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Introduction to Game Systems Design

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  • Copyright 2022
  • Pages: 384
  • Edition: 1st
  • eBook (Watermarked)
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-744073-1
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-744073-3

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Game Systems Design for Every Aspiring Game Professional

Game systems designers are responsible for creating and balancing the rules of a game. In addition, they create the data that drives character attributes, weapons systems, and all other aspects of a game. They make everything fit together, so games are playable, exciting, rewarding, and fun. As games get more complex, this work becomes even more important; and Introduction to Game Systems Design is your complete guide to getting started with making great games.

Dax Gazaway's step-by-step, hands-on approach draws on his decades of experience building AAA-level games (including games in the Star Wars and Marvel franchises). Writing for aspiring game professionals, even those with zero experience, he introduces all the principles, techniques, tools, and tips you'll need to succeed.

As Course Director for a world-renowned university game design program, he's successfully taught thousands of newcomers to the field. His proven examples and analogies help you rapidly understand key concepts--so you can start designing tomorrow's legendary games.

  • Explore how game design roles and subdisciplines fit into the game development process
  • Ask the right questions to create better designs
  • Understand the purpose of modern game design tools, from flowcharting to game engines
  • Use spreadsheets to make complex game data far easier to manage
  • Imagine new game ideas and build them out with systems and data
  • Use attributes to distil and quantify aspects of  life into games
  • Test and tune a game's balance, find problems, and solve them
  • Balance complex games with large collections of objects
  • Create campaign mechanics that use exponential growth
  • Make games easier, harder, or more accurately balanced for a target audience
  • Leverage communication, psychology, and rewards
  • Understand probability from the basics up to practical use in games

