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"What's a Design Question?"

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by AndrewGrayGames, Mar 25, 2015.

  1. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

    Joined:
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    Posts:
    3,821
    Foreword
    While we have a great What belongs in this forum? topic, most people skip it because the title smells of rules and what you shouldn't do. I want to provide an alternative that helps newcomers and casual observers ask better, and relevant questions.

    Definitions
    Definitions are tricky things, especially in games - our field is special because in some ways, it resists academic analysis. However, in this topic, I'm not talking about games...I'm talking about questions you ask about games.

    Definition #1: Design
    Design
    refers to the objective, and high-level consequences, of your creation.

    Examples:
    John Doe:
    "I have a JRPG set in Ancient Rome; should my battle system be turn-based, or active-time, and why?"
    Meralda Potter: "I have a puzzle game where you try to fill lines of blocks, but I don't feel my game is engaging enough. Would achievements and quests make my game more interesting, or should I try something else instead?"

    Why are those Design Questions?
    In both of these questions, the two fictional people have a project that they're working on, but they're not sure of how something would impact the player.

    The first case has Mr. Doe working on a JRPG that he's not sure how the turns should work. There's all sorts of arguments to be made, both ways; that's not the point. The point is, Mr. Doe wants insight on why one turn mechanic would help is Roman-era JRPG more than the other (or, any other possibilities.)

    The second case has Mrs. Potter working on a puzzle game (aside: if you're a newcomer, this is a much better place to start than a JRPG), but she feels the outcome of her game will not interesting enough. She suggests achievements or quests as a possible means of making the game more interesting, but ultimately the question boils down to: 'What will make my game more interesting?'

    TL;DR Design deals with ideals, and high-level consequences. Design is why your game works.

    Definition #2: Implementation
    Implementation
    refers to how you take an ideal, and realize it.

    Examples:
    John Doe:
    "I have a JRPG set in ancient Rome; how do I write an active-time battle system?"
    Meralda Potter: "I have a puzzle game where you try to fill lines with blocks; how do I implement a basic achievement system?"

    Why Are These Implementation Questions?
    Simply put, you're asking how to take an idea (Active Time Battles, Achievements) and actually make them a real, functioning system in your prototype or game. "How do I" is the earmark of such a question, and all of its variants, like "Can someone tell me how to..."

    TL;DR: Implementation is how you make things real.

    Conclusion
    I hope that helps people who want to post consider where their question should go. Design questions - Why do X? What will improve my project? - are totally good for this subforum, and are why we're here. If your question can be asked in this way, do post it.

    If it's a "How do I?" question, you're not out of luck; instead you'll probably want another forum, like Scripting for code problems, or Graphics for general graphics questions. You'll be able to ask your implementation question, and probably get an answer reasonably quickly that will let you resume work.

    Finally, there is a grey area between design and implementation. The two do partially go hand-in-hand. If in doubt, consider both of the phrasings provided here. If your question sounds better as 'why would I...', post it, please! If your question sounds better as, 'how do I...', you'll get much better, and quicker, results by finding the correct place to ask it.

    Once again, I hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2015
  2. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    In other words, they're asking what to build, as opposed to how to build it.
     
  3. CDMcGwire

    CDMcGwire

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    I like this. I vote for the sticky. This is Democracy, yes? The head Unity guy kept saying it is. ;-)
     
  4. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Mar 16, 2011
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    Haven't we done this? This thread had 230 replies! I think the community has spoken through thousands of posts that paint a clear picture. Of all the places to be, the Game Design forum is one of the most positive, thoughtful, and creative.

    Gigi
     
  5. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2009
    Posts:
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    Yes, we have done this! However, the thread you link in my opinion is a poor example - that thread turned into a debate about the meaning of the word 'game', along with the growing pains of this forum's youth (as in, the forum itself, not the people. Well, OK, some, but that's a different topic.)

    What makes this forum so positive, thoughtful, and creative is that we help each other. As it is, I can't help but notice that there's a lot of people who come in here that genuinely want to ask good questions, and want to get good feedback, but get started on the wrong foot, much to their consternation. That's the problem that I'm trying to solve.

    This post attempt to solve it, not by debating what 'game' is, but instead what 'design' and 'implementation' mean in this forum's context. Instead of using a whole lot of negative language ("Don't!" "You shouldn't...") - unavoidable though negative language can be - instead I make positive/affirmative suggestions ("Do!" "You should...")

    The difference between the two is something that I've been considering recently, and in part this topic itself is an experiment in merely changing what words I use, instead of how I use negative words.

    See what I did there? ;)
     
    Gigiwoo and angrypenguin like this.
  6. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Dec 29, 2011
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    And building on that:
    Exactly.

    Being aware of the difference between "design" and "implementation" and "game design" and "software design" might make people more aware of areas to consider and, as a result, help them to make better stuff in each of those areas.

    Plus, posting in the right place means you're more likely to start a better conversation. People with more closely aligned interests are more likely to see it, and nobody gets an excuse to correct you instead of helping out.
     
  7. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Mar 16, 2011
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    It's a tricky balance. Even with perfect guidelines/definitions, people rarely read them. Fortunately, this community is wonderfully positive, creative, and on-topic (mostly). So far, this statement has held up pretty well: "discuss the theory, the practice, and the business of designing better games."

    Gigi