Playing Like a Designer – II: How to Analyze Game Design – Extra Credits

Playing Like a Designer – II: How to Analyze Game Design – Extra Credits


[Music] hey guys welcome back to talking about how to play like a game designer we left off having talked about observing while you experienced and getting past your learned biases this week we’re going to talk about what types of games you should play simply put a good designer has played and can reference a bit of everything I don’t care if you hate football games or first-person shooters or RPGs or whatever there’s something to learn from everything a good designer plays all types of games and never dismisses anything out of hand you can’t just look at farmville and say it’s an awful game I’m not going to play that if you think there’s nothing to learn from a game which a hundred million people played you’ve got some rethinking to do now I’m not going to lie to you playing these probably isn’t going to be a fun experience for you in fact it might be excruciating if you’re just playing from the regular player perspective being a game designer is work but if you’re playing like a designer the experience will be edifying and you’ll be a better designer for it in the end you can learn just as much from a genuinely bad game as you can from a good one in fact it’s generally easier to learn from the bad ones in a well-made game all the elements are tightly sewn together in a well-designed whole but in bad games everything tends to be a little less cohesive and it gets easier to pick out and trace all the flaws a designer never just says this sucks or this is good remember one of my designers principal roles is that of a communicator whenever you find yourself describing something simply as lame or cool try to really drill down and express why those elements in a game were positive or negative and how all the pieces fit together to deliver the experience they did if you can’t do that go and replay the experience till you can all right we’re past the high-level stuff now on to the nuts and bolts the first thing a designer does when sitting down to a new game is check out all the menus and press all the buttons this gives you a little bit of insight into what the game designers felt was the most important the most accessible keys are buttons should generally be mapped to the actions that the designers felt were the most important the actions that they’re having the player do the most often in the game the menus will tell you what features the designers felt needed to be adjustable because they couldn’t agree on a single best option this can be for technical as well as design reasons difficulty is often one such feature but so is gamma it varies next the designer looks for first order optimal strategies first order optimal strategies are gameplay choices or strategies with a low ratio of skill in to power out or put a little more simply first order optimal strategies are tactics which are very powerful but are easy to do noob strategies basically these are the things like the hundred hand slap in Street Fighter the noob tube the zergling rush the reason you look for these is because they’re one of the most important things for a designer to understand players will find one of these first order optimal strategies and just use it over and over again unless something forces them to do otherwise PvP games naturally force players to evolve past first order optimal strategies as they’re never truly the most powerful tactics in the game they’re just the tactics with the lowest skill to power ratio in a competitive environment players naturally develop their skills and constantly adopt new techniques in order to beat their friends but many single-player and co-op games don’t have that constant drive to adapt which means a first order optimal strategy okay we’ve seriously got to find a shorter term for that hmm first order up what about food strategy we’re going with food strategy anyway a food strategy can completely break a single player or co-op game if the designer creates a food strategy in his game without realizing it all the depth he worked so hard to build in there it’s just going to go completely unnoticed because the players likely to just hundred hand slap their way through all the levels but food strategies can also have positive effects and these are equally important for example the noobtube and Call of Duty is there to give inexperienced players a fighting chance without it new players would just be jumping into a meat grinder dying left and right at the hands of better equipped veteran players spawn die spawn die spawn die quit the noob tube makes the novice player feel like they’re at least a little competitive and allows them to get over that initial hump and get to the point that they can actually hold their own against the veterans yeah the vets may gripe about tactics like these but the benefits outweigh the negatives the noob tubes negative impact on high-level play isn’t gonna be enough to make somebody who’s played for hundreds of hours quit the game but getting killed thirty times in a row before you can even get a feel for the controls that just might foo strategies give new players a point of entry which ensures that new players will stick around long enough to get good which in turn ensures the veteran players will have a large and evolving community to play with as a designer we must be aware of food strategies and take careful note