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Principles of Video Game Design
By Allison Boyer
Source: "General Principles of Video Game Design"
OverviewA video game's design usually determines how well the game ultimately sells. At one time, game designers may have been able to find work everywhere, but now that video games are more mainstream, major game development companies such as Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Activision, Ubisoft and Sony are hiring only developers who fully understand the principles of video game design. Without hitting all of the marks, a video game will fail commercially and with critics.
FunThe most basic principle of a video game design is the fun factor. Gamers won't purchase a game if it doesn't entertain them, even if it has a great story line and memorable characters. Coming up with original ideas that are fun, however, is harder than most consumers realize. Whether or not a game is fun is extremely objective as well. Common mistakes that make a game less fun include making the game too easy to beat and forcing the player to repeat actions over and over again.
Story LineMost video games have stories, though some casual games do not. When a game has a story, however, this is an important part of the video game's design. Between play, the game may have cut scenes, which are minimovies to advance the story line, or the story line may be told during game play itself. The developer designing the game must determine the right way to incorporate the story with the actual challenge of the game. Characters are also important to the story line, and the best games usually have extremely memorably protagonists and antagonists.
Levels or MapsThe environment of a video game is usually split into levels or maps, depending on the type of game. This is the environment in which the gamer plays as well as the difficulty level of the game at any particular point. Developers design most games to have some sense of strategy or exploration; in other words, the game isn't totally linear and there are many ways to advance to the next level.
Graphics and SoundNo matter what game you are playing, the way it looks and sounds is important. This integral part of video game design is all about technique and technology, though creativity plays a factor as well.
ControlsOtherwise good video games have been reviewed poorly due to control systems that aren't up to par. If the controls are too hard to use, gamers may become frustrated with the game before making it past the first level. On the other hand, really simple controls can seem limiting at times, since there aren't interesting or innovative ways to play the game. Controls need to seem as though they come naturally.