Rules Vs. Mechanics!

As a Game Designer, I am constantly pushed to create more meaningful mechanics in our game. These mechanics need to have depth and need to be fun at the same time. Unfortunately this gets progressively harder when I am given rules to follow. Several times when creating a mechanic in the game I have been told I have to dial back some of the creative parts of it because they are too lose to fit in with everything else or introduce design inconsistency.
So the question is how to make a game fun if you’ve been given a set of rules to follow?

There isn’t an obvious answer to this so I’ll try my best to share my point of view. I have had to cut back many ideas I’ve had, sometimes these are for balance reasons or simply because it wouldn’t work but in order to find that balance of what can work inside the rule set; you have to try to put yourself in the eyes of your fellow team players.

Your programmers, your artists and anyone on the team are not there to just take your idea and make it work like magic. It takes time and effort to create something that seems so simple on paper yet can be dauntingly complex in code or cause overwhelming need for art assets.

One idea I had was to have the locations of the game show information about them so the player can choose where to go. Not a huge task, but as the game progressed forward we realized that the information was going to be useless and the idea had to be scrapped. However we did find use for a part of that code with another mechanic later on.

So the rules are there to maintain control of the game. You cannot let your game idea become a monster with no limits. People like programmers and artists can’t work on sixteen ideas that are only partly completed and haven’t been thought through, on how they work together. You have to respect the rules even if you thought your idea was amazing.

Some basic questions to ask yourself, when designing new mechanics:

1. Does it fit with the theme of the game?
2. Does the mechanic make sense overall?
3. Is this a side mechanic or a core representation of the game?
4. What affect does this mechanic idea have on programming and art?
5. Can this mechanic be easily manipulated, or is it too set in stone?

The task of game design is obviously different for every game you work on, however once you’ve established a workflow and game plan – your process shouldn’t change too much. On that note, game development is as much a process as it is a constant learning experience.

CircleProfileBrad. Bradley Widner | Game Designer .

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2 thoughts on “Rules Vs. Mechanics!

  1. This post made me think so much about the requirements that game designers and anyone on the team would experience in making a game. Though when you said you changed your ideas for a project, what game might I ask? Also what is the process that happens when you try coming up for a level/ game design?

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    1. Hi there :), Our current game production title is Are We In This Together? (A.W.I.T.T)
      We’re more in the process of coming up with a process haha, but what we do is we put together a meeting with our Game Designer and Programmers – and discuss the options we have available or debate about how it fits in with what the game already offers, and/or the costs it brings to production for the other team members involved.
      Let’s say you have a platformer game and you wanted to add wall climbing as a mechanic. Sounds simple, definitely doable – but it introduces several questions. Does it make sense with the theme of the game, do we know how to program this, do we have enough artists to take care of the modelling, rigging, animating process for this mechanic, will every level have it, does it tie in with another mechanic, does it follow certain rules etc. The process is really what you make it and is different for every game and every team.

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