Tips for game designers

These “20 Tips for Game Designers” were first published in 2004, on the release of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

  1. Prototype and test key game elements as early as possible.
  2. Build the game in incremental steps – Don’t make big design documents.
  3. As you go, continue to strengthen what’s strong, and cut what’s weak.
  4. Be open to the unexpected – Make the most of emergent properties.
  5. Be prepared to sell your project at every stage along the way.
  6. It’s harder to sell an original idea than a sequel.
  7. Bigger teams and budgets mean bigger pressure to stay on schedule.
  8. Don’t invest in an overly grandiose development system.
  9. Make sure the player always has a goal (and knows what it is).
  10. Give the player clear and constant feedback as to whether he is getting closer to his goal or further away from it.
  11. The story should support the game play, not overwhelm it.
  12. The moment when the game first becomes playable is the moment of truth. Don’t be surprised if isn’t as much fun as you expected.
  13. Sometimes a cheap trick is better than an expensive one.
  14. Listen to the voice of criticism – It’s always right (you just have to figure out in what way).
  15. Your original vision is not sacred. It’s just a rough draft.
  16. Don’t be afraid to consider BIG changes.
  17. When you discover what the heart of the game is, protect it to the death.
  18. However much you cut, it still won’t be enough.
  19. Put your ego aside.
  20. Nobody knows what will succeed.

Posted on Dec 15, 2009 in Blog, Featured, Games, Making Games, Prince of Persia | 11 comments

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  1. 12-15-2009

    Great List. I need to Archive it.

  2. 12-15-2009

    i love this list, i’m planning on majoring in game design, so this list is pure gold for me. thanks a lot for posting it up. if you have any other advice, please post it up

  3. 12-15-2009

    “Don’t invest in an overly grandiose development system.”

    Can you elaborate on that a bit? Generally the better the tools, the more you get out of your content creator people.. on the other hand this could refer to hardware / IT architecture, or the fact that you can over-engineer the tools (and end up not making the game at all in the end)..

  4. 12-16-2009

    I think it means investing in tools which can do a lot but also require a lot of time investment from people (which in turn means that this time is taken from the development). This line brought UnrealEd to my mind which although a very capable tool, it feels like a spaceship cockpit especially when compared to most other game editors (like, say, Hammer which is a very simple – although sometimes cryptic – editor).

    Of course it doesn’t say “tools” so it may also mean anything similar, like a platform that needs your blood to run (PS3?) or an engine that while good it is a bit hard to use.

  5. 12-16-2009

    Sol_HSA: My guess is that it’s due to the fact that systems must be built before you can use them, which pushes back the beginning of actual development and thus pushes back the ‘first playable moment’ (see 12). Easy mistake to make, if that’s what his point was.

    18 is a sacred, painful truth.

  6. 12-16-2009

    I always had much trouble abiding to nr. 19, thinking I had the best ideas. It’ll definitely put off your team members.

  7. 12-16-2009

    Tip #2 really hits home, as my grand (naive) idea is definitely not something I wish to tackle all at once. Bookmarked. :)

    Thanks for the tips!

  8. 12-16-2009

    “1. Prototype and test key game elements as early as possible.”

    Ooh, a very good one to start off this nice list with. It’s like when you decide to draw a person. You enthusiastically start drawing the head and face, then continue drawing the body, only to find out you misjudged the amount of room you would need for that. Then you learn. :)

    It also reminds me of the many grandiose game mod projects that are started, that progress, slow down, and then just die due to their unrealistic design documents, if those were even ever made.

  9. 12-17-2009

    1. ”Prototype”

    I see what you did there.

    But thanks for your tips.

  10. 12-23-2009

    “17. When you discover what the heart of the game is, protect it to the death”

    Considering all other steps before, this is probably the most overlooked truth that should dominate all others. Even if the moment of discovery comes later than planned :)

  11. 5-5-2010

    Thanks for your excellent tips.
    I’ll translate it into Korean and share it.

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