50 tips for Game Designers

Just passing along some wisdom I wish I had when I started out...

  1. When tuning for feel, use 0.1, 0.25, 0.5, etc

  2. Most character animations start to feel sped up after 1.25 speed - if you have to go faster, adjust in Maya

  3. Google and YouTube will be your friend for life

  4. Play bad games and take notes on why they are bad - what could have made them better? Maybe there's a good mechanic in there that wasn't fully realized that you can “borrow” for your game

  5. Changing one value a few tenths can potentially throw an entire system out of balance - see current Street Fighter games

  6. Silhouettes are important for AI - you may need to blur the line between game designer and animator / artist

  7. When working with artists / animators make sure to provide great reference - if pictures are worth a 1,000 words, then videos are worth 10,000 words

  8. Don't try to do too much at once - focus on one task and polish before moving on

  9. Don't try to do it all yourself - ask for help!

  10. Bounce ideas off of your peers - you'd be surprised how much any kind of interaction can spur good ideas

  11. Game designers design, animators animate, programmers program, etc - learn how to critique other departments work from a game designer POV

  12. Try to solve the problem on your own for a while - don't immediately ask for help. Give yourself a time limit before you ask for help

  13. Find your process - figure out how you like to work and be consistent...but have a process

  14. You'll hit a creative wall every now and then - when this happens, fall back on your process to weather the storm

  15. Borrow ideas from other games but make sure they holistically make sense - what's a great mechanic in one game may not go a long ways in your game

  16. Bad ideas can produce good ideas - don't initially discount them

  17. You don't know as much as you think you do

  18. Be prepared to have your ideas dissected and ripped apart - if they survive that process, you might be onto something

  19. Good ideas are NOT a dime a dozen - they are a delicate start to something special

  20. Defend your idea, but don't be married to it

  21. Stuck on a really complex problem? Finish a few low hanging fruit tasks and check those off the list. Going home after a productive day will work wonders for clearing your mind

  22. Rapid prototyping > Theory crafting

  23. Fail early and fast...but keep track of why you failed and don’t repeat the same mistakes

  24. When it comes to “feel”, sometimes a unique sound effect can be king

  25. Paper design is a valuable tool - it’s the cheapest way to find out if an idea belongs in your game

  26. Paper designs shouldn’t be more than a few pages

  27. Paper designs that can convey the information with some key images and a few sentences are even better

  28. Always keep your scripting clean - you never know when someone else needs to look at it

  29. Always test your changes before you check into source control; don’t break the game for your teammates - common courtesy!

  30. Receiving constructive criticism will make you a better game designer

  31. Learn programming fundamentals - basic programming skills will help you with rapid prototyping

  32. “From a player’s perspective…” is something you should be saying a lot throughout the day

  33. Work harder than the next person

  34. Take a week off from playing games and replace that time with a pastime / hobby of your choice

  35. Write down a list of your favorite game mechanics; refer back to this list when you’ve hit a creative dry spell - “borrowing” a mechanic/system that fits your game is encouraged!

  36. Read a few design books that aren’t video game related - ex: The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

  37. Get better at being detail-oriented - it will improve your game as well as your design process

  38. Deconstruct a game’s skill tree and try to figure out why abilities were distributed in that order and in that frequency

  39. Don’t be afraid to ask the “dumb” questions

  40. Always find the time to help others...but not at the expense of your scheduled tasks

  41. Learn what breadth vs depth is…there’s a place for both in the development cycle

  42. How do you improve your communication skills? Be confident in your solution and try to flesh out all the obvious edge cases

  43. Straddle the line between “over design” and forward thinking. At the very least, keep a record of potential pitfalls and solutions

  44. Develop a competent understanding all of all aspects of game design - that’s fine if you’re specialized / more passionate in one area of design such as camera design or level design but learning more about another will help your team make a better game

  45. Focus on what you have control over - if you’re a specialist such as a combat designer, ensure you’re doing your best work. You can’t worry about everything!

  46. Trust your fellow team members to get the job done

  47. Give constructive criticism / feedback - this is one of the most underrated skills you can develop; put yourself in their shoes

  48. Playtest, playtest, playtest! Record the playtest, observe how they react. Ask open ended questions about what they just played

  49. Cut content that isn’t working out and go back the drawing board; remember the phrase “can't polish a turd”

  50. Getter better at interviewing potential peers; you’ll be spending more time with them than your loved ones for the next x # of years