e2o - from Earth to outposts, from Epsilon to Orion.

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Elements of success in game design

By Epsilon command - Posted on 26 December 2009



"Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue."

I believe everyone has heard those verses - they are used to describe what bride is is supposed to wear in her wedding. It also describes pretty well elements in the creation process of a game. Let me open it up:

Something old - Many terms and game mechanics are so established and deep rooted that they just can't be changed; I tried to do changes like switching 'Damage' into 'Firepower' - and I and most of the playtesters kept using term 'Damage' instead of Firepower, and it was causing very much confusion. In addition - some things just feel right. Too much simplification may make the game feel more like chess and less like space combat what it's intended to be.

Something borrowed - any development being done borrows ideas from earlier development, this is true for _everything_; Even the most innovative games have at least something that's borrowed from one or more games, unless the game is very, very abstract. The game development goes on, and general trend of focusing on user experience has also reached tabletop games. And like with everything, greatest innovations soon become trends that are a norm rather than exception.

Something new - what's a point of a game without any new innovations? Even if a game wouldn't need anything really new, it would have to at least combine some old things in a new way, or tune them so that they become more workable. Someone has to invent the new things, and even if they would become common trends later, someone will always be first to have it, and will usually also be remembered for it.

Something blue - wait, what blue is needed in game design? While bride is supposed to actually wear some blue, I've always thought of blue as more symbolic element even if it isn't the original meaning of this blue. While parents are happy for their child, they are also giving their own daughter away, and are therefore feeling blue. Game design in turn starts by feel of loss - you miss something you don't have, a perfect rules system that may be in your head, which doesn't exist and which has to be created.

In addition, the actual designing process has a lot of feeling of loss; While designing e2o, I've had to sack numerous details I've LOVED - but which haven't had meaningful purpose, made the game too complicated or just didn't fit in with the core rules. It's feels bad to drop my favourite rules, but to get a great game, sacrifices must be made. And this is what I'm trying to accomplish with e2o - a great game that everyone could enjoy, without forcing my personal favourite mechanics into it if they don't fit there.