Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Game Design Tech Tree, version 0.1 (beta)

I put this together today and thought I'd share. I've attempted to list every major skill or task that falls under the broad field of "game design." I then tried to create a kind of progression, based on which skills are desired prerequisites before learning or performing others.

This is very much a work in progress (I haven't even added any icons yet), so your comments are welcome. Click on the image for a large version.

Since this is mostly a graphical version of notes to myself, some explanations might be required. I'm not sure how much is obvious to the casual observer, however, so rather than write a lengthy essay explaining every last detail, I'll simply answer any questions you have in the comments here. Enjoy!

4 comments:

Sergey Mohov said...

Thank you for the Tree, I'm certainly going to print it and then examine it closely.

Danc said...

Good stuff.

I'd expand UI design considerably. This is one of the skills that I find many younger designers woefully lacking. The ability to create, manipulate and communicate user flows and information architecture is critical to building a playable modern game. These skills go beyond the front end and are important for HUDs, widgets and almost any form of information display that the game inevitably requires. How do you layer information? How do you create modular systems for different users? How do you train users to recognize the internal language of your game interface?

To continue this thought, much of the diagram focuses on building a great system of mechanics...ones that will primarily be appreciated by experts players.

Yet, the vast, vast majority of 'gameplay' in modern single player games as well as the advancement leg of online games focuses on teaching a new user the tools they need to understand and manipulate the systems of the game.

How do you build a tutorial? How do you pace the learning of the games with content, hints and system dynamics? The most brilliant game mechanics are in the world are meaningless without a well designed entrance.

The number one problem I see from top student game is that they are built like a lavishly decorated mansion where someone forgot to put in a front door.

take care
Danc.

gentimouton said...

- I would have put the scalability of the multiplayer set as a specialization (blue zone) rather than a common game design skill, (not everyone designs tradeskills in MMOG)
- I think "feedback" could be something to add in the UI set
- what tool did you use to do this tree? :-)

Ian Schreiber said...

@Danc:
You know me so well (or at least, you know me better for having looked at this). I'm a systems designer, so this is naturally systems-centric. It's not my intention, so much as a personal limitation. I can break down the skills I use quite granularly. The skills I don't have myself... not so much.

And yeah, it felt very strange reducing a sub-field as broad as "UI design" or "Level design" to a single box, when I suspect it should be more its own large section. But what goes in that section? (I'll update UI with your comments in the next revision, certainly.)

@Gentimouton:
On scalability, I see your point about MMOs, but I was thinking even on a smaller scale than that. 8v8 teams in an FPS or RTS plays differently from one-on-one, and designing those systems to scale is a skill of its own.

Thanks for the comment on UI. I'm noticing a lot of UI skills dovetail nicely with the Playtesting and Iteration blocks.

As for what tool I used to make it... I hope you don't think less of me, but it was actually PowerPoint. I used rectangle and rounded-rect autoshapes, arrow connectors, and then the border and color tools to pick a color scheme that was hopefully not TOO much of an eyesore. The secret trick is at the beginning, go to Page Layout and change the page dimensions to custom, 30"x20" or something similarly huge. PPT can export the whole thing to jpg, which is the image I posted here.