How to easily make game design decisions
Making games is hard, there's no denying that. Every decision you make has the potential to drive your game towards, or away from, success. This often leads to either decision paralysis, where you postpone difficult decisions or refuse to make them in fear of making a wrong choice, or apathy towards decisions, where you no longer give them the thought needed to end up with a coherent experience at the finish line.
Both problems are real ones that sneak up on a lot of development teams.
Decision paralysis leads to postponed deadlines, unfinished projects or trying to cater to too many different audiences.
Apathy towards decisions creates fragmented games that leaves players frustrated or confused making them quit the experience.
Luckely there is one solution to both of these problems. The real villain in this story is often a lack of core identity. The core identity of a game is a set of values, emotions, phrases, aesthetic goals, ... that define the intentions of the designer. They give you a clear vision about your game and will make the decision making process a lot easier.
I have worked on projects lacking a clear core identity and it's frustrating for everyone involved. Every meeting becomes an opportunity for heated debates about what does and doesn't fit into the game because everybody involved has a different vision of what the game is supposed to be. They all have their our own conception of the core identity of the game making it impossible to agree on even the simplest of things. You can guess how these projects ended up.
So take a moment and think about your game. What is its core identity? If you can answer this immediately : congratulations! You can stop reading and get back to making your game.
If not, here are some steps you can take to find out what your game is all about.
1. Figure out why you want to make this game. Who is it for? What environment are they playing in. Who are they with? How do they feel when playing your game?
2. Know your own personal WHY. You can read how to here. How does your WHY relate to this game?
3. Look for words, emotions, phrases, ... that clearly describe the aspects each element of your game should try to achieve in order to create the experience you invision and serve your personal WHY. Try to keep this list as brief as possible and make sure everyone on the team knows it, agrees to it and understands the meaning of each item.
This list will serve as the core identity of your game and will make decision making much easier saving you a lot of important time and frustration. If you have to choose between option A or option B, the option that best matches the core identity will be the better one. If you allow the core identity of your game to guide your decision making proces your game will be a coherent experience serving your personal WHY.
If you have a difficult time figuring out the core identity of your game or you feel as if there are conflicting elements on your list, you can contact me through the form on this website and I will gladly help you to figure them out.