of where they’re being used intentionally versus where they’re simply the result of sloppy design Wow okay we better move on before this turns into a three-pointer so after hunting for first order optimal strategies the designer then begins looking for break points places where the game doesn’t function as intended the first of these are systemic breaks places where the interplay of systems combines to do something that the designers didn’t intend something that functions directly in opposition to what appear to be the design goals of the game example James was once playing a trading game I won’t mention which where if you bought the ship with the most cargo room and got all the cargo expansions for you could knock at a port and buy so much cargo that you actually inflated the price allowing you to sell it back for a big profit infinite cash basically kind of a game breaker but these systemic brakes can be much simpler than that take the Final Fantasy series I consider the way that money works in most Final Fantasies to be systemic ly broken why because of the inordinately vast sums of Gil you acquired just by playing the game normally to progress past any given area in a Final Fantasy game you need to grind for experience the only way to get experience is by killing monsters which means that the designers can make a reasonable estimate of how many monsters you’ll have to kill before you’re ready to progress but monsters also drop Gil and killing that many monsters almost always leaves you with so much Gil that you could dive into it like Scrooge McDuck since the designers know roughly how many monsters you’re going to be killing they could easily balance the amount of gila monsters dropped to ensure the player has roughly the amount of Gil he’s going to need for that area obviously it’s not a problem that ruins the game experience or anything but it’s a good example of the kind of system breakpoints to look out for as you play next the designer looks for technical breakpoints this is any point where the technology breaks down when you clip through the world geometry when the camera gets stuck in a corner when your character decides to spontaneously turn inside out there are two very important reasons you need to look for these one to understand which bugs destroy a user’s experience the sad truth is that you’re never going to be able to avoid all of these problems it’s damn near impossible to create a 100% bug proof game so as a designer you need to understand how these bugs impact the user so you can know which ones you can afford to leave in and which ones you need to really really focus on fixing or designing around which leads us to – most of the bugs you find in the game aren’t just there because the dev team sucked most of them are in there because a series of design decisions actually made these bugs the best possible solution that team could deliver within their schedule and budget this is especially true of camera issues many teams lock themselves in to a bad camera from the start with their design spec alone as a designer you look for these things and trace their roots in the mechanic so that you can learn how to avoid them yourself as we’ve mentioned a designer builds for production they make their choices in order to build a game with a real team in the real world so a designer is always on the lookout for interesting ways other designers found to work around the limitations of their technology team and budget so when you’re playing these games look for ways that the camera was constrained so that the team didn’t have to build or render their models to be viewed from certain angles did the game choose to go with a hovering robot instead of a guy with a gun so they wouldn’t have to rigger animate a bipedal enemy practical solutions to overcome limitations look for him when you play one of the best examples of this is the first Silent Hill the team wanted a level of graphical fidelity that the ps1 simply could not deliver so one day someone said let’s just add fog and reduce the players clipping plane to like five feet in front of their face that way we don’t have to render the rest of the scene and with that a franchise was born another good example EVE Online we’re totally running out of time here but give it a look-see sometime the game is filled with a neat little production tricks lastly of all the thing you have to remember as a designer is that you are playing to learn this means that you’re only playing most games for maybe an hour of course some games will merit several hours of play and occasionally you’ll find that very rare game worth playing all the way to completion because it’s packed with learning material throughout this is the only practical way to experience a truly broad range of games the majority of games reveal all of their systems in the first few minutes of gameplay anyway so a good designer can understand their interconnections rapidly and move on to the next interesting treasure trove of play don’t worry this won’t take too much time away from your regular play schedule even if you just drop 180 hour RPG from your to-do list that will give you time to absorb knowledge from 60 to 80 other games that you would otherwise have never touched trust me as a designer the trade-off is worth it oh that’s about all we got go to it future designers scenic actor things yeah thanks [Music] [Music] get out our mission yup I could break it out on my shooter a drastic me


