Good design, Bad design, Great design

 Posted by (Visited 30951 times)  Game talk  Tagged with:
Dec 162011

Good design is familiar.
Bad design is boring.
Great design is exciting.

Good design embraces human nature.
Bad design exploits human nature.
Great design is humane and humanistic.

Good design guides.
Bad design controls.
Great design invites.

Good design drives habit.
Bad design drives frustration.
Great design drives passion.

Good design teaches.
Bad design lectures.
Great design has you teach yourself.

Good design is invisible.
Bad design calls attention to itself.
Great design calls attention to what you can do.

Good design celebrates accomplishments.
Bad design loudly celebrates minor accomplishments.
Great design enables accomplishments.

Good design does what the user wanted.
Bad design does what the designer wanted.
Great design does what the user didn’t know they needed.

Good design is at the user’s skill level.
Bad design never asked the user.
Great design makes everyone think they can use it.

Good design is intentional.
Bad design is planned (exhaustively, on paper).
Great design reveals itself while working in the materials.

Good design gets people to pay for utility.
Bad design gets people to pay as quickly as possible.
Great design makes money as an incidental consequence.

Good design makes companies.
Bad design can make plenty of money.
Great design builds legacies, cultures, and communities.

Good design converses.
Bad design tells.
Great design connects people.

Good design executes on the possible.
Bad design ships on time.
Great design reaches for the implausible.

Good design has only the parts it needs.
Bad design is cluttered.
Great design has fewer parts than seem possible.

Good design doesn’t fail.
Bad design fails a lot.
Great design fails even more.

I have done good design.
I have done plenty of bad design.
I always want to do great design.


Edit: if you are looking for the GDC talk I gave with this title, check here. Basically the same as the above, with a bunch of additional material.

  17 Responses to “Good design, Bad design, Great design”

  1. Really clever article 🙂

  2. Well I guess this just goes to show that poetry didn’t have to rhyme.


  3. Well said! I agree to every word.

  4. Should be the mission statement for the industry.

    And here’s a toast to a great design that recently shut down, and hopes that core elements of that design will live again.

  5. Salut, Raph. May your aspirations forever exceed your accomplishments.

    Here’s another to ponder:

    Good design compromises with necessity.
    Bad design surrenders to convenience.
    Great design changes the rules.

  6. Great post! I will make my self re-read these when i find myself drifting!

  7. I don’t know what you’re working on now, but I really, really want you to come back and make something like UO or SWG agian.


    You are a great designer.

  8. Disney Adventures Online. Now with open PvP.

    Because the Duck must die.

  9. Can we take it then that this is your commentary on Bioware/EA’s ‘SWTOR’?

  10. No. I haven’t even played it yet!

  11. Great post Raph.

    Some thoughts from myself to no-one in particular.

    I would say that in certain aspects SW:TOR has “Great” design (Social Points for one) but remains only “OK” (somewhere between “Good” and “Bad”) in most areas, while in some it is “Bad.” This can be said for most games these days; sadly it seems that the companies have resigned to focusing only on the money rather than making great and/or innovative games.

    SWG was a game I considered to be of mostly “Great” design. Even after the NGE (“OK” design) they continued to try extremely ambitious things (Planetary-Air combat) and push certain envelopes that were not forbidden to them by bean counters. I’ll admit that they also implemented things that I consider ridiculously unnecessary (SWG:TCG.) I still have yet to find another MMO that features the same level of social RP and world interaction (Housing, Cities, Politician system.)

    I thought of WoW (back when I tried it out at launch) as only “OK.” This should show you how well I agree with “most” MMO gamers, lol. To be honest, trying WoW, while still playing SWG; I was probably a bit spoiled with my expectations because of everything we could do in SWG. I loved the complicated “Profession-Build” system and player driven social-game. I never went back to WoW once I realized that the vaguely discussed “player apartments” would never materialize.

    Now with SWG gone for good, I may stick with TOR, but I doubt it to be honest. Just as with WoW, there’s not enough there for a gamer like me. This opinion comes from someone who beta’d and pre-ordered TOR. Housing is one “fluff” feature I consider to be “Great” design, because despite all the drawbacks, you have a place to collect your things and display your achievements. I could care less about some meaningless icon on a website, or “player card;” I want to see the item I earned displayed in my house once I no longer need to use/wear it. I was a collector in SWG, had everything from a complete 1st anniversary painting collection to a Ewok Holo-Pet (only one I know of, on Eclipse server). Each of those items invoked a story of how I got it, and memories that I may lose now that I can’t log in and view them. Housing isn’t “fluff” it’s community, involvement, and ownership of your own part of the game… a history bank, or “museum of you.” I was a collector, and possessed items that could no longer be gotten, people enjoyed seeing my collection, even offering to buy some of it (had offers of more than a billion credits for the Ewok holo-pet, which I didn’t accept). There’s something to be said for walking into your own space, looking around and having that “Oh, wow, I forgot about that.” moment.

    Now in TOR, I am just throwing things away because of the limited storage space in the impersonal (WoW-style) “bank.” I think “why bother keeping it, if nobody can actually see it?”

    Alex Clarke: Can we take it then that this is your commentary on Bioware/EA’s ‘SWTOR’?

    It’s not fair to try and force Raph into a statement of support/dislike. It’s up to him if he wants to do that, not you.

  12. Alex, I had to go back and re-read Raph’s original post after yours and I must say I see something there as well 🙂

  13. As a permaculture designer and educator, i really appreciate this article! thank you Raph.

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