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How do you create game mechanics?

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Emrak
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Joined: 09/19/2013

Good day!
At this link http://www.bgdf.com/node/148 the author describes the steps of game design. There is one notable missing piece in step 3 though.

"3. Elaboration: Once the germ of the idea exists, it requires elaboration. If you have a great themes but no mechanics, then it's time to figure out how to make that theme into a game."

The entire process of devising initial mechanics (arguably the most important part of game design) is reduced down to "figure out how". :) I understand that the process of devising mechanics is probably more art than science, but I'm having a great deal of difficulty finding any info at all on this topic online. Could some of you chime in with your techniques and/or workflow for constructing mechanics for a new game?

Thanks!

McTeddy
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Joined: 11/19/2012
To be fair, this topic is too

To be fair, this topic is too broad for me to answer. It'd be more effective to ask specifically what you are trying to do and get a specific answer.

Best I can give you is that creating mechanics is usual three steps.

- Come up with an idea
- Test the idea
- If the test fails... start over. If it works then you build on the idea to make it more entertaining, easier to play or whatever else needs tobe done.
Keep in mind every time you build you do both of the above steps with your more focused plan.

Repeat these steps until you have something that works.

Corsaire
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Joined: 06/27/2013
I think this is a fundamenal

I think this is a fundamenal question of how do you become a game designer. Which is in part a matter of learning about and playing a lot of games with the creative outlook and awareness of how they work. Who are game designers, what drives them.

If you want to be a game designer more than making one game for a theme you are passionate about, then you should experiment and play lots of games, and analyze games, and read in depth reviews and such.

If you aren't naturally a designer (many of us have been designing games since we were kids, because we can't help ourselves) then start with this theme you have and try to fit itonto another game that you like. Then start fixing all the things that don't make sense, then playtest and fix the stuff that doesn't work.

Emrak
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Joined: 09/19/2013
Thanks for the input folks.

Thanks for the input folks. Over the years I've had quite a few really good theme ideas for games and my initial mechanics typically show promise, however after X days/weeks of work the games end up on the shelf. There comes a point where I look at the design and say "this isn't any fun at all". While we'd all like to think that grand designs come upon us as if by magic, we know there has to be a methodology we're utilizing, even if subconsciously. As I'm somewhat frustrated right now, if not straight up demoralized, I thought I might reach out to others to see if I couldn't nail down some different methods experiment with. Maybe if I look at the process from another angle something will pop out, etc., etc.

dzebra
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Joined: 05/15/2013
making mechanics

Here's how I come up with mechanics. There are two different approaches I've used, and I'll outline both of them

Here's the first one:

- Think of a cool "scene" in your game that you want to happen. This could be something like "Bust into a room and shoot all the bad dudes inside," or "A seed grows into a tree," or "Slaves are being commanded to build a pyramid."

- Think of all the details that exist in that scene. Write a list if you need to. Using the seed growing into a tree example: the seed gathers nutrients from the soil and sun, the roots expand to reach water, leaves bloom, bugs and animals try to eat it, etc (don't stop here, there are still lots more things for this list). Some of the things in that list will be more interesting to you than others, but write them all down anyway.

- Take your favorite things from that list and identify the verbs. Game mechanics are verbs, so the verbs are what matters most. Using the list I just wrote, the verbs that I like the best are "gather" and "expand."

- Those verbs are now your mechanics! You have a game where you are trying to expand your reach to gather resources (those nouns came from the same place those verbs did, but it's the verbs that are important). That's a network-building game. From here, you have the groundwork. You still need details like how the play space is organized, or how the resources are distributed, though. No problem.

- Look back to your inspiration to find the details. How are roots organized for plants? How to plants' roots interact with other plants? What types or resources do plants need, and how and those resources distributed in real life. Pick the details that are fun or interesting and use those.

From there, you have mechanics that are at least a starting place. You can playtest these to see how they work. Everything else comes from practice. The more you do that process, the better you get at choosing more interesting scenes and verbs and details. And as you take different mechanics from start to finished, you get a better sense for what works. Eventually, you can identify a bad mechanic before you get to the playtesting part.

Here's a second method I use for coming up with mechanics.

- Think of a feeling you want players to experience. The more specific, the better. For now, we'll go with "hope." Other possibilities include "elation," "silliness," "relief," "courage," "excitement."

- Try to identify what can create that feeling. Make a list of things that can do it. For our example of hope: see the light at the end of the tunnel, know that help is just around the corner, have a way planned through a difficult trial, etc.

- Find the verbs and pick what you want. I'm going to go with "know."

- Put the verbs with nouns from your theme. If we're going with the same theme as before (a seed grows into a tree), we can use some of the nouns we had in that other list, like "nutrients" or "water." With these, you can have a mechanics where players can gain knowledge about what or where certain resources are. Maybe some players can have knowledge other players don't. Perhaps gathering knowledge is half the game, and the other half is acting upon that knowledge.

I feel like I didn't explain the second method as clearly as the first, but I think it's because it deals with feeling, which are harder to verbalize. Hopefully this is at least some help, though.

Ekobor
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Joined: 10/27/2008
Thank you!

I think that first method is the best description I've seen of how to come up with a mechanic.
It's something like what I do, but better written.

