Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Think of Social Games as Video Arcades: You Gotta Pay to Play

Last night, game design rock stars John Romero and Brenda Brathwaite held a Q&A session in front of a packed house at the Cogswell Polytechic's Dragons Den in Sunnyvale, California.  Romero is a game designer, self-taught programmer and artist who has published 97 games and is the father of the modern first person shoot genre.

Brathwaite is another game industry veteran with dozens of games to her credit including the Wizardry series and Dungeons & Dragons.  In November 2010 Romero and Brathwaite co-founded social game company Loot Drop.

Here are some of the tidbits that they revealed:
  • The energy game mechanic in many social games is simply another version of arcade games that require players to drop quarters to continue playing.  
  • Since gaming is an industry and not an art form, all game successful designers need find ways to get their players to pay them.  If you don't like a monetization mechanic, design a different one.
  • Sound design is an important aspect of overall game design.  Sound designers and composers should attempt to make the sounds in their games distinctive.  Sounds and music can lend a unique signature to a game.
  • The core second-to-second game mechanics are the most important elements of a game to get right.  Once this part of the game is solid, then other mechanics and longer story arcs can be layered on top.
  • Mechanics are the message.  Distilled to their essence, games are defined by a structured set of rules. 
  • Tidiness theory.  The natural human design to keep things tidy and organized can be expressed in a variety of game mechanics.  For example, PacMan can be seen as a game about cleaning dot from a maze.  Other games encourage players to clear each level.

If you'd like to find out more about Romero and Brathwaite you can check out Planet Romero and Brathwaite's Applied Game Design blog.

[The sponsors of the event said that they'd post a video of the entire session.  I'll post a link to it once it's available.]

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