Hey, I just wanted to point you to gamedesigncenter.org, in case you haven’t heard about it yet. If you’re an aspiring game designer, you want to make games in your spare time, or you already make games, I think it’s worth a visit and a bookmark. I don’t know exactly what will be happening over there, but it’s building up to be another great resource for game design tips.
There are two approaches to designing a system for game content. They are responses to the question: How much of this type of content should be put into a game?
1) Just enough content
2) Tons of content
The choice might seem obvious until you consider the time it takes to create tons of content. You might make a decision right there and move on. However, the difference is even deeper than that. For any given type of content (art, parts, quests, levels, dialog, sound effects, etc.), a game designer has to choose one of these approaches. It’s such a natural thing to gloss over that many people naively make the choice for most of their systems without even noticing. “It can only be done this way” is the subconscious thought. Crafting a lasting system of content starts with this choice. Considering the differences and making the right choice for a particular game can lead to things that have never been seen before.
What? A board game in the GigaSun Jet universe? Yeah. Isn’t that silly?
A couple months ago, I started making a simple board game for the kids. Once I got the design to a playable state, I gave it a name and made a cardboard prototype. That game is GigaSun Galaxy.
In GigaSun Galaxy, you create the galaxy you will play on. Then, you move around the board to complete missions and increase your rank to win. My kids get excited about the space pirates, wormholes, and upgrades they can find in the game. I’ve gone through five revisions so far, with each representing several rules variations as I iterate on the design of the game. There’s another revision in the works which improves the flow of the turns and improves integration with the space theme.
I’ll be getting back to talking about GigaSun Jet soon, but here’s a “screenshot” of GigaSun Galaxy:
The Mechwarrior series is well known for catering to gearheads with all of the interchangeable parts and weapons (mostly weapons) that you have. The feeling you get when customizing your own giant robot is the same feeling I wanted to get in GigaSun Jet. In some way, you can actually have fun without shooting anything. What a wonder! I also loved the old Armored Core games (I missed out on Project Phantasma). The sense of control was great and I had fun trying to find the right equipment to match with the fastest leg parts. How could I get some of that into my own game? Does it work without giant robots? Let’s look at the real question I had to answer.
A shooter, by definition, involves shooting, of course. You can’t very well have a shooter or shoot ’em up without any sort of shooting. And there’s something about our nature that enjoys this kind of activity. Just as part of being human, our adrenaline starts flowing when we feel invested in a situation that is not totally predictable. The main draw to shooters and shoot ’em ups in particular is this kind of unpredictable rapid action. But is there more?
I have played a lot of shoot ’em ups. I’ve played old arcade shooters: Space Invaders, Galaga, Asteroids, Time Pilot, Sky Kid. I grew up with console and PC shmups: Life Force, Ikari Warriors, 1943, Captain Skyhawk, AD&D DragonStrike, Tiger Heli, Raptor, Star Soldier R, Bangai-O. I’ve played newer ones: Ikaruga, Desperate Space, Geometry Wars. And of course I’ve played some Flash shoot ’em ups. The thing is, it’s hard to find a deep shoot ’em up: one that keeps me interested after I figure out the controls and enemy patterns.