Dec 132011

Ian Schreiber posted on Twitter asking

Game designers: in your everyday use of the terms, is there a difference between “rules” and “mechanics”? If so, what?

I do make the distinction, and I had to think a bit about how to even phrase it. So here’s a quick thousand+ words on it. 🙂

First off, I think these are both terms that will feel different to a player vs a designer.

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Dan Cook on Triple Town

 Posted by (Visited 9041 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: ,
Oct 162010

I occasionally think that Dan Cook and I share some brain. Fortunately, the parts we don’t share are wonderful and varied, and it means that there are new games he makes that I would not have thought of.

In this case, it isn’t so much the new game as it is the essay about the game that I want to point you towards. He’s got a new piece up that sounds like mostly an ad: Triple Town released for the Amazon Kindle. But what it is actually about is puzzles, methods of game invention and constraints.

His three core points are ones that resonate with me, albeit presented with his usual awesome diagrams and sheer clarity (unlike my own verbal wanderings and big wordage).

  • Algorithmic designs are better than static puzzle designs. I made this point very shallowly back in 40 Ways to be a better Game Designer.
  • Rethinking core assumptions leads to new virgin territories to explore. In this case, he’s talking about re-examining the match-3 game from basic premises. Echoes of Bartle’s recent cry for “why?” here.
  • Give yourself constraints, prototype with physical objects if need be; the dressing — and indeed even the fancy tech you can bring to bear such as AI and advanced code — are crutches that allow you to avoid elegance. And elegance is the place where you are going to get the best play.

I suspect that these are difficult lessons for budding designers, based on watching people who are newer to the field struggle with them. I likewise think that most veterans take them for granted, jumping straight to ways to alter simple three-rule-three-variable game atoms into something new with little more to prototype with than a pencil and a couple of items from their desks.

But either way, they are common underpinnings. Something that everyone in the field confronts and then has to master. And periodically be reminded of, for that matter, because they are awfully easy to forget.

The beautiful thing about these common elements being so fundamental is that then everything that is built upon them can blossom in so many unexpected and fascinating directions.

Which is why despite Dan’s post being more of an essay than an ad, this post is more of an ad than an essay… Triple Town sounds fascinating, and I want to play it.

But I don’t own a Kindle. Dan, did you do any prototypes on other devices?  *shameless begging* 😉

Fishing Girl

 Posted by (Visited 10863 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Dec 212008
Fishing Girl screenshot

Fishing Girl screenshot

As many of you know, my friend Dan Cook does game prototyping challenges wherein he creates and gives away art and a base game design, and then invites whoever wants to pick the the challenge to make a full game.

Often, the art from these pops up in unexpected places — there’s certainly a few worlds on Metaplace that are using the tilesets that Dan has donated to the community!

Well, one of those challenge games has gone commercial and seems to be doing fairly well in terms of popularity on Newgrounds. A Web developer dove headlong into Flash and created a lovely an atmospheric version of the “Fishing Girl” challenge. Dan then encouraged him to commercialize it.

Check out the review here at JayIsGames, and of course, check out the game itself here: Fishing Girl.