Insider 11-11-2011

Since all the projects I’m working on are still very hush-hush, I’m going to give you some insight on my process for working on them instead.

As I see it, there are three general categories that cover all aspects of gameplay. These categories are Skill, Luck, and Social Interaction. Hardly any games only have one, but not all games need all three. The games that do include all three rarely have them in equal parts. It’s the balance of the three that make some people love a game, while others won’t play it.

First, let me define what I mean with each of these categories. Skill is the ability to make decisions that matter and control the outcome of your actions to some extent. Luck is the likelihood to accomplish the thing you set out to do. Social Interaction is the most complex part, but at its most basic level it is the ability to affect the other players with your decisions.

Let’s look at skill first. If a game has no skill component, it quickly loses the attention of a lot of gamers. Most people use a game without skill as “filler” but rarely devote entire gaming sessions to it. On the other hand, if a game is nothing but skill, differences in player ability soon make the game dull for some.

Luck is the counter to skill. Not knowing if you will accomplish your goal adds the excitement that makes most games fun. However, if a game is too controlled by luck, then players will be overwhelmed by the futility of never having any real control.

Like I said above, social interaction is a complicated topic. I’m not simply referring to sitting around a table having a good time. Even a terrible game can be fun if you are playing it with people you like. The social interaction I’m talking about is a game element that lets one player do things that matter to another player. It can be as small as taking a card that someone else wants, or as big as marching your armies into your opponent’s territory to destroy him.

So that’s the short version of how I think about game design. DC and I will be taking a closer look at these concepts in future Insiders. In the meantime, think about some of the games you like to play and how they fit into the categories.