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David Javelosa

Copyright © 2004-2014 David Javelosa unless otherwise stated.

Material based on Game Design Workshop
Copyright © 2004-2008
Tracy Fullerton
used by permission of author
week 03 - working with formal elements

formal elements in game design

The Players of the Game
- without players there is NO game!
- what are the roles?
- how do they relate?
- multi-player or solo?

What are the Roles of the Players?
- every player is equal
- one player has a special role vs. all others
- every player is different

Player Interaction Patterns - (chart pg. 46, Game Design Workshop)
1. Single player versus game
2. Multiple individual players versus game
3. Player versus player
4. Unilateral competition (multiple vs. one)
5. Multilateral competition (multiple vs. each other)
6. Cooperative play
7. Team cooperation

Game Objectives
- What is the Objective(s) or "main point(s)" of a game?
- How does this impact the "tone" of the game?
- Do certain genres have specific objectives?
- What is an example of multiple objectives?
- Is the objective in a game always obvious?
- Can an objective be determined by the player?
- What are the objectives of YOUR favorite games?

1. Capture
2. Chase
3. Race
4. Alignment
5. Rescue or Escape
6. Forbidden Act
7. Construction
8. Exploration
9. Solution
10. Outwit
... or any combination of the above!!

Game Procedures

Procedures are the method of play, not the rules. Procedures are the who, what, where, when and how.

- Starting Action
- Progression of Action
- Special Actions
- Resolving Actions

Compare a board game with a typical side-scrolling video game; instructions and actions.

System Procedures are imbedded in game play design, typically in video games (more on this later).

Procedures, along with rules, define a game environment. They can create restraints that keep the game interesting and the creativity consistant.


Rules define what is allowed in the game play. They guide the action to make game play challenging, sometimes by resolving loopholes in the game procedures. Too many rules, however, can make a game tedious or unplayable. Some of the best games have the fewest or simplest rules. The best games are easiest to learn and challenging to master. What are examples of rules in your favorite games? sports?

Rules define objects and concepts.
Rules restrict action.
Rules determine outcome.
Rules need to be relevent and easy to remember!


How do we determine our abilities in a game? our progress? our score?

- lives
- units
- health
- currency
- actions
- objects/inventory
- terrain/environment
- time


What is it? and how is it balanced? If a game is too easy OR too hard, its not fun!

- obstacles
- opponents
- dilemmas


Similar to rules and conflicts, they guide the action to make game play challenging. They separate the game from what is not the game. Like procedures, they define the game environment.


The goal of a game system is to produce a particular outcome, win or lose. What is the win/lose criteria for a game?
In a muli-player, is there always a winner and a loser? What about ranking? Which is more satisfying? What kind of games have no outcome?


What happens when any one element in a simple card game is removed?

How would you modify Tic-tac-toe for more than 2 players?

What is an example of a game for each of the interaction patterns?

List objectives of some favorite games.

What are the procedures for a game of Black Jack? (starting, special and resolving actions)

Describe rules that restrict action in your favorite games.

What are the resources in Scrabble? Doom?

Name a game that uses each of the particular resource types.

Explain how conflict is created in a number of games. What elements or combination creat the conflict?

Determine the boundaries in a favorite game. What is the difference between physical and conceptual boundaries?

Name two games with a winner/loser balance. Name two without. What is the difference?

Change the rules and procedures of a simple game like backgammon so it is not dependent on chance. What happens?

Reading Assignment

Review: Formal Game Elements
- players
- objectives
- procedures
- rules
- resources
- conflict
- boundaries
- outcome

  • Chapter 3: Working with Formal Elements

Copyright © 2004 - 2014 David Javelosa