Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Describing mechanics through words

One of the joys (*cough*) of writing about game mechanics is trying to word it so that the person reading your description knows exactly what you're talking about. Especially when you're trying to describe something that seems unconventional for the kind of game you are striving to create. It's challenging to get someone to think that what you've written about could even be remotely fun to play, assuming they understand what you've written about at all.

Over this Memorial Day weekend, I had an "AH-HA!" moment for how I wanted dungeons to be played in my game. It was a very simple idea that solved a lot of problems I was encountering. It had everything I was looking for (simplicity, tension and abstraction) while somehow managing to weed out everything I didn't like about dungeon crawling (feeling of getting nowhere, being lost, unpreparedness of random enemy encounters).

So the next step was to capture this idea in words. That... took quite a while. Or rather... about 3 days of constant thinking and off-and-on typing. I wrote it all on a small webpage so that I could easily show it around to people I trust. I poured over the wording quite a bit and even rewrote entire paragraphs.

Then, I sent the link to one of my friends--a fellow gamer--to get her opinion. I sat in anticipation while I waited for her AIM messages to tell me what she thought.

She responded back: "OK, that sounds cool. I'd play it."

Yay! Step 1 achieved. Although, in reality, it is a small step. Not to discredit my friend, but having someone say "they'd play it" and then actually making sure they'd have fun playing it are two different things.

I talked with her briefly about the wording and whether or not anything was confusing. Surprisingly, she said that I actually over-explained some things and that she got the point before she finished reading.

For now, I celebrate a small victory, for I have articulated my idea properly to at least one individual. My game design is that much closer to completion and my mind that much closer to internal peace.

Now, to show the idea to another victim friend.

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