The Key to Design: Simplicity – Part 1) Games

26 10 2009

In ‘The Key to Design’ series I’m going to be investigating what makes a killer design. The first key I’m going to discuss is simplicity.

Simplicity in games is what can either make or break a game. When people open up a game they do not want to drown under masses of instructions of how to jump, how to double jump, how to triple mega, super-duper, ultra jump while doing a backflip. You get the idea. People want a game not just to be fun, but to be able to get the hang of in a few short moments. I’m not saying to cut out everything, just ease people in. And here’s how:

  1. The introduction. – A games introduction is one of the most important things about it. An intro normally consists of a menu with a few buttons. This kind of introduction is a good one because if I can either choose between “Play”, “Options” and “More Games” then I’m obviously going to choose play. I mean I could choose “Options” but if I haven’t played yet then I don’t even know if I want to change anything. Or if I could choose “More Games” but I haven’t even played this game yet, never-mind others. So I’m going to play the game. If on the other hand I’m introduced to a menu that gives me options of “Play Blitz Mode”, “Play Mega Mode”, “Play Another Mode Which Will Waste Your Time” etc. then I’m not going to know what to pick and likeliness is I won’t enjoy it as much because I’ll pick the wrong mode to start with. The best way to get around this problem is to have a “More” menu where advanced users can play all their fidgety modes. An example of a good menu design is in the game “Spewer”. It has a lot of depth to the game but in order to find all those extra-options I need to access the pause menu in game, which if I’m enjoying the game, won’t find too long to find.
    Spewer Menu

    Spewer Menu

     

  2. The gameplay. – The gameplay is what makes a game. If game play isn’t right then the game probably isn’t going anywhere. Now one of the easiest ways to go wrong in gameplay is being too complicated. Certain games such as RPG’s and Strategy games need a lot of depth, but to be honest your “Asteroids” clone does not need 132 types of enemy’s with 100 different weapons. When it comes to most games too much complexity can kill. The best games of all times such as Mario and Tetris never got much further than jumping and spinning blocks. It’s about quality, not quantity. So if you’re making a game and you do have a lot of content, go over the contents again, decide what does and doesn’t need to be there, then spread the introduction of elements out a bit so as to not overload people with info.
  3. The controls. – The controls to a game are crucial, no game needs to use more than roughly 10 buttons. For example, a,s,w,d to move. That’s 4. Then the number keys 1,2,3,4 to select weapons, that’s 8 the space to fire and p to pause. You do not need all these endless controls and moves to remember. If you have a lot of move’s in a game for example use button combinations, it’s a whole lot easier than typing in endless keys to walk in a straight line.

And that is how to start making a game simpler. The key is pruning, keep that in mind.

-Nathan

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3 responses

26 10 2009
Dan

Everything you say is so blatantly obvious. Theres no insight in saying dont have have 100 buttons. Even when you talk about ‘simplicity’ there should be some insight. The site is called indydev but your first post solely references a flash game… flash development is indie mind you but because you didn’t start off saying what is indiedev about, I still dont really know if your trying to teach game development, game theory (as this post was primarily), show us games around the indie world (which exists far beyond flash), etc. You might even want to introduce yourself and tell us what experience you have so we can take you seriously. There’s a lot of sites like these around and you’ll need something new to gather a niche audience.

27 10 2009
Nathan

The blog is covering games, apps and web design. In this series of going over the key to design in each area, look in the about section for some info about me. This blog is both about game development, game theory and the indie world. I’m going of more of a mix. My niche audience is just whoever wants to read, it’s not a good plan, but this is just something I’m doing because I like to talk about games.

Thanks for mentioning depth, I try to go a little further and expand on ideas more in future.

27 10 2009
Chaz

Very in depth article man, I like it. Look foward to whatever else you come up with!

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