Video Game Design/Components
Human components[edit | edit source]
The creator(s)[edit | edit source]
Game creators are by definition artists since they produce creative works. To say games have no utilitarian use is a misconception of the art. Video games go above art and have a particularity: most components are modular by design or by characteristics. Games may have music, a story and visuals – each an artistic creation but which aggregate into a functional whole.
Most video games share characteristics with other video creations like cinema (film art), in a similar way as that relates to theater. The camera angles and story-telling concepts can literally be transposed to the video game medium with the added benefit of interactivity. In fact it is defended by many that these two mediums are converging into one. As an example we could point to how movie sound or 3D has evolved and even to tests of interactive movies or TV, where the audience selects the outcome of actions.
Often the video game "creator" label is not restricted only to the one that creates the game concept, but also to those that implement that vision. Most of the time there are technical constraints that must be dealt with or haphazard improvements that are made to the original creator's plan. Most video games today are collaborative works involving not only a large number of people but a large number of resources and technical know-how. There are people involved with composing music, working with sound, programming, testing, art, graphics, and much, much more.
Famous game creators:
- Bullfrog Productions, the creators of many revolutionary games, for instance Populous or Syndicate.
- Psygnosis (now SCE Studio Liverpool part of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios), the creators of many innovative games like Shadow of the Beast, Lemmings and Wipeout.
The designer(s)[edit | edit source]
A video game is a collaboration of many different types of media and art, and more often than not requires as many skilled people to put it together as to make it commercially viable. There are of course games that do not pursue a profitable goal and then there are other mechanics outside of game creation to increase the popularity, visibility and profits around the game. For example, marketing has historically been able to eclipse the real quality of products which at times do not even merit the label on game. Then there is the gravitas of the intellectual property (IP) related to the game. For instance it is common for game studios to license other media's IP for their games. Often this reduces the necessity for creativity and the title will surf the popularity of the original product.
But before going on it is important to note that there is a difference between the people who are involved in creating a game: game creators and game designers. A game designer is the person who works with a game's core concepts, its level design, and various other aspects of the overall ideas of the game. Sometimes the functions are mixed and there are benefits to that but in the video game field the game designer can get reputation and recognition for the game, while the game creator will at best be recognized by the specific aspects of the game he directly worked on. More often creators get joint recognition as a software house for the work on a specific game.
Famous game designers (in no particular order):
- Shigeru Miyamoto, the designer, creator and producer of the Nintendo's Zelda and Mario franchises among other works.
- Sid Meier, the designer, creator of several popular computer strategy games, most notably Civilization.
- Peter Molyneux, created the god games Dungeon Keeper, Populous, and Black & White, among others, as well as business simulation games such as Theme Park and the RPG series Fable.
- David Braben, creator Elite with Ian Bell, a hugely popular and influential space trading computer game, in the early 1980s. He was also the creator of Zarch (also known under its ported name of Virus).
The player(s)[edit | edit source]
The player is the person who plays a video game. They are the customer, and the focus of the video game industry.
62% of players are male, and the average age of the player is 31. These are important factors to consider for game designers when creating a game, because you create a game for these people, and it must be interesting and fun for them. They must also consider teenagers are a huge factor in the gaming industry, so add a bit of humor and a dash of attraction to keep them satisfied.
This does not mean you should ignore the other sector of players though. 31% of players are under the age of 18, and 25% of players are over the age of 50. This means that about $3,920,000,000 of that 7 Billion come from the players under 18 and over 50.
Interaction[edit | edit source]
While the computer is only capable of communicating to a limited number of senses (vision, audio and recently tactile) there are untapped methods of receiving communication from the player. This has shaped recent advances like scanning the player's body movement or even reading player's thoughts through brain–computer interface.
Here is how it works: the player observes the output of the video game and processes it in their mind. Then if any of what is processed is significant there may be an emotional response to this. If this happens then the player will become wholly involved in the video game experience – and it is then that a video game goes from pixels and sound waves to an epic experience.
Multi-player[edit | edit source]
Multi-player games is where players interact with one another through the video game's interface.
Network[edit | edit source]
A network is sort of both input and output – communication with other people and computers. Allows for a nearly limitless input ability.
Software/Hardware components[edit | edit source]
Hardware[edit | edit source]
Consoles vs. Computers[edit | edit source]
A video game console is designed solely for its video games, and because of this it usually runs much smoother. The controls of consoles are often limited to what is needed to play the video games it offers. But the console has its limits, at the hardware level whatever is in the console, is in the console, and this means that the designers may or may not implement new or expand functions by customization and remote updates, the user has even less control, as consoles are often sold as black boxes without even offering public specs on the hardware they use beyond what is needed for marketing. In most cases, the graphical, auditory, and computational capabilities of a console are limited and fixed to what they had at the time of fabrication.