100 thoughts on “Playing Like a Designer – II: How to Analyze Game Design – Extra Credits

  1. When you got to the bugs I remembered when I was playing Rune Factory 4 and Bado, one of the villagers, was walking on a lamp post. He was just doing his regular walk animation but in place and part on him was a lamp post. Though the whole game is solid and it's probably my favorite game ever, so instead of complaining or anything like that I just thought it was hilarious and made up a story to go along with it. See Bado is a dwarf always trying to sell and make the most cost efficient things he can, no matter how useless they actually are, so I just made up the story that he made some flying shoes but they didn't work so well and not he can't get off the lamp post. While my character just sat there laughing. I love RF4 a lot.

  2. The five nights at Freddy's is a perfect example it has bugs and loop holes that were purposely implemented into the game so that you can get to the end of the game. Doing this makes players think " if I do this and then I go here and jump through this part of the wall" in short it makes a virtual puzzle that you can't tell that its their until you explore the game thoroughly.

  3. An episode that needs to be done is one for the Devs to play their games as a new player with little to no knowledge. Like What will a new player know at the beginning of the game? Or will the grind the devs put in drive off new players? That sort of stuff. Most MMOs out there now have devs that only play with dev abilities or play with their intimate knowledge and not how a regular casual player would play.

  4. Nice tips :3
    I will try working on these. Some of them I already do myself everytime I aquire new games or play old ones 😀

    I hope that I can improve on myself, though 😀

  5. I know this might be asking a lot, but if you guys could come with some games to play with good learning experience and how much time should be spent with each I would really appreciate it. (Big RPG player so ive played the Bethesda, Bioware games).

  6. 4:30 isen't that sort of what the De Beers diamond cartel does?

    Diamonds are actually dirt cheap De Beers only wear houses them causing artifical scarcity to drive up the price.

    Addutuibally people can make perfect artifical diamond that frankly at this point cannot be spoted as artifical….

    so i doubt they will last… eventually they will crash i think…

    they even invented the whole idea of diamon weding rings as a marketing ploy to con people out of money with their inexpensive lumps of carbon that they over charge for.

    They have also been involved in some serious crimes… and usually cartels are illigal so why no one has not put those criminals in jails totally escapes me…

    They are con-men and crocks the lot of em!

  7. I think the early C&C games where very educational in the whole rulies.ini moding thing….

    that really gave me a good idea of how the game engine worked.

  8. Why would you say Mirrors Edge has camera issues? First person parkour is what makes the game unique, and they actually started working on it as a third person game before eventually changing it.

  9. I've been doing that bit about examining all the menus and pushing all the buttons since I was in second grade. And that was when I first wanted to be a designer and long before I even opened YouTube

  10. For some very intuitive design ideas and mechanics, check out Undertale. It is an amazing game that will not leave you disappointed.

  11. 1:35– ..Heh, that's odd.. I always seem to check out the options and stuff in a game before I actually play it.. And that's before I watched this series.. O_O

  12. I found rather shocking that 1h is enough, or at least suggested, for most games :O

    but this also explains many many things – i have been playing "design-ish" for a long while and one of the issues i have encountered, and that i hoped to see resolved on these videos – is stress. Sometimes it can even take the joy out of a game!

    For example, pokémon red sucks on so many levels, but still i had a blast playing it as a children! And still to this day i rerun it in different ways! If i focus on it i can see the good stuff, but i see also the bad stuff and it makes me enjoy less a product, even if it has way more good stuff than bad stuff.

    This makes the 1h limit far more reasonable, not only timewise but pleasure/resource wise, and probably i have to develop a mental switch to swap from a way to play to an other.

  13. Game breaking trading is how I made most of my money in Fable come to think of it. Once you have enough money to buy all of something, boom, infinite money if you have the patience.

  14. also regarding f.0.0 strategies i have to say skyrims instan-assasin trick is one of those….

    (i.e you wait until the first bear and begin back stabbing your companion until you have the full tech tree in stealth… then again exploits can be fun too… actually with elder scrolls that a big thing… morrowind could be broken in hilarious ways… you could even get past the blindness of boots of blinding speed which is kinda awesome…)

    Exploits give this gleeful satisfaction of having pulled one over on the game designers without it being an outright cheat exactly…

    when you use a cheat code it's more like cheating yourself… when you use an exploit its like you cheat the game designer and that can create a lot of player satisfaction… so they can be worth over looking…. after all with out the insta-assasin exploit i would be somewhat annoyed… so i bet they have not patched that for that reason..

  15. I've never had too much money in Final Fantasy. _; Not sure what you're talking about. I was always struggling to buy the newest equipment, even with lots of grinding. Just because it LOOKS bigger doesn't mean it IS a larger amount.

  16. n example of an accidental FOO strategy I found was in a sort of tower defense game called lochs quest, where you build a base out of walls gates and turrets but I found an AI exploit where all the AIs would aim for the gates so I would build something incredibly simple as a base and just line up the most powerful turrets in the game in a sort of hallway that even destroyed the final boss in a matter of seconds. There was never any reason to deviate from this, so I kept using it over and over until I beat the game.

  17. (5:27) When I grind in Final Fantasy I, its usually for money, not XP. I like to play with a Warrior (so my party isn't wiped out in one turn), and all three mages (so I have two life casters and two barrages of magic attacks). This setup requires me to grind for money, and the XP just sort of comes naturally. When I ran into a Warmech at level 33ish and lived, I was surprised to find that people usually run into a Warmech at level 25ish, around when I was still in the Ice Cave.

