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New Game Mechanics

6 replies [Last post]
Joined: 01/23/2019

Ive been wondering how many people out there are trying to invent an entirely new game mechanic?

Is that the thing that defines a new genre of gaming? Or is the best approach simply to combine existing mechanics in different and interesting ways? How do people approach game design from a mechanic point of view?

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Most mechanics are recycled

Most mechanics are recycled over and over. And the games are almost always different combinations of these mechanics.

A new mechanic is hard to think of. And only by sheer luck, you might think of a new one.

Either you combine existing mechanics and you think of a way to replace them by one new mechanic.
Or you think of an entirely new mechanic in the first place.
Either way, I think it would be a waste to discard the mechanic if you see no choice, without sharing it with the others. You even might find out that it already existed too.

I have one mechanic, that I am 100% sure of being unique. I design all my games around this mechanic. But it is my hobby, so don't think much of it.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011

I tend to approach design in a few ways, and believe it or not the mechanics in use aren't near the top of the list. Objectively speaking, I can say I'm not a mechanics-first designer at all. I typically think in terms of:

  • What am I trying to simulate in this game?
  • What kind of game can use these components I have on hand?
  • This is a really neat icon set/artwork/visual/etc. What kind of game can use this?

For me, specific mechanics come after I have addressed at least two of the three above. Mechanics on their own don't excite me, but the context in which I will use them does.

I would say that very often I approach a game using the first two points above (with the first one about simulation being the priority), while the third one is significantly lower in priority most of the time, because if a publisher really does want to publish something I've designed, the prototype artwork will likely be tossed out anyway.

ArkhamArkhiver's picture
Joined: 12/08/2018
Define "Mechanic"

I'm not trying to invent any new mechanics, but I am looking for interesting mechanics to support my theme and the flavor of my game.

You have to define mechanic though. The definition I like to work with is from the Critical Gaming Network: "Player initiated actions from controller inputs as designated by the game designers. These actions have effects on the gamestate in terms of the variables and dynamics of the gameplay system." That really applies to video games, and frequently I've heard e-sports commentators and shout-casters refer to a pro-player's "mechanics" in this manner.

So common mechanics, using this definition would be rolling dice, playing cards, pulling or placing tokens, meeples, or chits, turning a card a certain number of degrees, moving any of the above around, etc.

It would probably be easier to design a new "rules system" than think of a new mechanic. For example, Dominion was hailed as the grand-father of the deck-building genre, but all it did was take a common mechanic (drawing and playing cards) and change the setup and rules surrounding a players deck.

However, you can really think outside the box. The role-playing game Dread uses a Jenga tower as it's primary gameplay mechanic, as each action a player attempts requires them to pull a block from the tower. Each pulled block makes the tower more precarious, which is thematically consistent with the rising tension (i.e. dread) within the story being told.

You probably don't want your gameplay to be primarily dexterity based though. For example, a game mechanic could be balancing an object on the back of your hand, or, as was the case in early Magic: the Gathering, dropping a game object from a certain height above the table. (Whatever cards it touched were the cards effected.) Those are all interesting mechanics in my opinion, but they aren't exactly great in their respective context.

The mechanic that interests me currently, is players manipulating hidden information on the table. Placing cards face-down, and being required to check your opponent's face-down cards (a la Android: NetRunner) is a great mechanic in my opinion.

Joined: 06/09/2017
trying to invent a new

trying to invent a new mechanic is a noble persuit, but in 99 per cent of cases pointless. chances are its already a mechanic, part of an existing mechanic or a mix of mechanics.
occasionally a new one will surface but trying to make it unique just to be unique will (probably) lead to disappointment.
i doubt (without any research) there has been a truly new mechanic since the invetion of the playing card. deck building in dominion has often been given as an example but that can be broken down into smaller mechanics that have been slightly altered to fit together.

my one caveat would be game gimicks- those mostly physical components that really are unique- but that is more from an engineering perspective.

Joined: 01/27/2017
Mechanics and Components

While games often try to simulate an imaginary contest through mechanics (as in LOS's point 1), there is some value in finding a unifying theme for the mechanics or components in a particular game.

The Rolemaster system came up with a bazillion different ways to use 2d10, Monopoly does almost all of its state-recording with slips of paper/card, etc.

So once you've identified the core Thing you want your players to do each turn, each new thing you add should be weighed against the added cost of additional components and whether it fits in with the other stuff you have players doing. This means the peripheral elements of your simulation will have lower fidelity (using a not-quite-optimal mechanic), but that's better than detracting from the core.

It's fine to have a couple different aesthetics going on, for example, pawns physically placed on the map and some kind of status track... but you don't want to go crazy with half a dozen unrelated systems.

Joined: 01/23/2019
Thanks for the valuable

Thanks for the valuable insight guys. I really like approaching a game from the standpoint of the experience you'd like the player to have during their turn. But i suppose in an increasingly saturated market, entirely new mechanics are the thing that will get a game noticed and even perhaps awarded. I can only dream of course :)

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