Chris Jones, The merits of hiring a game designer

Chris Jones on the merits to hiring a game designer…. As video game consultants we often get asked the question “Why I do need a game designer for my game project?” or “Should I hire…

Chris Jones on the merits to hiring a game designer....

As video game consultants we often get asked the question “Why I do need a game designer for my game project?” or “Should I hire a Game Designer”. Game designers are very important for any production for any game project as the game designers instructs and collaborates with other developers & artists focusing on create engaging experiences for players. Game designers often have the challenge of defining 3 core aspects for a game; the game context > game interaction (mechanic) & the game reward. 

Here I shall explain how game designers can bring additional value to your game project and why you should hire them.

Game Context & Setting

The best & most popular games are often abstract like “Mario Bros”, “Tetris”, “Pac man”, “Candy Crush”, “Minecraft”, etc. With “Mario bros” why are you jumping on atop of turtles & hitting blocks for coins? Without context, Mario Bros has only two mechanics “jumping” and “collecting coins” with levels. The game designer would figure out the context of these all interactions make sense or have any meaning for the player. 

Games ideas are often formed by a mechanic (interaction) or the context (the setting). Call of duty would a good example of made with the context, all features & mechanics are build to fit within the context of the military historical are it is set in. Whereas a game like Mario, mechanic came first with context fitting around the mechanics. 

This is a common design challenge which often can prevent a game concept from reaching development phase. Context isn’t just useful for gameplay purposes but also for marketing and sales purposes. A designer needs to come up with a setting that visually presents the game mechanics but also which would be easy to communicate & understand via other media channels. 

Two different pizza slices, served in very different settings

Game Mechanics & Game Feel

Interaction is why we play games. It’s one of few mediums where the user can interact & change the outcome which is what makes games so special & unique. Defining what these core interactions are (game mechanics) within your game is key to making a engaging game for players. 

Once you have mechanics down, a designer would tweak the feel of the mechanics using variables like speed, acceleration, lag, etc. For an example, the game mechanics of “Sonic” & “Mario” are the same although the feel of the mechanics are very different creating a different player experience. Sonic is all about the speed of movement being very fluid whereas the Mario about precision being very slow.

Game Content & Game Flow

With the game mechanics pinned down, the game designer would start planning the content. How much content is needed for this type of experience/game project? The designer would build & design levels introducing new level elements to vary up the gameplay as well as present the player with something new. For an example, ice surfaces in “Mario bros” making mario slippy hard to move making it harder for the player. 

The designer would structure the levels in order to present the player with levels which slowly increase in difficulty/challenge to keep the player engaged. Designer would aim to achieve “game flow” where the player doesn’t get bored because the game is too easy nor get frustrated because is too hard. Achieving this will make players to keep playing. 

A graph showing the flow of a game

Game Plan & Documentation

A game plan & other supporting product documentation such as Game Design Documentation is important for your games team to have to provide direction & set expectations. this is especially important if you are working remote teams in other countries in different timezones. You need a game designer to able to communicate & articulate the details of game mechanics & features that add most value to the game product. Such documentation is also very useful for investment opportunities with a business plan.

Conclusion (and Yes, we have game designers for hire)

In summary, having a hired game designer on board for the whole duration of your game project is essential from concept to release adding alot of value to overall gaming experience for the end users.

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