Game Design 101- Step 6: Iterate
You’ve developed your idea, brainstormed, prototyped and tested it. What next? This is the final article in a series describing the Core Design Loop, critical for anyone who wants to design games. For an overview of the series, click here.
Once you’ve gotten feedback from testing your game, the next step is to evaluate that feedback and then use that information to repeat the Core Design Loop cycle again. Your primary goal in each Core Design Loop cycle is to test your core concept against the realities of an actual session of play. Keep your ego out of the equation and look honestly at the data you received from your playtest session. When looking at the data, there are several possible results:
Your core concept works well
If so, great!
Now you should begin asking more detailed questions about how to best highlight and support this core concept. What new theory will you test with the next iteration? Continue to refine your core mechanic until it really shines.
Your core concept didn’t work out so well
If so, great!
Now you have learned something valuable and can focus on a different core concept. Ask yourself these key questions:
- Why didn’t the core concept work out as planned?
- Was there something that you didn’t foresee that could be changed or removed?
- Was there something about this prototype that people enjoyed more than you expected?
Maybe a new idea was spawned from the session that you can go work on for the next round. You can also go back to your brainstorm notes and see if other ideas that can serve as a focus for the next design.
Sometimes, you need to go back for more inspiration before making another prototype. Don’t let an initial lack of success dissuade you! There are many paths forward and your job as a designer is to keep moving until you find the right path for you and your players.
Your core concept worked kinda ok, sorta
If so, not so great :(
Uncertainty is the hardest situation to handle and unfortunately it is a very common one. Often, your playtest session is neither a roaring success nor a complete disaster.
Perhaps the feedback was mixed on your core concept. Perhaps other issues (like an insufficient prototype, or inappropriate audience) muddied the results you were looking for. The challenge here is that the specific path forward is unclear- you don’t know what to try next. This is dangerous territory for a designer, as many games become orphaned designs and end up on a shelf without a plan to revive them.
Finding that clear path forward is challenging, but in general there are two approaches to use:
1. Try Again
If you don’t feel like your core concept got a fair shake, try with a different playgroup and/or a more refined prototype and see if you get more clear results. Maybe a small tweak to the core concept will solve your problem or maybe the core idea is better expressed a different way.
2. Let it Sit
Sometimes, the right thing to do is put a design down and start working on something else. First, make sure that all of your game rules, parameters, core concept, and brainstorm ideas are written down and organized somewhere so they can be picked up again. While in the middle of a design process, you have everything in your head, so it is easy to make small adjustments and see the bigger picture. After taking a break from a design, you will be surprised how much you forget. I’ve lost countless designs because I forgot to write things down in detail- don’t let this happen to you!
Set a calendar reminder for yourself to come back to the game in a few weeks. Often, returning with fresh eyes can help you see the picture more clearly.
The Path Forward
Work your way through the steps of the Core Design Loop until you reach a game you are happy with. If your concept is working, increasingly move through the stages of design to refine your product. If something isn’t working, cycle back to revise and iterate until you find a solution. Keep momentum and enthusiasm going- if you’ve gone through this entire cycle more than once, you are a living the life of a game designer!
I hope you have enjoyed this series exploring the Core Design Loop. I want to be as helpful as possible to this community, so please let me know what you would like me to write about next or explain in more detail.
*(images above sourced from pixabay.com) *
Hi, I’m Justin!
I’ve been obsessed with games since a very young age. I won the Magic: the Gathering US National Championships at the age of 17 and played cards professionally for 5 years, travelling the world and paying my way through Dartmouth college. I started designing games professionally in 2004 and I founded my own game company in 2010. I’ve launched multiple hit games with some of the biggest brands in the world including Marvel, DC, and World of Warcraft. I love reading, writing, dancing, meditating, learning, and helping others. Learn more about me here.
"This post originally appeared on my blog ...... - it has been modified and updated exclusively for Steemit!”