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The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

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Lesson 4 of 10
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Some Elements are Game Mechanics

Matthew Colon October 14, 2020
  1. How do the seven mechanics in Schell’s taxonomy play a factor in your project? Which ones are more dominant to your gameplay, and which are less dominant?
    1. Space
    2. Time
    3. Objects, attributes, and states
    4. Actions
    5. Rules
    6. Skill
    7. Chance


Pick some of the lenses below and discuss their questions in regards to your own game projects:

Lens #26: The Lens of Functional Space

  • Is the space of this game discrete or continuous?
  • How many dimensions does it have?
  • What are the boundaries of the space?
  • Are there subspaces? How are they connected?
  • Is there more than one useful way to abstractly model the space of this game?

Lens #27: The Lens of Time

  • What is it that determines the length of my gameplay activities?
  • Are my players frustrated because the game ends too early? How can I change that?
  • Are my players bored because the game goes on too long? How can I change that?
  • Would clocks or races make my gameplay more exciting?
  • Time limits can irritate players. Would I be better off without time limits?
  • Would a hierarchy of time structures help my game? That is, several short rounds that together comprise a larger round?

Lens #28: The Lens of the State Machine

  • What are the objects in my game?
  • What are the attributes of the objects?
  • What are the possible states for each attribute?
  • What triggers the state changes for each attribute?

Lens #29: The Lens of Secrets

  • What is known by the game only?
  • What is known by all players?
  • What is known by some or only one player?
  • Would changing who knows what information improve my game in some way?

Lens #30: The Lens of Emergence

  • How many verbs do my players have?
  • How many objects can each verb act on?
  • How many ways can players achieve their goals?
  • How many subjects do the players control?
  • How do side effects change constraints?

Lens #31: The Lens of Action

  • What are the basic actions in my game?
  • What are the strategic actions?
  • What strategic actions would I like to see? How can I change my game in order to make those possible?
  • Am I happy with the ratio of strategic to basic actions?
  • What actions do players wish they could do in my game that they cannot? Can I somehow enable these, either as basic or strategic actions?

Lens #32: The Lens of Goals

  • What is the ultimate goal of my game?
  • Is that goal clear to players?
  • If there is a series of goals, do the players understand that?
  • Are the different goals related to each other in a meaningful way?
  • Are my goals concrete, achievable, and rewarding?
  • Do I have a good balance of short- and long-term goals?
  • Do players have a chance to decide on their own goals?

Lens #33: The Lens of Rules

  • What are the foundational rules of my game? How do these differ from the operational rules?
  • Are there “laws” or “house rules” that are forming as the game develops? Should these be incorporated into my game directly?
  • Are there different modes in my game? Do these modes make things simpler, or more complex? Would the game be better with fewer modes? More modes?
  • Who enforces the rules?
  • Are the rules easy to understand, or is there confusion about them? If there is confusion, should I fix it by changing the rules or by explaining them more clearly?

Lens #34: The Lens of Skill

  • What skills does my game require from the player?
  • Are there categories of skill that this game is missing?
  • Which skills are dominant?
  • Are these skills creating the experience I want?
  • Are some players much better at these skills than others? Does this make the game feel unfair?
  • Can players improve their skills with practice, leading to a feeling of mastery?
  • Does this game demand the right level of skill?

Lens #35: The Lens of Expected Value

  • What is the actual chance of a certain event occurring?
  • What is the perceived chance?
  • What value does the outcome of that event have? Can the value be quantified? Are there intangible aspects of value that I am not considering?
  • Each action a player can take ha a different expected value when I add up all the possible outcomes. Am I happy with these values? Do they give the player interesting choices? Are they too rewarding, or too punishing?

Lens #36: The Lens of Chance

  • What in my game is truly random? What parts just feel random?
  • Does the randomness give the players positive feelings of excitement and challenge, or does it give them negative feelings of hopelessness and lack of control?
  • Would changing my probability distribution curves improve my game?
  • Do players have the opportunity to take interesting risks in the games?
  • What is the relationship between chance and skill in my game? Are there ways I can make random elements feel more like the exercise of a skill? Are there ways I can make exercising skills feel more like risk taking?