Getting Started in Game Development: Develop Strong Video Game Ideas
Note: This class was originally designed for Skillshare. I'm exploring Web Monetization as an alternative. Thanks for bearing with me through the rough patches!
In this fast-paced game design and narrative design crash course, you'll learn about 5 techniques for player engagement (ludonarrative scaffolding) and 2 routes to player immersion (transportation and flow) that make your games more fun. There's no coding required at all. If you're looking to learn about game development, game design, narrative design, or just need to come up with game ideas and brainstorm video games, this class is for you.
We'll analyze Undertale, Celeste, Skyrim (and Skyrim Grandma / Shirley Curry's emergent storytelling), Eastshade, Stardew Valley and more along the way as examples. You'll apply these concepts to a video game idea you generate, which you'll develop and strengthen over the course of this game design class.
We'll discuss everything from Uncharted's ludonarrative dissonance in games to Mario's difficulty balancing, with World 1-1 as an example.
For your class project, you’ll be brainstorming game ideas and choosing at least one idea to strengthen using ludonarrative scaffolding.
Personally, I recommend a blank sheet of paper and a bunch of markers or pens. Whatever medium you choose, make sure you feel creatively free when you’re using it—if you can’t express yourself using arrows, colors, or whatever else you like to use, your brainstorming medium might be holding you back, and we don’t want that.
Once you’ve finished the class, you’ll upload a photo of your game idea for feedback.
- If you don't have Skillshare Premium but want to get it, consider using my referral link! You'll get 14 days access to all of Skillshare (thousands of classes), and I'll earn $10 if you sign up.
- If you already have a Skillshare Premium account, you can take the class there.
- If you have a Web Monetization provider like Coil, you can take the class right here on this page!
- If you cannot access any of the above, you can redeem my class completely for free here. You will need a free Skillshare account, but do not sign up for a free trial—if it asks you to, come back and click the link again. If you run into any other issues or there's anything else preventing you from taking the class, feel free to reach out (email@example.com).
Brainstorm Game Ideas
Write down some constraints for your game idea in the class project description field and publish the project to them with us.
To help you think of some problem statements, here are some prompts:
- What feelings/messages do you want to convey?
- What are you feeling right now? What do you wish you were feeling?
- Is there something you want to persuade others of? Or teach through a game?
Write down your own ideas as they come to you on your sheet. In the next lesson, we’ll cover some umbrella terms to describe player engagement. All of the techniques we’ll talk about will be directly relevant to these two terms.
Target Transportation and Flow
As we cover these next techniques, think about whether you could use the devices to support your own game idea goals. Would they help, harm or not impact your goals?
Use Emergent Storytelling
You can’t really choose whether your game will incorporate player choice. But will you write it into your story? If you do, how will you keep the story within your constraints?
And how will you engage with emergent storytelling in your game? Will you allow players to explore in the order they like, create their own unique characters, or use another strategy?
Use Indirect Control
Will you use indirect control to balance player freedom? If so, how? If not, why don’t you think you’ll need to use it?
Avoid Ludonarrative Dissonance
How can you design mechanics that support your games persuasive goals? Take some time to write down some ideas.
Align Narrative with Reality
Will you try to bridge the gap between your player’s worlds and your game world? Will you try to synchronize player’s experiences with the player character’s? Jot down some ideas.
Balance Difficulty with Ability
How will you balance game difficulty with player skill in your game? Will you try something similar with transportation? Write down anything you think of!
In this course, we covered techniques for brainstorming game ideas, like coming up with problem statements and using constraints to your advantage. Then, we talked about transportation and flow, and learned about how to implement a variety of techniques used to maintain them, with popular, successful games as an example. I hope that this course has been helpful to you in learning about these techniques in ludonarrative scaffolding and in generating and developing your own game idea.
At this point, please take a picture or screenshot of your brainstorming game ideas and share them with me. I can’t wait to see what ideas you came up and chat about game design with you.
I'd love to hear any feedback you have about the class as well. How can I improve your experience?
Resources and Further Reading
- The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell
- Video Games: A Medium that Demands our Attention by Various Authors
- Miyamoto on World 1-1: How Nintendo made Mario's most iconic level
- What Makes Celeste's Assist Mode Special | Game Maker's Toolkit
- How the Rise of Narrative Design is Revolutionizing the Craft of Video Game Storytelling
- How to Prototype a Game in Under 7 Days: Tips and Tricks from 4 Grad Students Who Made Over 50 Games in One Semester By Kyle Gabler, Kyle Gray, Matt Kucic and Shalin Shodhan
- Shirley Curry on YouTube