Putting the Cart Before the Horse: Reformulating Business Constraints as Aesthetic Goals Jonathan Hamel BreakAway Games Overview Part I: Introduction – 10 minutes Part II: Brainstorming – 10 min. Part III: Analysis – 10 min. Part IV: Exercise – 60 min. Part V: Demo – 20 min. Part VI: Wrap-Up – 10 min. Introduction 10 minutes MDA Meets Reality • It can be challenging to use the MDA framework in a real business setting. • But well worth the effort: Focuses team on project goals Helps you deal with feedback Herds feature creep in the right direction Everybody’s a Critic • You want the game to be better, but: The client or publisher wants… The contract says… Your company strategy is… The latest market research shows… The system performance is... The schedule has time for... etc. The Designer’s Perspective Mechanics Designer Dynamics Aesthetics The Designer’s Perspective Mechanics Designer Dynamics Aesthetics Horse The Designer’s Perspective Mechanics Designer Dynamics Aesthetics Cart Horse The Designer’s Perspective Mechanics Designer Dynamics Aesthetics The Designer’s Perspective Mechanics Mechanics Designer Dynamics Aesthetics The Designer’s Perspective Mechanics Mechanics Dynamics Different Aesthetics Designer Dynamics The Designer’s Perspective Mechanics Mechanics Dynamics Different Aesthetics Designer Dynamics Different Aesthetics Design vs. Commerce • Argue Usually, they win, right? • Communicate Nobody else knows what MDA is. “Your ‘aesthetic goal’ should be for it to be fun.” (Schedules aren’t very good listeners, anyway.) • Accept Mantras for Staying Calm • Focus on the client It's not a better game if it still doesn't meet the business objectives of the people funding and selling it. • Define “Design” The application of creative expertise to solve problems. Quick Examples • Compare “design” in other industries: • Architecture How do I plan for the flow of people through a physical space? • Engineering How do I make the paperclip grip better and not rust the paper? • Advertising How can I communicate that this brand is “sophisticated” and “dangerous?” The Point • Design is the application of creative expertise to solve problems. • Whose problems? • The people with the money. • Client/publisher/business constraints can be as important as aesthetic goals. Brainstorming 10 minutes War Stories • Time to vent and/or brag An ethnography of business constraints Notice not a ‘taxonomy’ ... maybe one day • What curve balls have you been thrown? • Home run or strike out? Inspiration The client or publisher wants… The contract says… Your company strategy is… The latest market research shows… The system performance is... The schedule has time for... The marketing dept. wants... Analysis 10 minutes The Ideal • When game design and business constraints are seamless we feel great. Role-playing and subscriber loyalty Casual games and their demographic • But when business constraints feel tacked on... ugh The Question • Can business constraints be reformulated in a way that is more useful to us as designers? • How about a Constraint Model? Understand what you’re being asked to do. Predict what it’s going to do to your game. Components of a Constraints Model • What kind of constraint are we talking about? • What’s the domain of the constraint? • What counts as adherence? Notice I’ve put this last... Describe your goal(s): success and/or failure to accommodate the constraint. Predict potential consequences. Goal: Competition Model: A game is competitive if players are emotionally invested in defeating each other. Success: Players are adversaries. Players want to win. Failure: A player feels that he can’t win. A player can’t measure his progress. Kinds of Constraints • Additive • Subtractive Additive Constraint Game Additive Constraint Game Constraint Additive Constraint Game Change Constraint Additive Constraint Change Game Change Constraint Subtractive Constraint Game Subtractive Constraint Game Constraint Subtractive Constraint Change Game Constraint Subtractive Constraint Change Game Change Constraint Domain of Constraint • Domain Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics Multiple • The deeper into your game the constraint reaches, the greater the ripple effect. Domain of Constraint • Mechanics Can be the easiest to cope with. Example: Sissyfight + ‘tattle’ Or the most insidious. Example: Sissyfight + product placement • Dynamics Look out for dynamics masquerading as mechanics. Example: Add a pace monster. Domain of Constraint • Aesthetic Example: Yesterday’s exercise. • Multiple domains... Define Adherence • First ask “Why?” Find out how much flexibility you have. • Restate your goal How will you know if you’ve succeeded or failed in satisfying the requirements? • Predict consequences Try to enumerate your concerns/worst fears. An Example • We want you to be able to customize the clothing of any individual unit in your RTS. An Example • Kind: Additive • Domain: Mechanic • Goal: Player feels they are expressing themselves. Player feels invested in individual units. An Example • Kind: Additive • Domain: Aesthetic • Goal: Player feels they are expressing themselves. Player feels invested in individual units. • Concerns: Players won’t be able to identify units’ function. Player spends considerable time not in combat. Exercise 60 minutes Sissyfight’s Revenge • Design on Sissyfight was “done.” • You’ve just received a memo. • The memo is unreasonable. • Your job depends on success. • Break into groups of 6 people. • Pick a memo – each group should do a different one if possible. • We’re going to divide up into 3 rooms. Sissyfight’s Revenge Does every group have a memo? Sissyfight’s Revenge • Try to resist the temptation to satisfy the memo with pure content changes. That’s what we mean by “tacked on.” • After 5 minutes: be prepared to share Your memo One or more constraint models • At the end: be prepared to present a successful game. Iterate quickly! • Kind: Additive / Subtractive • Domain: Mechanic / Dynamic / Aesthetic / Multiple • Goal: ... • Concerns: ... Demo 20 minutes Discussion • How successful were you at adhering to the constraint? • How successful were you in achieving your aesthetic goals? Was the game “fun?” Did the game have the right kind of fun? Final Thoughts • Can we make an even better game by seeking out business constraints and exceed expectations? • Comments? Wrap-up Thanks!
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