McTeddy
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Joined: 11/19/2012
Emrak wrote: I've had quite a

Emrak wrote:
I've had quite a few really good theme ideas for games and my initial mechanics typically show promise, however after X days/weeks of work the games end up on the shelf.

->There comes a point where I look at the design and say "this isn't any fun at all". <-

While we'd all like to think that grand designs come upon us as if by magic, we know there has to be a methodology we're utilizing, even if subconsciously.

My own video on the topic:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfu_-A53dF8

Assorted Web Links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDjrOaoHz9s

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/212625/Whats_the_best_game_dev_advice...

(I'm sure there is more... I just don't feel like looking)
- - - -

You'll notice a pattern... there is no magic methodology to make a game mechanics. The best designers in the world create plenty of crappy games... they just use them as a learning experience.

If it's not fun you need to either identify WHY it's not fun. Is it too mechanical or is it too unbalanced? Get testers involved so that they can help you identify the issues.

When you identify the actual problem you can set out to fixing it... or using that knowledge in the future.

My advice to you is to make smaller and more simple games for a while. These are easier to design, easier to build and easier to finish.

Forget about good "Ideas" and "Theme" and practice finishing a game. Even if the game isn't perfect, you will learn from the mistakes.

questccg
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Joined: 04/16/2011
I agree with McTeddy!

About the part about making a game "FUN". I have had "ideas" about games and once I developed a prototype - the game proved to be rather "boring" to play.

Usually this is because the concept is too simple and does NOT have enough mechanics for the game.

What you should know is this: it happens all the time. One game, that I have been designing has been "shelved" three (3) times already. I just can't get the game to be sufficiently entertaining for myself - and therefore not entertaining for others.

However I have other games where this is not a problem at all. So it depends on the game...

That's why I PROMOTE "sharing game ideas" on a forum such as BGDF - because it helps in knowing if a game like this EXISTS, will the concept be "entertaining", what can you do to design a more compelling game, etc.

There are a lot of designer that "think" they have good game ideas. But the truth is for each "idea" there are far less games published... You need to get more people involved in discussing your game, what are it's strong points, what needs to be improved, etc.

Best of luck with your game!

Note: Most game designs "borrow" game mechanics. It's not like most of us are like Vaccarino and we design a completely NEW game mechanic (like Deck-Building). So usually you want to fuse two (2) or three (3) mechanics and see what "sticks"...

Emrak
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Joined: 09/19/2013
Thank you!

@dzebra: Your post is absolutely genius and I used it today to great effect. It was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you!

@McTeddy: Thanks for the insights and the terrific links (I subscribed). The "fail faster" one was particularly apropos for me.

@questccg: I really appreciate your anecdotes and insights. It really helps to hear that others have walked the same path.

Thanks again to all of you. What a great community! Questccg, once I have something to share I definitely will vet it on this board. Mcteddy, I'm inclined to follow the advice of "this isn't going to work, kick it to the curb and move on to the next idea" however I've done that so many times in the past that I almost feel like I have to push this idea through to completion, no matter how crappy it may be, if only to finally have a project done with, ya know?

McTeddy
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Joined: 11/19/2012
If your issue is not

If your issue is not finishing... then work on THAT problem before worrying about "Fun" or even "not sucking".

I've do the OneGameAMonth challenge to practice my own weakness... polish. While it is primarily a video game challenge... there is no reason you can't to do it with printable board games.

Another choice is the "24 Hour Game Design" challenge over on BoardGameGeek's design forum. My first created/published board game actually came from doing that challenge.

It doesn't matter if your game sucks. If you believe that your failures are stemming from your own lack of finishing... then make dive into short term and small projects.

Once you overcome your fear of "shipping" you can focus more on creating a great project.

Emrak
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Joined: 09/19/2013
McTeddy wrote:If your issue

McTeddy wrote:
If your issue is not finishing... then work on THAT problem before worrying about "Fun" or even "not sucking".

I've do the OneGameAMonth challenge to practice my own weakness... polish. While it is primarily a video game challenge... there is no reason you can't to do it with printable board games.

Another choice is the "24 Hour Game Design" challenge over on BoardGameGeek's design forum. My first created/published board game actually came from doing that challenge.

It doesn't matter if your game sucks. If you believe that your failures are stemming from your own lack of finishing... then make dive into short term and small projects.

Once you overcome your fear of "shipping" you can focus more on creating a great project.

Well, it's not so much finishing as it is the fun factor as described before. I'm just saying that simply having something done would be a boost to self confidence. Out of curiosity, where is the site for the one game a month video game challenge?

McTeddy
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Joined: 11/19/2012
One Game A Month:

One Game A Month:
http://www.onegameamonth.com/

Don't worry too much about the fun factor. It comes with experience. More accurately... you're ability to find the fun in bad games or recognize bad design will improve.

Dig through enough crappy ideas and you'll find a gem.

larienna
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Joined: 07/28/2008
Without watching other

Without watching other people's reply. They are 2 ways to add mechanic to your game that I know so far:

1-Borrow from other games you played. Most common and efficient method.

2-Toy play. Play your game as a toy and try to pull out mechanics out of the gameplay. Useful when you really don't know what you are looking for.

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