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 07 - prototyping

game prototyping - making it work on paper

Creating a game (electronic or traditional) without a prototype is like shooting a movie without a script.
A physical prototype creates a clear understanding of a game and allows focus on the game mechanics without the distraction of the production process. It also allows experimentation which will lead to innovation.

What are the fundamental game mechanics?
How do we define game mechanics?
What is underneath the surface elements?

Reduce any game, board or computer, to:
- hand drawn on paper; lists; rules; models
- playing pieces; toy soldiers; paper clips
- how else can the game concept be "roughed" out?
- form
- structure

Track the 7 simultaneous short-term-memory concepts

Physical prototypes

Prototype/model Battleship on paper
- 10 x 10 grid
- ships: 5, 4, 3, 3, 2
- markers for hits and misses

Prototyping a first-person shooter
- arena map
- units
- rounds

Physical vs. Software Prototypes

Level Editors/mods
- StarCraft, Red Alert II
- 2D scrollers, Pocohontas
- first person environment editors
- property editors
- world editors

Programming Tools

- C++
- libraries
- 2 & 3D engines
- templates

From BRAINSTORM to PROTOTYPE: Visualizing core gameplay
Identifying gameplay mechanisms: Pg. 174

Building a physical prototype

- paper/maps
- units
- dice or spinner
- rules of movement
- chips or non-unit pieces
- color pencils for different properties

Hex paper

Foundation: build a representation of your environment; playing field; obstacles; types of movement; types of involvement; nature of relationships; define goals

Structure: prioritize the essentials; define rules; build on the foundation; create big lists; edit down to the important items; PRIORITIZE!; features vs. rules;
Rules are modifyers to the game mechanics; they change the game functions.

Formal Details: add procedures for functionality; is the objective acheivable? interesting? points for health, attack, strengthe; TESTING!; try it with and with out different features; does it work? minimize rules!

Refinement: beyond the details, is the game fun?; do the dramatic elements help or not? have others play the game; how does it test? how to fix it?

Improvement and Beyond: try streamlining the play, the rules, the structure; if things don't work, can they be taken out?; is it still fun???
How will this translate to software?; will software make it better?; Consider the target system.

The Design Document: the ultimate in team communication; create bible for the design and structure; use the prototyping experience to describe the game; learn from the physical prototype; create a virtual "manual" for the game.


Modify three aspects of the Battleship prototype. Change grids, ships, objects, procedures, etc.
How does each modification affect the game play?

Create your own movement and shooting rules. Explain the reasons.

After building your own physical prototype, test and describe the problems that arise. What questions result?

Add new features to your physical prototype. How do these affect the gameplay?

Compare the core game mechanics of two Real-time Strategy games. What do they have in common?

Translate the core game mechanics of an RTS into a physical prototype. How are the rules affected?

Sketch out a map of an RTS game level. How and why was it designed the way it was?

Design your own game level using an RTS level editor. Explore example levels available or online.

Define core game mechanics for five non-RTS games.

Create a physical prototype for a game idea created in a brainstorming session. Include foundation, structure, formal details, refinement, etc. Keep the prototyping fluid with room to revisit problems.


Reading Assignment

- Physical Prototpyes
- Battleship
- First Person Shooter
- Software Prototypes
- Level Editors
- Prototyping an Original Idea
- Vizualing Gameplay
- Building Physical Gameplay
- Tools and Improvement
- The Design Document

  • Chapter 7 - Prototyping

Copyright © 2004 - 2014 David Javelosa