I was asked about my game design philosophy for Undying, so I figured I’d share my thoughts on that subject publicly. This isn’t a manifesto – I’m not trying to incite a game design revolution (Vincent Baker already accomplished that). This isn’t a treatise either – I’m not looking to join the ranks of the game designer philosopher’s club (there are plenty of folks out there who do a better job of it). I don’t really enjoy talking about game design on the internet or while sober (ply me with a frosty IPA of at least 60 IBUs or a single malt of at least 12 years and I’ll gladly bend your ear… until my glass is empty).
These are just my thoughts on a thing that I did, for anyone who wants to know.
I’ll start with a picture.
The principles of Undying’s design are these:
- Start with a compelling concept for the experience (what people get out of playing the game), the theme (what the game is about), and the tone (the sad, silly, serious, etc. light that the theme is presented in) and distill, through discovery and playtesting, a crisp understanding of each.
- Design rules that codify the experience, the theme, and the tone in the protocols of game play. Further, eschew, without regard to expectation or tradition, any rules or other features that are not consistent with and strictly necessary to codify the experience, the theme, and the tone.
- Integrate the theme, the tone, and the experience together to mutually support each other
- In the rules, as internally consistent and self-reinforcing mechanisms of game play,
- In the game text that explains what the game is about, how to prepare for playing the game, and how to play the game, and
- At the game table itself, through an intuitive and quickly understood design, that the people playing the game can correctly and consistently practice.
- Communicate the rules, the experience, the theme, and the tone clearly and concisely in a readable and entertaining manuscript.
- Be open, honest, and frank with the people who consume and contribute to your game.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Use playtesting, peer reviews, and your gut to refine the design until you think it is either good enough or not good at all, and then take the next steps accordingly.
That’s pretty much it.