Thursday, May 24, 2007

Art and Science of Game Design

Game Design broadly breaks down into the twin processes of System design and Scenario creation (or, system operation). System design is the broad rule and norm setting which defines the game. Scenario creation is the use of a design to create specific effects.

In many good games the two processes are combined in the one product. Thus, classic Avalon Hill boardgames and such computer games as Hearts of Iron all have a set of rules and parameters which combine to create a specific challenging environment in which we can play. The great advantage of these games is that the rules are able to cover all foreseeable situations which will arise, and can indeed bring such a situation specifically into existence.

In other games, such as my own Al Front! miniatures project set in the Spanish Civil War or, to a lesser degree, the Pacific Fighters game platform, the player is provided with a toolkit in the form of the system design with which they can then create individual scenarios in which to play. The joy of these systems is that they can be used to create a theoretically limitless number of games with which to entertain ourselves.

I want to write a bit about designing scenarios, because I believe the method and art of this is translatable across any game design in which they can be used. For decades I have been told that my scenarios are 'fun' because of their integration between story and game experience. This has been the case from Airfix and Matchbox 1:72 WWII games in the back shed in the seventies, to Traveller and Dungeons and Dragons in the early eighties to computer games of platoon level warfare on the Eastern Front in the nineties, to flying planes over the Pacific most recently (and a helluvalotofa games inbetween).

I think that by writing about the process of scenario creation I might become a bit more aware of the alchemy of the process, and thus be able to create better scenarios. I might also be able to give the odd reader who passes over these posts a few ideas they haven't yet had. And if I can do that, it will have been worth the effort.

No comments: