‘brutal kills’, ‘headshot’, ‘sweet overtake’, etc. Performance feedback is given after the completion of a level/play session. Player’s voluntary participation is a key element as he accepts the game’s rules and plays to accomplish game’s rules. Some games have no goals to achieve and in such cases, the very act of deriving pleasure from the gameplay while getting the sense of freedom and control contributes to active participation.
The visual elements that portrays the game’s idea is critical to generating a cohesive game concept. Freeze is a perfect example of how a simple concept and simple story with engaging mechanics blended with right visual elements can lead to game’s success. All the factors contributing the game’s structure must reflect the game’s core theme and idea. The game’s spirit emerges from game ideation.
Written by Anirudh Cheruvu