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.


Anonymous said…
"You've got 10 seconds to sell your game. Players browse web games like they're flipping channels on cable TV."

huh, thanks a lot! it's new point of view for me
Porter said…
I agree that all of your pointers are very appropriate for the flash game industry, they're excellent in fact. I do however feel that sometimes developers need to just bend from these rules and enjoy making a great game; after all, a great game is still a great game. I find myself wanting to follow such rules to bring in the cash, but as a game developer by heart I find it very hard to motivate myself doing such things, it's a complicated situation. Either way, you speak the truth for the most part, especially when it comes to making games FOR flash, not in flash.
Iain said…
Porter, I know exactly how you feel. The game business is full of compromises and things that don't feel very nice to do. Beware the trap of self-indulgence though. A love of games is great - otherwise why do it, right? But there is a temptation to romanticise your own creation and not see it through the eyes of players. This is fine if you are making a game just for yourself, but if you want other players to see what you see, you need to at least consider these things, even if you then choose not to follow them.
altugi said…
It's a brilliant read. Thanks a lot!
mookstar said…
"You've got 10 seconds to sell your game. Players browse web games like they're flipping channels on cable TV."

After the Mochi ad, that leaves two seconds, lol
Luke Alexander said…
I am not a flash game developer, but I did had a great time reading your blog and this post most of all. You have a fantastic tips and I believe your creativity will bring you on high level.
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