The Art of Game Design Essentials 5

Game Mechanics is the core of a game

Aesthetics, Technology and Story are only here to support Game Mechanics.

So how to design game mechanics? From 6 aspects:

Do the dimension change
Think about how many dimensions your game will be, and boundaries.
Can we connect/transfer from 2D, 3D or even 0D space? 

Figure out objects, Properties and States
You don’t need to tell player everything. In fact, some properties or states are better hidden from player. A best practice is, if two objects have same behavior, it’s better they have the same key appearance.
Use State Machine to describe state change.

In a game, there’s always some information are open to player, some are open to another system, for example, NPCs. And some system acting like God knows everything.

  • What objects do you have in your game?
  • What are the properties of each object?
  • What’s the state machine of each property? What drives state to change?
  • What properties/states are open to whom?
  • Will state change improve the experience?

Playing game is decision making, which is based on information you have. So different properties and states, and who knows what information is the core game mechanics.

What kind of behavior do you have?(Jump, walk, run, pickup, shoot…)

  • How many verbs player can use?
  • How many objects each verb can interact with?
  • What behaviors are you expecting to use?
  • What behaviors would player like to see?

Different verbs can make entirely different games.


Rules should be specific, achievablereward-able. And it evolves. Usually you need to experiment a lot to reach a final version.

The most important rule of a game is final goal. So when you design the rules of your game, think about:

  • What’s the final goal?
  • Is the final goal clearly presented to player?
  • Is there a series of sub-goals? Does player understand?
  • Is there any meaningful connections between goals?
  • Are the goals specific, achievable, and reward-able?
  • Balance the short-term goal and long-term goal.
  • Can the players decide their own goals?


Every game needs player to master multiple skills. A good design practice is to list all the skills required to play this game, which basically in 3 categories:

Body Skills: Agility, Strength, Durability, Coordination

Brain Skills: Memory, Observation, Puzzle Solving, Decision Making

Social Skills: Read People, Fool People, Coordinate with teammate, 

Some of skills are real skill, some are virtual skill. We need to balance real skills and virtual skills. The upgrade of your virtual skills should be tied with player’s real skills.

Skill is so important, because it decides the experience to a large extent. When you design skills, think about:

What skills does the game require?
Do we need more skills?
Which skills are main skills?
Do these skills serve the core experience?
Are the skills fair to everybody?
Does the skill can be improve through practicing?


  • Which part is random? Which is not?
  • The random part brings excitement/challenges, or frustration/disappointment.
  • Will the player take the risk for fun?
  • What’s the connection between Chance and Skill?

Chance/Possibility is just like spice, all games have it, but too much would overwhelm anything else.

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