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Game Design
I didn't get a chance to speak at Dreamation so here are my notes on Game Design:

The Three Big Questions
1) What is your game about?
2) How does it go about that?
3) What does your game reward/discourage/encourage?

What is your game about? – PREMISE
Your game needs to be about something. It can be leveling up a character to face greater challenges, it could be about the stress of working in a business environment, it could be about protecting people unable/unwilling to protect themselves. But it needs to be about something. I call this the premise.

How does it go about that? – ELEMENTS
The game (mechanics, setting, everything) should all work toward establishing and reinforcing that premise. If your game is about leveling up, make that MEAN SOMETHING. If the game is about tragic romance, have rules for flirtation and for breaking up with people. Elements are all the pieces of your game.

What does it reward? – SYSTEM
Rewards drive play. This is the “engine” of the game. D&D uses XP’s as a base (because XP’s are used to level the character) but it also uses money, equipment and context (better tactics, new allies, enemies, knowledge, etc.). The System is how the Elements fit together to establish and reinforce the Premise. This is the core of Game Design.

These things build up onto one another and become more focused as you go along in the process:

Why do we play?

What is it?

How does it work?

Answer these and your game will work. Fail to answer them and it won't.
2 comments or Leave a comment
ad1066 From: ad1066 Date: February 4th, 2005 04:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for posting this. I've been asking myself some very similar questions while working on refining Spookybeans with Dregg, but this is nicely focused.

-- Ben
trollmage From: trollmage Date: February 4th, 2005 02:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Careful about the "reward" thing

I would want to be careful about the "reward" aspect of it, IMHO. There are intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and "reward" usually means extrinsic motivation. Do this and you'll get that. Extrinsic motivation for an activity tends to decrease people's motivation for and performance in that activity.

I'd prefer to think not in terms of "what does it reward?" but "what does it enable?" And your list of "rewards" moves in that direction -- everything mentioned is a means to open up one's options and enable new possibilities in play.
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