Devcom Review Part 3: Game Design Truths I learned from other People - and now I'd like to share them with You

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Speaker: Tymon Smektala - Lead Gaem Designer - Techland

Who is Tymon Smektala? He is a Ph.D. in Economics, Musician, Writers, and Game Designer. Dying Light and Dying Light 2 are among his notable recent works There. His Devcom German talk 2022 covered 10 lessons he learned from his time as a game designer, that he believes make him great at what he does now.

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<Source: https://www.gamebyte.com/dying-light-2-tymon-smektala-interview/>

  1. 1. Game Design is Player Behavior

Often, game designers think they are designing cool features, complex systems, and intricate game mechanics when in reality they should be designing player behavior. In the end, whatever cool, complex, or intricate game designer does or implements, it’s all supposed to encourage some kind of behavior in players. If game designers don’t have this kind of mindset, they need to practice it and this mindset becomes their “lockpick” to solving dealing problems, allowing them to stand out from other roles.

  1. 2. If you have 1 hour to solve a problem spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solution - Albert Einstein

    In game development reality, usually, the game director gives the game designer a frame, usually in the form of a problem, to figure out the best way to approach it or “to fill the frame”. Instead, game developers should take the initiative to define the problem, such as “why am I filling it?”, “what frame am I filling”, or “how will I fill it?”. It is more important to understand the why than the how, which will enable game designers to deliver the goals without sacrificing resources.

  2. 3. Fail fast, fail often, fail cheap

    Although it’s not contradictory to the last point, it’s more about balancing things out and not overthinking a problem. As soon as a game designer understands the problem, spend 5 minutes coming up with possible solutions and testing them as soon as possible. Making games is complex and costly, so investing more than necessary in failures is not a smart move. Many things can be learned when we experience them, so don’t be afraid. Lastly, the game designer should not hesitate to toss unsuccessful things away as the test results pile up.

  3. 4. Double it or cut it in half - Sid Meier

    The game designer Sid Meier, who is famous for creating the video game civilization, is one of the people Tymon admires. In his book, Sid Meier’s Memoir, he mentions that there are only two options for you: double it or cut it in half. As a game designer, this means that anything that helps you make good decisions fast is important. Don’t waste your time adjusting things by 5 percent, then another 5 percent, then another. Just double them, and see if they even have the effect you thought they would.

  4. 5. Design needs language

    As a middleman in game development, game designers need to communicate effectively, and the words used are extremely important. When we name something we also give it meaning and value, and allow other members of the team to imagine it. It is also important to try to name things correctly on the first try because time never waits in game development, the production will continue, and we will end up with references to the first choice name.

  5. 6. Always refactor, always optimize - Marcin Kapusta

    How can we be more useful to our stakeholders? Build a culture of growth and optimization, which focuses on testing, improving, and growing. When working on a game - an especially big project, long development, based on previous releases - there will be things done in a “hacky” way. Placeholder names are one thing, but the game developer will have “hackish” prototypes using elements of other features, script definitions are done in notepad, or code that made sense in the initial design, but doesn’t with what you have in the end. Or things are done quickly, so “I will go back to it in the future”.

  6. 7. Simple beats complex

    In the words of Sid Meier “Simple systems work together to create complexity”. This might be the most important lesson that game designers need to learn and apply as well. Simple things are just simpler. A simple design is easier to implement, simpler to iterate on, simpler to explain, and most importantly, it’s very simple to test. If we are not the user that the design is simple enough, test it out on some older people or friends who do not play games at all.

  7. 8. Know when to stop - Kornel Jaskula

    Game developers always want more and always want to do better. Game development is unique because better is usually always possible, it just depends on resources and time. It is easy to fall into the loop of constantly improving and iterating stuff but in the end, it is counterproductive as working on one feature always takes game designers away from working on other things. As a result, defined “done” is essential.

  8. 9. Rest - it’s part of your job - Bartosz Kulon

    As game developers or designers, we always want to do more which leads to a “crunch”. It can be effective but only for 2 or 3 weeks maximum. It is an illusion that we can do more if we overwork ourselves for a long time - in truth, we will stop being effective and make mistakes more - so in the worst scenario, we may jeopardize the projects. Despite feeling like “we have to work” rest is important not only for our minds and our projects. As well as that, if we are well rested, inspiration will flow easily.

  9. 10. It takes a village to make a game

    The goal of a designer is to suggest the best possible solution to a problem at hand but this does not mean it has to be “our idea”. Testing “our ideas” for features, systems, and mechanics - by talking with other people we will find holes in our way of thinking, see things we forgot about, expand on the idea or reaffirm that “our idea” is great. Additionally, to make even the most basic feature of a game, a wide range of specialists from specialized fields are required. On top of that, we are all different and perceive things differently, so never stop watching other people playing our game,; it will be guaranteed that we will discover something new.

 

 

As Tymon concluded his talk, he reminded all game developers, especially designers, that the adventure of making games is unparalleled. But it is also complex, constantly putting obstacles and challenges in front of us, and when we set on this adventure there is no guarantee we will succeed in the end. The best thing that we do is to be humble and embrace it. Enjoy it when it all works and be ready to try again when it does not.

We at TentuPlay, also take pride in our work. We are working on our first strategy game to allow everyone to enjoy their time with their loved ones. In addition, the same idea applies to our internal team, where we take pride in what we do, working together in each of our respective fields of expertise to create our first-ever game. Despite having a variety of backgrounds, expertise, and even countries, we have managed to overcome any barriers by developing a universal system that everyone can understand to lose any friction and expedite any validation we require. A method that particularly caught the writer’s attention was when we needed to test our gameplay with PowerPoint. Such a simple method helped us confirm our hypothesis and improve the game. I am excited to see TentuPlay’s first-ever strategy game.

 

TentuPlay at devcom 2021

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