Todd and Ted Talk Starfield ➶

Two game designers discussing the design systems in Starfield.

Ted Price:

Well okay, one more question about systems. I know there are designers who are listening and watching who probably spend a lot of time designing systems.

If you had to give them one piece of advice for how to design a deep but accessible system, what would it be?

Todd Howard:

Hmm, I have a lot. I mean, there are main rules of game development advice to find the experience. How do you want it to feel? What’s the end result?

Don’t start with a list of specific features, because you’re going to get yourself into some traps that might not take you down the right roads.

The other thing is, every time, keep it as simple as you can because you’re going to start adding complexity and you need a good base to build on.

In terms of: This is a simple, elegant system that people can understand, and then as you add other, I’ll call them simpler elegant systems, when they…if the player understands the rules of those, when those start colliding, that’s where you’re getting some really good gameplay that, the player is the one who figured it out. The player is the one who expressed their creativity, and they’re feeling this moment, of, they did this. You didn’t do it as a designer. The player did.

This style of design, building several simple systems that interact with each other and form emergent gameplay reminds me of the Unix philosophy, favoring composability as opposed to monolithic design.

Via Graham Smith at RPS.

✶ Wednesday, 27 September 2023

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