home | et44 - game design/play mechanics - 2014 edition prev | next

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 05 - game report due - system dynamics

working with system dynamics

Why System Dynamics?
- A system is a set of interacting elements that form an integrated whole with a common goal or purpose.
- Interaction among elements of systems can be studied across a wide variety of disciplines.
- Understanding system principles help control the quality of game interactions, especially as the develop and change over time.

Games as Systems

- Objects: - the basic building blocks of a system: characters, pieces or avatars, areas, terrain, board, field, etc.

- Properties: - the qualities or attributes that define the objects: color, location, type, etc. - mathematical complexity. Example in WarCraft: hit points, armor, attack damage, piercing or non-armor damage

- Behaviours: - the potential actions as a result of an object and/or it's properties

- Relationships: - the result of behaviours and/or properties between two or more objects

System Dynamics
- tic-tac-toe - "game tree chart" #113
- chess

- linear flow chart
- network or branching chart
- objects or agents chart

- economies: - resource growth? currency control? price lists? time, cost or opportunity restrictions?
- simple and complex bartering: - rules of trading: when, where, what
- simple and complex market: - dynamic supply and demand
- meta economy: - Magic, The Gathering - dueling decks as a central resource

- emergent or generative systems - "the (bioligical) game of life - sample seeds
-- birth
-- death by loneliness
-- death by overpopulation

The Game of Life



The Rules

For a space that is 'populated':
Each cell with one or no neighbors dies, as if by loneliness.
Each cell with four or more neighbors dies, as if by overpopulation.
Each cell with two or three neighbors survives.
For a space that is 'empty' or 'unpopulated'
Each cell with three neighbors becomes populated.
  • A dead cell with exactly three live neighbors becomes a live cell (birth).
  • A live cell with two or three live neighbors stays alive (survival).
  • In all other cases, a cell dies or remains dead (overcrowding or loneliness).

Interacting with Systems
- information structure: what information does the player have? what part of the system do you control? what is the nature of the feedback? how is contro structured? how does it affect game play?
- control: micro vs. macro management
- feedback (negative and positive loops charts) #130
- reinforcing and balancing relationships: growth and behaviour over time vs. maintaining balance

Tuning the Game System
- The only way to understand a system is to study it as a whole!
- All dynamics must be considered to achieve a balanced system.
- Isolate what objects or relationships are causing an imbalance, and fix without creating new problems!


Identify and list the objects and properties of common strategy board games.

With the above list, describe the behaviors that would then be associated with each object and for each game state.

With the above lists, describe the relationships between each object and how each are defined.

With a game like Monopoly, experiment by changing objects, properties and behaviors.
What happens to the balance of the game? Is it still playable? How far can you change things until it is unplayable?

What games use bartering systems for game play?

What games have open information structures? Which have hidden information? What happens when you hide information in the former games?

What are the information structures in some common board and strategy games? Is the information open, hidden, mixed, or dynamic?

In the above games listed, are the methods of control direct or indirect? real-time or turn-based? can they be mixed?

Reading Assignment

- games as systems
- system dynamics
- interacting with systems
- tuning and balancing a game system

  • Chapter 5 - Working with System Dynamics

Copyright © 2004 - 2014 David Javelosa