Thursday, September 22, 2005

Which Comes First?

The game mechanics, the technology or the story
(assuming there is one)?

By game mechanics I mean the system(s) used to run the game, the rulesets that determine legal moves, transactions and their results.

By technology I mean how the game is physically modeled, whether that's a set of dice or a PC.

By story I mean any narrative elements assigned to the game elements. Saying that an animated circle is Pac-Man and he chases ghosts is perfectly valid for this argument.

Now, just to be perfectly clear, I'm not going to give any kind of straightforward answer. This is how I cover my ass when I say something contradictory three posts from now. Or a few paragraphs down.

I'm interested in the methods that people prefer.

Myself, I guess I would say, "It all depends." Sometimes I'll get some strange, compelling, kickass game elements in my head and I try and build up something around them. Other times a neat little story will pop up and I feel like it would work well as an interactive kinda thing. Or, y'know, I read about some awesome new 3-d engine techniques and start thinking about how they could lead to fascinating new game mechanics or support a narrative.

So I guess a little of everything.

Some designers definitely seem to favor one section over the others. Carmack obviously goes for the tech stuff first. Will Wright goes ga-ga for interesting little game mechanics.


Corvus said...

For me, the three are inextricably linked.

The mechanics and technology are tools of the narration and are therefore equally important to the process.

Rama said...

Based on 98% of all video games, I hope story comes last.

Corvus said...

Rama, forgive my density, but your comment isn't clear.

Are you implying story is currently getting too much attention, or not enough?

Rama said...

I believe that the "story" to most video games is the last thing of importance. I also believe it comes nearly first in many cases but ultimately takes a backseat in terms of importance. I also believe that the people who write the plots for video games are usually horrible. The games that feature lots of writing (RPGs) are often written by community and it shows in an overall lack of vision and direction.

Again this is just video games, but I believe people learn the the limits of their medium (which can change over years with new systems and over systems with new applications) and work within it. I'd say it also likely depends on the game type but that in general the writing is atrocious because they pander to the lowest common denomentator.

c.robinson said...

i speak without any real experience in video game development. i have a strong attraction to an ilinx type of play, or play dealing with movement, so i tend to think of creating games in this area of play. i would think the best approach to creating a game would be to prototype before anything else. i feel it guarantees the game will be fun, so long as the core game mechanics are kept in tact, and determines if the game is worthy of your effort developing.
so, i'd employ a focus on both game mechanics and technology, with an emphasis of defining my core design elements. fromt here, i would expand on them as creatively as possible.
then i'd focus on a story that supports the mechanics of the game - like a skeleton's muscles.