Gameplay Symphony

There is an analogy that I’ve found useful in putting into perspective any new features I want to add to my game. We’ll call it the Symphony. You don’t need to be into classical music to understand it.

If you’ve ever listened to music with multiple instruments, you know how each instrument doesn’t play the same melody. How boring would that be?! Instead, each instrument has its own part. Sometimes groups of the same instrument are even split up into different parts. But its not the instruments I want to focus on, its the parts.

Each part is different, sometimes it may merge with another part for a time, but it will soon break off into it’s own sound. If you listened to each part by itself it would almost be like a little song by itself, but when you put all the parts together, they work in unison to create melodies and harmonies that are far more complex than any one part could be. If you have ever been to a middle or even high school band recital, you know what it sounds like when one of those parts gets off track and doesn’t mix with everyone else. It sounds terrible!

What I would like you to consider is that each feature in your game is one of those musical parts. Each one needs to harmonize and move with the others. If just one doesn’t continue to mix with the others, it can make the whole game “sound” bad!

When considering adding any new feature to your game, perhaps you can think of it in these terms and ask a few important questions:

  • How does it harmonize with the rest of the game? Is it completely independent or does it somehow integrate into the game as a whole? When I use this feature, what else is affected?
  • Does it cause anything else in the game to become obsolete or irrelevant, or perhaps overly important and powerful?

Even if you aren’t into music, I hope you can use this concept to focus and guide your thinking to create useful and fun new features that work together to improve overall gameplay.

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Turin is the designer/project manager of Black Sword RPG, a game that brings “king of the hill” to a fantasy world where you can play your character the way you want to, not how the game tells you to.

Monday, June 9th, 2008 design, usability
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