  18. I like how Yahtzee(zero punctuation)thoughts on getting to much money in a game.I decided to be a good law abiding citizen because It's too easy to become a master thief and get enough gold to buy the entire city before you even finish the campaign.So I went through the entire game like a CEO who is still going to therapy as he struggles with his crippling fear of success.(oblivion)

  19. have you ever looked down while flying over a forest in a game?far cry 4 shows it very well but you can see the trees have flat pieces sticking out and they rotate as you pass above.
    I thought didn't know why.
    But my brother was playing one of the dark souls games and pointed out how the trees near a bridge rotated.they did it just like the ones when I flew above trees in
    Just Caus 2,Far Cry 4,etc.
    They rotate while you are on the ground you keep the tree looking normal even though it is 4 flat walls coming out of the trunk.But when you are above them the rotate like they would because they don't know you are above them.
    Am I right?

  20. Please also make a video 'For Designers: How to play a game like a Player.' ( I got way too much analytical dialogue going on in my head while I'm trying to enjoy a game. ) :/

  21. I have an idea…

    Let's make a game with overpowered weapons that one shot everything but they would feel realy nad (no sound, no satisfaction in killin the ennemy, etc…).
    On the other hand, you would have weapons that feels realy good but aren't as good as the other OP weapons.

    This game would either let you have a great experience with fair weapons or a horrible experience with a F.O.O.

    You basically have no more problems with your single player game because no one wants to play with a minigun if it has no recoil, no sound, no animations and no textures…

  22. A good example – play L.A. Noire and notice how many people have really short hair, or are bald – it's basically everyone! A practical solution, but I couldn't not think of it once I noticed it. Do you know how hard it is to make hair realistic? They had to spend so much time on the faces alone, let alone the hair.

  23. right now. I'm an game addict. I'm creating games together with my friend. but, I usually play 20h a week at one or 2 games. am I able to do that. because I have no deadline for when something has to be done

  24. I think these limitations of design give some concrete reasons why a remastered game does not automatically mean "better in every way."

    Return to Arkham has a very confused community response where some praise the visuals while others don't.

    The unreal engine 3's ability to produce light was often un b elievably harsh. When looking at Return to Arkham it is pretty clear what the intention was… to bridge the Arkham Trilogy into a more unified look.

    The Arkham Asylum appears more blue rather than green and Arkham City appears more green rather than blue.

    But going further, the intention to develop a better more realistic game highlights some of the games visuals.

    By utilizing the harsh lighting feature of UE3 the Arkham games ran with the dark creased and greasy and dynamic side of cartoon villainy. It explains why many of the character models looked so strikingly different. And by removing this harsh lighting its made these less complex character models actually appear more flat and devoid of character while having an opposite effect on the enviroments where heavy mods have been put in play creating a disjointed visual experience.

    This unifying approach to the visual style creates a clear departure from the special qualities of those games where limitations were used to develop mood, and it will be very interesting to see how this might play out.

  25. School is systemically broken. Because Bullying is surely a Foo-strategy due to slobby design. but then again, How many hours does it take to make a create a game with 8 hours playtime? Zero hours! You just call yourself a teacher and follow your intuition.

  26. I'm looking the guide to be a good game designer and found your channel that contains a lot of useful information here. Love this guide so much! Thanks!

  27. I really love re-watching these videos it really shows how little I actually retain (might say something about our school system and how it reinforces bad habits but I won't bother going into that) So recently I have been starting to seriously try to look into learning the art of game making and one of the first things it made me do was try World of Warcraft a game which my only prior experience was playing on my brothers account for about the first 40 levels before quitting due to sheer boredom. See I'm the kind of person who likes challenge and because of this games like Dark Souls rank really highly for me and this really makes WoW's slow leveling and hand holding in the early levels make me as a player get annoyed and turn away in disgust but now going back with the sole idea of I should play this before it dies because if it does die than I would never be able to have the chance of trying it again because an MMO is nothing without a large player base. But in the end I was delightfully surprised in two ways one with a change in mindset I can see the early level hand holding as good design because they and all mmo's have to go for broad appeal to have a chance of staying afloat. So to combat this they make sure nobody get's overwhelmed by too many skills and mechanics by giving you them slowly overtime and then they also add an option to power level a character to near max level allowing people like me who don't like the early grind and the slow difficulty curve. Which allows people who don't have unlimited time to play the hard content. All this because I decided to play like a designer and try something popular for design ideas.

  28. That depressing moment where you see amazing depth to a system in a game, but the world isn't worth exploring because they didn't spend any time on fleshing out the actual playing field…

  29. I am so that guy who needs the noob tube to have a fighting chance but my version is give me an rpg and I shoot randomly down a hallway

  30. I'm really shocked you didn’t talk about the Binding of Isaac. Litterally everything you said in this video could have been linked to it with interesting point of views!

  31. I find that I don't call things in an individual game "bad" or "good". I either use "intuitive", "counterintuitive", or "I don't know how to use that", "I understand how that's used".

