Doug Church: Formal Abstract Design Tools

January 22, 2008 at 11:51 pm (Game Design Reader) (, , )

Doug Church makes the same claim Costikyan did five years before him, but he goes further. Both of them are concerned about the need of a polished vocabulary for the game design discipline. Whereas Costikyan revolves around a definition of game, Church thinks about this vocabulary as a kit of tools for game designers. It would lead to a better understanding of games and their creation.

He remarks that the plurality of game genres and audience shouldn’t be a problem for achieving this goal. For that reason, these tools have to be abstract: Formal Abstract Design Tools (FADT)

I’d say that he proposed method for identifying such tools is “case study”: choosing a “good” game and abstracting the “things that work well”. It may be seen a bit esoteric but the results are fruitful.

The tools mentioned in the article were “extracted” by analyzing Mario 64. The remarkable aspect was allowing the players what to do next. I may say here that this aspect calls for going beyond interaction; yes, there is interaction, player input, the game state changes but game can be richer. Church names the tool intention to refer the action plan that players make. And, if they screw up it should be quite clear why it didn’t work; that is a perceivable consequence of their actions.

The story tool is powerful. We know that a highly crafted world with detailed scripting will get a detriment to the player choices. Although this balance is pointed out in the article, what concerns me is that Church’s examples of “better” use of the story tool rely on simplicity, ranting about how RPGs don’t allow player intentions.

At the end, one could say “thanks for the heads up, but there was nothing new”. However, the value is on the development of a vocabulary-tool and the understanding of them in the design. Overall, the article is quite tight. I wish Church had coined more tools.

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