Design Goals as the Foundation of Game Design

Design Goals as the Foundation of Game Design

I have always believed that one of the fundamental skills in design and development should be the ability to recognize what makes a good or bad player experience, while being able to deconstruct the reasoning behind why it is so. This draws a lot from personal experience and the library of games you have played. So whenever I get to design a game from the ground up, my design decisions tend to lean toward identifying negative experiences and seek ways on how to improve them. That has been one of the driving behaviors behind the design of Spellstrike.

Team play does not always have team support.

One of my most memorable experiences in playing games is rooted in MMO’s, particularly World of Warcraft. I’ve spent countless hours playing dungeons, raids, battlegrounds, and arenas, absorbing as much of the player experience as I can (auction house junkie being one of them). Another memorable gaming experience would be LAN gaming, mostly Counterstrike and MOBA games (i.e. Dota, LoL, etc.), where I really found the designs on teamplay and collaboration highlighted as a main design goal. Unfortunately, there were also memorable negative experiences as well, one I would like to term as “toxic” social gaming, where players simply take out the fun in playing the game. Frequent bashing, party-kicking, loot-ninja’ing, stat-munchkining (is there such a term?), n00b-name-calling, and so many other experiences where you would just feel that you wanted to give up playing the game.

Strategy games can be toxic sometimes, but they don’t have to be.

Now I imagined a game without all those toxic experiences (or at least to a lesser degree) where players and their characters would just look awesome in carrying out well-planned strategies and with buzzer-beater wins. That’s where the design of Spellstrike took its first roll into becoming a massive avalanche of an idea. Later on, the design of a non-toxic gaming experience took its full shape of becoming an action strategy game unlike no other. Picking up more ideas from action movies and games, as well as cinematic combat scenes, we moulded our second design goal to make combat look very dynamic and action-packed, something not frequently seen in strategy games.

Fights don't have to be rooted in the ground.

Fights don’t have to be rooted in the ground.

The first step in solving a problem (or improving a game’s design) is to identify that there is a problem in the first place. So for Spellstrike, we set forth these design goals for our team:

  • Present a gameplay that can lessen players from feeling toxic behavior in a multiplayer team-based strategy game.
  • Make combat look dynamic and more lively, not just have characters stand around in place.

I found it important to define these design goals as we moved forward with our technical game design and frequently used it as our references for what we wanted our game to be. Building around design goals helps the entire team focused on what the output should be. It helps reasoning over what the purpose of certain design decisions should be, and guides the choices of everyone in the team across production hurdles.

I’ll be talking more about the technical design of the game in my next post, and we’ll reveal more about the game’s design and how we addressed these goals in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!


  1. Choogs Tan

    I really like how you’re pushing the envelope by identifying negative experiences and iterating the design to address them. I’m all for it and looking forward to what you made. From experience, I think the most common pitfall with this approach is going to the opposite end of the spectrum trying to reinvent the wheel. Having said that, I am pretty confident that you guys have already distinguished between those design conventions that merely allow negative experiences and designs that can be improved on. All the best!

    1. Mars Balisacan

      Thanks Choogs! I feel that reinventing the wheel isn’t wrong fundamentally, if it’s in the interest of changing bad experiences into good ones. I agree that the fundamental goal should still be there, which is finding the best balance between limitations and critical situations. For this game specifically, we’re looking more into detail for elements that can abstract the player experience from being heavily skill-based judgements and making decision-making more engaging rather than having split-second reactions.

  2. weebly games

    I saw a link to your writing on G+, Huge details, Edison

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