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Table of Contents

Preface     xx
Chapter 1  Games and Players: Defined     1
Defining Game     2
    Agreed Upon, Artificial Rules     2
    Players Have an Impact on the Outcome     3
    People Can Opt Out     4
    Game Sessions Are Finite     4
    Intrinsic Rewards     4
    Game Attributes Summary     5
Finding the Target Audience for a Game: Player Attributes     6
    Age     6
    Gender     7
    Tolerance for Learning Rules     7
    Interest in Challenge     9
    Desired Time Investment     10
    Pace Preference     11
    Competitiveness     11
    Platform Preference     12
    Skill Level     12
    Genre/Art/Setting/Narrative Preference     13
Value Gained from Players     13
    Payment     13
    Other Forms of Value     16
    Target Audience Value     17
Target Audience Composite     18
    Chess     18
    Galaga     18
    Mario Kart     19
    The Battle for Wesnoth     20
    Bejeweled     20
What to Do with a Target Audience Profile     21
Further Steps     22
Chapter 2  Roles in the Game Industry     23
Core Management Team     24
    Vision Holder     24
    Lead Engineer     25
    Lead Artist     25
    Lead Designer     25
    Producer     25
    Lead Sound Designer     25
Team Subdisciplines     26
    Art     26
    Engineering     27
    Production     28
    Design     28
    Sound Team     29
    QA Team     29
    Narrative Designer     30
    Additional Roles     30
Further Steps     30
Chapter 3  Asking Questions     31
How to Ask a Theoretical Question     32
    Steps of the Scientific Method     32
    Defining a Question for Data Analysis     35
How to Ask for Help with a Problem     36
    Why How You Ask Matters     36
    Steps to Writing a Good Question     37
Further Steps     41
Chapter 4  System Design Tools     43
What Is Data?     44
Game Industry Tools     44
    Documentation Tools     45
    Image Editing Tools     45
    3D Modeling Tools     46
    Flowchart Tools     47
    Databases     48
    Bug-Tracking Software     49
    Game Engines     49
Further Steps     50
Chapter 5  Spreadsheet Basics     51
Why Spreadsheets?     52
What Is a Spreadsheet?     54
Spreadsheet Cells: The Building Blocks of Data     54
    Cells     54
    The Formula Bar     55
    Spreadsheet Symbols     56
Data Containers in Spreadsheets     60
    Columns and Rows     60
    Sheets     61
    Workbooks     61
Spreadsheet Operations     63
    Referencing a Separate Sheet     64
    Hiding Data     65
    Freezing Part of a Sheet     66
    Using Comments and Notes     68
    Using Formfill     71
    Using Filters     77
Data Validation     80
    The Data Validation Dialog     81
    Time Validation     83
    List Validation     84
    Named Ranges     84
Further Steps     88
Chapter 6  Spreadsheet Functions     89
Grouping Arguments     90
Function Structure     90
More Complex Functions     93
Functions for System Designers     96
    SUM     96
    AVERAGE     97
    MEDIAN     97
    MODE     98
    MAX and MIN     99
    RANK     99
    LEN     100
    IF     101
    COUNTIF     101
    VLOOKUP     102
    FIND     102
    MID     103
    NOW     103
    RAND     104
    ROUND     105
    RANDBETWEEN     105
    Learning About More Functions     106
How to Choose the Right Function     106
Further Steps     107
Chapter 7  Distilling Life into Systems     109
An Abstract Example     114
    Throwing     114
    Sticks     115
    Running     115
    Teamwork     115
    Putting Together the Mechanics     115
Story in Games     116
Further Steps     117
Chapter 8  Coming Up with Ideas     119
Idea Buffet     120
    Sample Idea Buffet     120
Running a Brainstorming Session     121
    Having Goals     121
    Gathering the Troops     122
    Giving Yourself a Block of Time     123
    Don't Accept the First Answer     123
    Avoiding Criticism     124
    Keeping on Topic (Kind Of)     124
    Capturing the Creativity     125
    Keeping Expectations Reasonable     125
    Percolating     125
Methods to Force Creativity     126
    Bad Storming     126
    Jokes     126
    Building Blocks     127
    Future Past     127
    Iterative Stepping     127
    Halfway Between     128
    Opposite Of     129
    Random Connections     130
    Stream of Consciousness Writing     130
Further Steps     131
Chapter 9  Attributes: Creating and Quantifying Life     133
Mechanics Versus Attributes     134
Listing Attributes     134
    Initial Brainstorming     135
    Blue-Sky Brainstorming     136
    Researching Attributes     136
    Referring to Your Own Personal Attribute Bank     138
Defining an Attribute     139
    Considerations When Defining an Attribute     140
Grouping Attributes     141
Further Steps     143
Chapter 10  Organizing Data in Spreadsheets     145
Create a Spreadsheet to Be Read by an Outsider     146
Avoid Typing Numbers     146
Label Data     147
Validate Your Data     148
Use Columns for Attributes and Rows for Objects     148
Color Coding     149
Avoid Adding Unneeded Columns or Rows or Blank Cells     151
Separate Data Objects with Sheets     152
    Reference Sheet     152
    Introduction Sheet     153
    Output/Visualization Sheets     154