  32. Is watching Youtube gameplays enough to learn from a designer's point of view? I scarcely play games myself because of money issues and time constraints from college work and when I do actually get the chance, I basically take hundreds of years to finish playing even the easiest one. (I love games, but I'm terrible at playing them)

  33. Don't implement look inertia! I'm playing a game that I really like playing, but the first thing I noticed is that there is inertia on your view, what I don't understand why they would implement that. Good thing is that you can turn the look inertia all the way down, but the walk inertia is also a bit too high I think and you can't turn that one down.

  34. I thoroughly enjoy learning from the videos on this channel. Even though I only play games, not make them, I still find these videos engaging and interesting. Good work. :).

  35. Well gotta keep in mind with FF they do make things cost a bit more and they actually have an attack in a few games to use that excess of gil to cause damage. Generally I've noticed if you see the move "Gil Toss" money is going to be easy to get in that specific FF game. If it's not in there it's either harder to get or cost for items is balanced enough for it to not cause massive mountains unless you excessively grind.

  36. Complexity management is simultaneously one of the biggest problems and one of the most fundamental skills a person can have in software development. Bad complexity management results in poorly-structured, bug-ridden software that is unworkable and unmaintainable. It's a mess. Good complexity management can result in rock-solid software that is trivial to update. It's when the complexity reaches a certain threshold that humans on average just aren't good enough to ensure a 100% bug-free product, because there are subtle or obscure details that get overlooked and potentially aren't noticed for years (take heartbleed, for example). That doesn't make it impossible, though. Not even damn near. How many bugs can you find in Zork, for example?

    "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."
    -Linus Torvalds

    A security suite meant to defend and sanitize against malicious input is likely to have a few bugs, probably caused by pesky things like undefined behavior, and other non-trivial highly-obscure and hard-to-track nuances that can even go deeper than the implementation language itself. The complexity is high and the software has to account for a multitude of different scenarios, so the complexity can easily spin out of control to the point where bugs go unnoticed for years. A hello world program has no bugs because of its low complexity.

    A game is not nearly as complex as security software, the problem is when things like money and deadlines get involved. Then the incentive is to push out the software, rather than to take one's time focusing on the little things. Complexity management usually gets pushed to the side in corporate settings.

    That said, with how complex game software gets these days, and considering how much effort goes into bug tracking, as well as the fact that Complexity Management is pushed to the wayside and is often a lacking skill in professional software developers, yes, it would definitely be way too impractical, and not cost-effective, to attempt to remove every single bug. The trick is to keep complexity in mind from the beginning.

  37. Any suggestions for good puzzle games to learn from? I've played portal already I'm thinking Braid next.

  38. I really enjoy those 80 hour RPGs, and would rather stick with those than play many more shorter games.
    I guess designing games isn't really for me. I'll just continue playing them. =p

  39. Brawlhala has nothing for noobs so normally you just get killed before you even realize each character has different weapons

  40. Funny thing is, I love a game called ark, except their are many many many flaws, and they can ruin the game.

  41. pro tip
    this is where services like gamefly or other game rental services shine, it makes exp many games for short amounts of time
    much less expensive

  42. Unfortunately playing EVERY game is not optimal choice because your time is limited and there's a lot of games in the world.

    Remember that playing a game is time consuming act than watching a movie and listening a music, and AS a designer you experience a lot of things from non-gaming.

    Playing all games only 1 hour also isn't good option. Playing Sid Meier's Civilization 1 hour to understand all mechanics? How about World of Warcraft? Even mechanics described from this video like grindig from FF cannot learn from 1-hour play.

  43. Actually, when playing Final Fantasy XI (personal all time favorite game) I often find that I'm grinding for gold to afford things just as often as I'm grinding for levels. At least, in areas that have shopkeepers to buy useful gear and items from. I'm a very defensive player a lot of the time, and I like to be as thoroughly prepared as possible for the coming boss, or the next area. So as a result, I will spend a massive amount of time grinding in order to get all of the upgrades I can, or enough items to make me feel comfortable. Not to mention the inordinate amount of time I devote purely to the Chocobo Mini Games! As a result, I'm often slightly over-leveled by the time I get to the next area or dungeon.

  44. i hate these no skill cheap tactics lots of games use. for example magicka is really creative and fun game, yet they then kill all that by introducing easy combination that creates fukin lightig that oneshot almost every enemy in game. that sucks, bcs until that point you experimented with different combinations of elements and it was fun. then after introducing this oneshot spell you end up just spamming this all the time trhough the whole game. that shouldn't be the case.

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