Monday, 28 September 2009

A 3 minute lesson in game design (my talk from Flash on the Beach 09)

Update: You can now watch the video here.

I'm back from Flash on the Beach in Brighton. There are loads of great write-ups of the conference coming out, so you don't need another from me, but here are my slides and notes from my 3 minute "elevator pitch". While I'm writing I will just say it was great to meet all my fellow pitchers, and I think we gave a rockin' session - in the main theatre no less, so probably about 600(?) people saw it. Here's my slides (click on slide to advance):

Here's what I said:

I'm Iain, I make Flash games. Here are my tips for making Flash games, but hopefully you can apply them to whatever it is you do.

Make it fun.
  • When you're making games it's easy to get side-tracked by your awesome code framework or particle effect or whatever,
  • but if you don't make a fun experience for players, what's the point?

Make it obvious.
  • If you need to have an instructions screen on your game, you've already kinda failed.
  • Talk to your players through the language of games.
  • When you get the power-pill in PacMan, the ghosts go blue, their mouths go wobbly, they start running away.
  • The player thinks – ah that's different, maybe I can eat ghosts now – ah yes I can. No instructions necessary.
You've got 10 seconds to sell your game.
  • Players browse web games like they're flipping channels on cable TV.
  • If they're on a site like Kongregate they've got the choice of 18 thousand games.
  • So forget all the cut-scenes, menus and tutorials, get straight in to the action.
Match your control scheme to your audience.
  • Try not to mix mouse and keys. Pick one.
  • If you're making a casual puzzle game, just use the mouse.
  • If it's a platform game, stick to just arrow keys and spacebar.
  • Only if you're going for a pretty hardcore audience is it safe to use mouse and keys together.
Evolve your game.
  • I've worked on far too many projects that had months of planning, emails to clients, design documents, wire frames, PhotoShop mock-ups.
  • Not until two weeks before the deadline, you actually start developing.
  • The day before the deadline you finally finish it and play it through. Is it fun? No. But it's too late change it.
  • So throughout the process, make prototypes, iterate.
Stick a face on it.
  • There aren't many games that can survive without characters,
  • so even if you're making an abstract physics puzzle, you should be thinking about how you can make it feel human and approachable.
  • While there's still time to make changes, put your game in front of real players.
  • If you think you've got intuitive controls, players will be mashing the keyboard going “what do I do”?
  • If you think it's too easy, to a new player it's probably impossibly hard.
Respect the medium.
  • Don't just make games with Flash, make games for Flash.
  • Flash games have there own genres, like physics puzzles and tower defence that have evolved to suit the medium.
  • Don't copy other games, but work out what makes them fun.

Monday, 7 September 2009

I'm doing 2 talks in Brighton

Thanks to the tireless work of Seb Lee Delisle, Jo Summers and John Davey, Brighton is totally Flash seminar central these days, and I'm giving two talks very soon in Brighton:
  1. Tuesday September 8th 2009 - The Flash Game School of Wizardry, a mammoth 2 hour live-coding session, where I will be going through my personal philosophy and methodology for creating games. Free! Sign-up at FlashBrighton user group.
  2. Tuesday September 22nd 2009 - Wizard Needs Food Badly: A 3-minute lesson in game design, a lightning fast top 10 countdown of game design tips. Get tickets from Flash on the Beach.
Looking forward to both of these. If you'd like a Wizard/Flash related talk at your user-group or conference, drop me an email:

See you there!