2. Design the Game Concept
The second step in the game development workflow is to complete the conceptual design of your game. This is where you describe keys aspects of the games design. There are six things that need to be specified in the concept:
- Alignment (Align game to learning need)
- Purpose (to deliver and/apply content)
- Player Profile (single or multiple players)
- Game Style (game show, board game, adventure, etc.)
- Chance (impact on play)
- Goal and/or scoring
If you did a good job identifying appropriate content, then there is a clear target that will provide guidance as you decide on the type of game to develop.
The game selected needs to meet three criteria:
- it can be aligned with targeted learning outcomes
- it will add benefit or value to the learning
- it’s tone and look is suited to the topic
After selecting the game type the next step is to clarify the purpose of the game. Is the intent to have the game deliver the learning content to the leaner or is that content being delivered some other way and the purpose of the game is to have the learner use or apply the content? A typical jeopardy-style quiz show game is used to provide the opportunity for the learner to use the content and presumes that content was delivered or presented using some other method. If the game is to deliver content, then that will direct you to a game type the supports that purpose. A scenario-type game that promotes discovering clues to solve a puzzle can fulfill that purpose. A good example of a game with the dual purpose of delivery and use of content is a trivial-pursuit style game where the learners are directed to read the ‘policy manual’ to discover the answer to the question they are trying to answer.
The core principles of a game are that it:
- is player-centric, providing a high level of engagement;
- is challenging, the player must try to be successful;
- provides progressive levels of challenge for the player; and
- recognizes the player’s accomplishments.
Theses principles are all focused around the player. The game concept should identify if it is intended for a single player or requires multiple players. In a single-player game the competition is against the game and recognition is typically posted on a leader board. In a multi-player game the competition is against other players and the recognitions is whether the player wins or loses.
Games generally fall into one of three styles:
- Question-driven games rely on the learner’s knowledge of the subject. Game shows such as Jeopardy or board games such as Trivia Pursuit are examples of this style of game.
- Decision-driven games rely on the player’s ability to judge a situation and make an informed decision. Making a series of these decisions represent the player’s strategy for playing the game. Classic examples are checkers and chess. A modern game that is decision/strategy driven is the Settler’s of Catan.
- Skill-driven games rely on the player’s speed and accuracy manipulating some part of the game. The most common of this type of game are the sports-based console games such as hockey, golf, soccer, etc.
Whether the style of games is knowledge-, strategy- or skill-driven the use of random chance can impact the player experience. The rolling of dice or shuffling of cards are some of the mechanics that can introduce randomness and chance to the game. While many players say they prefer games that are not based on chance, it is the presence of chance that tends to motivate players to play the same game over and over. When the intent of the game is to support learning, repetition of play is a very desirable quality.
Scoring & Goal
Once you have established the player profile, game style and impact of chance you can establish how the scoring will be handled. A value is assigned to each correct response by the player. The value can be represented by points, tokens, coins or dollars. When drafting the game concept you also decide if there will be penalties for incorrect responses by the player. If the game has levels for the player to progress through, then a score threshold value is set for each level.
Finally, the overall goal of the games is expressed in terms of a target for the player to strive to achieve. The target can be to complete all levels or to reach the top of the leader board.
Check back next week for part 3 of this 3-part series.
VP Research and Product Development