There’s always a game that you can’t put down—one that’s just too fun to stop playing. Whether it’s an engaging storyline or captivating graphics, people play video games for all sorts of reasons, and for video game designers, knowing exactly what makes a game fun is essential to creating something awesome.
So what are the elements that make a game both fun and popular? Well, it all comes down to gameplay and presentation. Gameplay can be thought of as the experience for the player, and presentation is the visual and audio interface. In reality, every great game has both, so if you want to ensure that your team knows what it takes to create something awesome, here are 5 key elements of game design that you need to consider:
This may seem like an obvious one, but having a strong concept is the foundation of an amazing game.
Simplicity is crucial when it comes to creating a concept. There needs to be an immediate motivation for the player that drives straight through to the end. The number one best selling video game of all time is Tetris®. The goal is to fit shapes together. Simple, direct, and effective.
Being a little clever when creating a concept doesn’t hurt either. A perfect example of this is Grand Theft Auto—where the goal of becoming a top-notch criminal is made even more fun as the maps resemble major cities and players can run wild through recognizable landmarks.
A simple, but good concept allows for developing layers and depth to the game. This is where the story and characters evolve. Just remember, it all has to tie back to the original concept.
The gameplay is all about controls. How the character interacts with the map is half the fun of any great game. It’s what makes Super Mario so iconic. The controls are easy to learn and seamless to use. Run, jump and enjoy!
Good controls are important because they drive the overall concept of the game. This is how the person playing experiences your game and sinks into the virtual world. It can either be fun or frustrating, so getting it right is essential. Oceanhorn is a great example of a mobile game that combines easy to use controls with captivating and detailed maps, giving the gamer a completely immersive feel. On the other hand, you can find games with a bit more difficulty, like PUBG for mobile, where the phone’s gyroscope is used to maneuver the player in intricate ways.
Needless to say, design controls that make the player feel engaged at all times. A game can be challenging, but it shouldn’t be because the controls are hard to figure out.
3. Learning Curve
The more you play a game, the better you get, and the farther into the game you get, the harder it becomes. Altogether, that’s what makes up the learning curve.
You want the person playing your game to feel like they are progressing as your game does. So think about your target audience as you plan your learning curve. Do you want to be accessible to beginners, challenging for gamers, easy for toddlers? Most games give instruction as you play them with room to practice and sharpen your skills as you move forward.
Depending on who is playing your game, the level of difficulty should allow them to feel like they are consistently getting better, not constantly hitting a wall.
4. Audio and Visual
The audio and visual style of your game has a lot to do with your concept.
Again, think about your target audience and develop sounds and graphics that enhance the player experience. Having realistic details in your game is a great way to get attention and gain notoriety, but there is more to an awesome game than life-like visuals.
The way a game looks and sounds is an important part of immersive gameplay. For example, in a first-person-shooter, creating appropriate reactions to gunfire or explosions is key for real player experiences. Think about the visual cues in Fortnite that help a player navigate the map and locate the enemy. The same goes for the audio in role-playing games that intensify an action-packed fight sequence.
Remember, Angry Birds would not be where it is today without the memorable groaning and grunting sounds of the airborne birds.
5. Challenge and Reward
No one wants to invest their time and energy into something and get nothing out of it.
More than anything, games have to be fun to play. That means at the end of the day, the player has to win. Your game needs to be hard, but beatable. The perfect balance of challenge and reward gives the player a sense of accomplishment when the game is over.
Perhaps the best example of this is the game Myst, an adventure puzzle that challenges the player with discovering the rules and purpose of the game as it progresses. It is notoriously hard to figure out and incredibly gratifying to beat. Good thing there is now a mobile version that allows serious players to progress on the go!
Creating a game that is fun and successful can be a lot of work. If you are designing your own game, you are more than likely hiring freelancers to help. As you hire people to create your dream game, make sure you keep in mind these 5 essential elements to make it unforgettable.