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Choosing the game s target market and genre and selecting the right people for the game project aren t the only key points you need to think about when planning your game. A lot of information is available in books and on the Internet about planning games. Here we ll provide you with an overview of some points you simply can t afford to live without when planning your game. Game goal: Everything starts with a clearly defined game goal: to win the World Cup, to defeat the evil mage and avoid the world s destruction, to save as many lemmings as you can in each level. This goal ultimately guides the creation of the game storyline and defines whether it s an innovative game or just another clone of a best-selling title. Ending criteria: Besides the game goal, it s also important to define the game-end criteria: when to end the game, which includes the player s winning criteria (usually the game goal or some goal related to it) and the nonwinning criteria (when the number of lives reaches zero, when the time is up, and so on). When defining the nonwinning game-end criteria, it s also important to define how the player will return to a new game. Providing a saving or autosaving feature is crucial for long games, but might diminish the challenge for a short game such as chess or solitaire.
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CHAPTER 1 s GAME PLANNING AND PROGRAMMING BASICS
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Storyline: Closely related to the game goal, the storyline provides a background that explains and justifies the game goal, and is crucial to keep the player immersed in the game. When there s a storyline to be followed (not all games have one), everything in the game must contribute to it. The wrong music or a small out-of-place detail in a game would break the illusion as much as seeing someone using a wristwatch in a movie such as Gladiator. Creating nonlinear storylines makes the players feel like their decisions make a difference in the game flow, which, although hard to achieve, greatly improves the gaming experience. Playability: The playability refers to how easy and fun the game is to play. The first 15 playing minutes are vital for players to decide if they ll keep playing, so the game should provide a balance of easy-to-control movements for beginners, and complex (and harder to use) movements for advanced players. Replayability: This term refers to the desire players have, after finishing a game, to go back and play again. For simple games such as Tetris, the appeal of playing again is obvious, but for more complex games you must plan this appeal in the form of built-in features (such as extra levels unlocked every time the player finishes the game), or as game extensions the player can download or buy. Forgiveness: Entering in the details of game play, this concept refers to the programmer s ability to provide the correct balance between mathematical accuracy and playability. For example, in a shooter game, if the player shoots a bullet that passes close to an enemy without touching the enemy, it s better to count it as an accurate shot. On the other hand, the programmer might choose to decrement the player s energy only for enemy shots that hit the player s character s torso, ignoring bullets on head, arms, and legs, to make the game easier. Challenge: You might say that challenge is the opposite of forgiveness: it s the game s ability to provide difficult but not impossible challenges to beat. If the game is too easy or too hard the player will simply exchange it for a better-balanced one. The game can provide different skill levels to choose from, and must offer levels with increasingly difficult challenges to keep the player interested. Reward: Rewarding players when they win is as important as offering good challenges for them to beat. These rewards which might be special items, money, energy, lives, unlocking new levels, and so on include prize in-level challenges (such as an amount of gold and extra experience gained for every monster defeated), end-of-level awards (such as presenting a cut-scene and giving bonus points), and a big show at the game ending. Remember: nothing is more frustrating for a player than spending dozens of hours to win a game only to see a puny congratulations screen in the end!
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