    Scratch Sheet     155
Spreadsheet Example     155
Further Steps     156
Chapter 11  Attribute Numbers     157
Getting a Feel for Your Attributes     158
Determining the Granularity for Numbers     158
    Numbers Should Relate to Probability     158
    Some Numbers Need to Relate to Real-World Measurements     159
    User Smaller Numbers for Easier Calculations     160
    Use Larger Numbers for More Granularity     161
    Very Large Numbers Are Confusing     162
    Humans Hate Decimals and Fractions, but Computers Don't Mind Them     163
    Numbering Example     163
The Tension Trick     163
Searching for the Right Numbers     165
Further Steps     167
Chapter 12  System Design Foundations     169
Attribute Weights     170
DPS and Intertwined Attributes     173
Binary Searching     176
    How Binary Searching Works     176
    Lacking a Viable Range     179
Naming Conventions     180
Naming Object Iterations     185
    The Problem with New     185
    Iteration Naming Method 1: Version Number     186
    Iteration Naming Method 2: Version Letter and Number     186
    Special Case Terms     187
Using the Handshake Formula     188
Further Steps     194
Chapter 13  Range Balancing, Data Fulcrums, and Hierarchical Design     195
Range Balancing     196
    How Range Balancing Works     197
    Who Adjusts What     201
Data Fulcrums     203
    What Is a Fulcrum?     203
    Creating a Fulcrum     204
    Testing a Fulcrum     204
    Locking a Fulcrum     206
    Using a Fulcrum for Data Creation     206
    Unavoidable Cross-testing     208
    Fulcrum Progression     209
Hierarchical Design     210
    Starting the Hierarchy     211
    Advantages of Hierarchical Design     212
Further Steps     213
Chapter 14  Exponential Growth and Diminishing Returns     215
Linear Growth     216
Exponential Growth     217
    Parts of the Basic Exponential Growth Formula     218
    Building Blocks of the Exponential Growth Formula     220
    Tweaking the Basic Exponential Growth Formula     226
    A Note on Iterations     227
    Exponential Charts and Game Hierarchy     227
Further Steps     228
Chapter 15  Analyzing Game Data     229
Overview Analysis     230
Next-Level Deep Analysis     238
Practicing Data Analysis     240
Comparison Analysis     240
Canaries     241
Further Steps     244
Chapter 16  Macrosystems and Player Engagement     245
Macrosystem Difficulty Adjustment     246
    Flat Balancing     246
    Positive Feedback Loops     247
    Negative Feedback Loop     249
    Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment     251
    Layered Difficulty Adjustment     253
    Cross-Feeding     254
Balancing Combinations     255
Further Steps     255
Chapter 17  Fine-Tuning Balance, Testing, and Problem Solving     257
Balance     258
    Why Balance Matters     258
    General Game Balance     259
    Breaking Your Data     261
    Problems with Balancing Judged Contests     261
    How to Start Balancing Data     263
Performing Playtests     265
    Minimum Viability Testing     266
    Balance Testing     267
    Bug Testing     268
    User Testing     269
    Beta/Postlaunch Telemetry Testing     273
Solving Problems     275
    Identify the Problem     276
    Eliminate Variables     277
    Come Up with Solutions     277
    Communicate with the Team     277
    Prototype and Test     277
    Document the Changes     277
Further Steps     278
Chapter 18  Systems Communication and Psychology     279
Games as Conversations     280
Word Meanings     281
Noise     284
Reciprocity     286
    Overstepping Bounds     286
    Shallow Relationship     287
    Right Balance     287
Reward Expectations     288
Further Steps     289
Chapter 19  Probability     291
Basic Probability     292
    Probability Notation     292
    Calculating One-Dimensional Even-Distribution Probability     293
    Calculating One-Dimensional Uneven-Distribution Probability     299
    Calculating Compound Probability     301
    Calculating 2D6 Or Higher Cumulative Probability     309
    Calculating the Probability of Doubles     310
    Calculating a Series of Single Events     311
    Calculating More Than Two Dimensions     316
    Calculating Dependent Event Probability     318
    Calculating Mutually Exclusive Event Probability     321
    Calculating Enumerated Probability with an Even Distribution     321
    Calculating Enumerated Probability with an Uneven Distribution     322
    Calculating Attributes Weights Based on Probability     325
    Calculating Imperfect Information Probability     327
    Perception of Probability     328
    Probability Uncertainty     328
Mapping Probability     329
    Attributes of a Random Event     329
    Mapping Probability Examples     331
Measuring Luck in a Game     334
    Testing for Pure Luck     335
    Testing for Luck Dominant     335
    Testing for Luck Influenced     336
    Adjusting the Influence of Luck     336
    Chaos Factor     338
Further Steps     338
Chapter 20  Next Steps     341
Practice     342
Analyze Existing Games     342
Play New Games     342
Modify Existing Games     342
Work on Your Game     343
Keep Learning     343
Index     345


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