The three stages of game design (concept, elaboration and tuning)

The three stages of game design (concept, elaboration and tuning) are as follows:
The Concept Stage

  • Getting a concept
    • Idea stage for overall gameplay/concepts.
  • Defining an audience
    • “Target market” – who is the game being designed for?
  • Determining a player’s role
    • Avatar? In a representational game the player may play a bigger role.
  • Fulfilling the dream
    • Representational games are about fulfilling dreams —dreams of achievement, of power, of creation,, or simply doing certain things or having different experiences.

This concept stage is similar to film production or pre-preproduction stage in getting an idea for a game/movie and planning its implementation.

The Elaboration Stage (Development/Iterative Process)

  • Prototyping
  • Defining the Primary Gameplay Mode
  • Designing the Protagonist
  • Defining the Game World
  • Designing the Core Mechanics
  • Creating Additional Modes
  • Designing Levels
  • Writing the Story
  • Build, Test and Iterate

This Elaboration stage is an iterative process/development process. Prototyping comes in handy here as well as defining how the gameplay is made.

The Tuning Stage

  • This transition may also be called feature lock. Adjustments to levels and core mechanics fine tune the balance of the game. Polish to a game is added on at this stage, a more subtractive than additive process. Removing imperfections to make a great game.

An art-driven game is comparatively rare. It exists to show off someone’s artwork and aesthetic sensibilities. Myst is an example of a successful art-driven game with strong gameplay.

Core Mechanics
The game designer’s task is to turn the general rules of the game into a symbolic/mathematical model that can be implemented algorithmically. The core mechanics are at the center of any game because it generates gameplay. They define the challenges and actions players encounter to meet those challenges. They also determine the effect of the players on the game world. Finally, they state the conditions for achieving the goals of the game and consequences from succeeding or failing at the game.

There are two types of games: abstract vs representational.

Game World

The game world is where the game takes place, and defining it is a herculean, difficult task. For example: a flight sim might use real-world imagery and maps, whereas a sci-fi/fantasy world is made purely from imagination. There are many dimensions to a game world: physical, temporal, environmental, emotional, and ethical.