A computer on the other hand, has many things going on inside it – whether you like it or not. This can often (but not always) slow down and hinder game-play. But, in opposition to the video game console, the computer has almost unlimited possibilities for everything. The hardware can be exchanged for better hardware to make games run faster and smoother. However, unlike the console, the computer does not essentially use the dynamic control interface – often making game-play uncomfortable. This is only true for some games. In fact, some games are generally better suited to the use of the keyboard and mouse interface, such as Massively Multi-player and Real-time Strategy games.
Rise of WEB gaming and platform independence[edit | edit source]
Portable devices[edit | edit source]
Portable devices can range from many varieties of consoles. The most popular portable device on the market is the Nintendo 3DS. But, with the new Nintendo Switch, things might change. Besides from Nintendo, Sony has made some portable gaming devices too. One of them is the PlayStation Vita. The Vita can play many games such as the ones on a PlayStation 3.
Input Devices (Controllers)[edit | edit source]
Input devices allow the player to interact with the game. In the ideal universe, the player could just think what they wanted to happen, but this – however – is not yet possible.
So, when designing a game you must consider very carefully the type of input you use. You must consider the limitations of the input device, how easy it is to use, and how the user will be using it. Listed in this section are the various types of input devices.
Every Controller is different, however most controllers have an analog stick, a d-pad, and some buttons. Often times, these controllers are designed to fit the needs of games. Being designed exclusively for games, they are usually much more effective than other input devices.
[edit | edit source]
The keyboard is an interesting game input device, it has a vast selection of buttons, surpassing nearly all the other devices – granting a greater immersion through a larger choice of possible inputs sometimes at the cost of increased complexity. A disadvantage of the keyboard is that not present in all game devices by default (even unavailable at times), it is also too cumbersome for portable devices or limited in its implementation on/for them.
Joysticks[edit | edit source]
The Joystick started as an analog directional axis controller with a few buttons. Today it can also be a completely digital interface. It's gained popularity as a general propose controller for the first consoles or arcade machines. The joystick is not as sensitive as a mouse or a trackball but permits a greater freedom of use (space or surface) and on the personal computer it was made popular over the keyboard as a vehicle controller specially for airplane simulators. Today the joystick has lost some of its popularity and was replaced in most consoles by a default keypad and simulator-specific controller for driving cars, planes, or other things.
Mouse[edit | edit source]
Quickly able to move anywhere in the game environment, button action limited. The mouse grants the user a greater control over accuracy and precision than the typical joystick. However, generic mice have a very limited amount of input options, and therefore they normally require the complementary use of a keyboard.
Other[edit | edit source]
Unusual devices may also be part of a merchandising scheme and even an attraction to sell games or game systems. From driving sets that attempt to emulate real car (or even airplane) controls to musical instruments (realistic or not), all type of objects can serve as input devices. We are also entering in a new stage beyond simple actuators to having the game system detect body movements and facial expressions, eliminating the need for any direct controller with the virtualization of it.
Output[edit | edit source]
Output, or the response to the input, is just as – if not more – important as the input portion of the gameplay experience. There are usually only 2 types of output any standard device can perform, visual output and auditory output.
Graphics[edit | edit source]
There are essentially two types of graphics: 2D and 3D, each offering very different gameplay experiences. However, 3D does not necessarily mean a better gameplay experience. Often, this is misconceived in today's game industry. A game developer will assume that because 3D is the most recent and advanced technology, it is naturally better.
While a 3D environment can provide a much deeper and more exciting gameplay experience, it is not always better. First off, we should make clear the difference between graphics and environment. The game environment is the realm the player is allowed and able to act within, while the graphics are what is seen.
Often times you will see a game with 3D graphics, but a 2D gameplay environment; Pac-Man World 3 is one of these. Oppositely, Super Mario Kart (for the Super Nintendo) would be considered a game with a 3D environment, but 2D graphics.
Another note, is that 3D graphics do not equal good graphics. There are plenty of games with 3D graphics that just look bad. And there are plenty of games with 2D graphics that look amazing. What makes graphics look good is very subjective; however, there are some concepts that seem to be good rules of thumb.
For any graphics to look good, they must be arranged in clearly defined objects (if there is a ball, you should be able to tell it is a ball). Lines should be straight, circles should be round, etc. For more realistic textures, modern games utilize bump mapping, which takes advantage of fractal geometry. A good example of this can be seen in the upcoming game Tekken 6. 
As mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, a video game is, at its foundation, communication. Graphics allow the player to see the world within the screen. It is the job of the programmer to portray this world so that the player can become a part of it. More info: Senses
Audio[edit | edit source]
Music can have a powerful effect on people, this effect is discussed later in the human element section of this chapter.