Every great game is built using Metaphor. Now Metaphor isn’t some programming language or document editor - I've only capitalised it because it’s Really Important. Like that bit. See? Good. Now our Metaphor should be Solid and Hard. Let’s pick an example.
How about pickle as in, "in this game the player gets in a bit of a pickle". Now you might be thinking that this is a great Metaphor because it implies that your game’s got great puzzles – pickle is after all made out of a combination (that means mix) of ingredients. And you combine things in some puzzle games. Also, pickle is quite tasty and you might want your game’s protagonist (that means player character) to be some tasty bird.
But no! Pickle is no good because pickle is squishy and not Solid and Hard. We need something that really screams Solid and Hard (that isn’t rude), and I can think of only one thing – a Rock. As in Solid as a Rock! Rock Hard! Rockefeller! Rock on, dude! Rocky IV! Baroque! Perfect!
How to conceptualize an award winning game
Every planet has a Rock at its core. Every game has a nugget of what it is, and that is the concept. The conceptualization of the game is the stage where you decide what is in the game. Conceptualization is really important.
Some great concepts include ones where the player has to do really cool things, like save the world or destroy something, or rescue a princess. A concept can also be something that is different about the game. It could involve no shooting, for example. Or it could involve shooting different things (like aliens, or innocent people)
Anyway, as you can see, ideas spray from my brain like a geyser of genius, but that is to be expected. For you this process may be hard. But do not despair, because a Rock is fashioned from smaller Rocks – for even the ant that stands on the pebble stands taller than the smaller ant, in the mud beside the pebble. I think that is the best way to express what I mean.
So, as you can see, conceptualizing is Very Important.
How to construct an exciting and absorbent narrative
Narrative is very important. A litre of water can be displaced by a Rock. And that Rock is the Narrative, in a bucket of Story.
The narrative is what happens in the story, and how the game happens to the player as they are playing the game. A narrative requires a narrator, and that narrator is you, and you must narrate to the player the story in the form of a narrative. This is what a narrative is.
Always start your narrative with a cut-scene!
This cut-scene should be long and impressive. Now, some gamers are lazy gamers, and they just want to get to the game-play as quickly as possible. Of course, we know that the narrative is Very Important, so it is crucial that you make sure this cut-scene is compulsory. A good way to do this is to disable the joy-pad (this is programming speak for making the joy-pad not work)
Gamers get tired hands
It is important to interrupt game-play frequently to give the player’s hands a rest. Adding numerous non-story related cut-scenes, a great example of which is the brilliant Resident Evil series and it’s fondly remembered opening door animations, which were actually not related to load times, but a genius bit of game design to rest gamers’ hands. You can use similar devices like overly complex “picking item up off floor” sequences, or blissfully long death animations.
Story drives game-play, not the other way around!
A car cannot be driven without a driver. That driver must be the story pushing the pedal of narrative. It is important that what happens in your story happens, whether the player likes it or not. It doesn’t matter if the player isn’t having fun right away, if it’s important to the story then put it in, because there’ll be plenty of time for fun later on.
Adding the plot twist
You must have a plot twist because it makes your story sound clever. A good way to add a plot twist is to make one of the characters a bad guy, even though you thought they were a good guy (like in Star Wars). This is a great example of a plot twist. Market Research scientifically shows that this plot twist will do, so just use that one. Also, make sure that this plot-twist is explained in full on the back of the box, to show the gamers that they are buying a clever game.
Think big (like a Rock, a big Rock)
Some small and boring game is not going to get to #1. Gamers are hungry for bigness, and only bigness will do. For example, it is generally seen as a bit of an embarrassment in the upper echelons of the game industry to release a game that fits on a single DVD (or perish the thought, a CD), so make sure your cut-scenes are high definition FMV that would make Peter Jackson bluish. Your story deserves it.
Ending on perfection
Spending time on the ending is not as important as the beginning, as only a few gamers will get to it. Junior designers or placement students would be ideal for this task, so you can spend your time making that all important intro! Remember to get your name first on the credits, and that the credits are accessible from the main menu (or better still compulsory at the start of the game). Remember whose hard work this game is down to. (Yours… and mine)
So there we go. Rock Solid game design in a nutshell. No not a nutshell actually, a Rock Holder. But a small Rock Holder that’s portable and fits into a pocket or something.
P.S. Buy Gibbage by Don Martian