Monday, January 2, 2012

The Idea of a Compact Game

Lately, I've been thinking about the idea of compact design as it applies to games. I'd like to share some thoughts about that.

What makes a game compact?

First, I'd like to define what I mean by compact.

In general, a compact game either has very limited content (for example, only a few levels) or procedural content. The graphical and audio assets are sufficient for the concept but not excessive. (minimalist styling is a good way to do this, but not the only way) Gameplay mechanics are few and very distinct.

Why bother with this idea?

In this age of increasingly elaborate AAA games, games with compact premises are often an idea that is ignored by developers. Many small and independent developers use this idea, but oftentimes they are using a recycled premise such as a "match 3" game or an arena shooter.

I feel that applying the idea of compactness to game design is valuable, especially when concerning an innovative or original premise, but also when concerning a more conventional game.

Compact games cost less to develop but can deliver just as much fun to the player. It's an established fact, I believe, that the money that is sunk into developing a game only does so much for the end popularity of the game. Outside of a hardcore demographic which demands elaborate games with photo-realistic graphics and complex gameplay, many players would rather have a game that they can play easily.

I'm not saying complex games are bad!

I'm sure that some would assume from what I'm saying that I consider complex and elaborate games to be bad or somehow inferior to more compact designs.

That's not what I'm saying!

I'm aware that many people who might read this article would interpret this idea as being an attack on high-budget, sophisticated, and large games.

Many complex games are popular, and that's for a reason; many people enjoy them. However, what I mean to say is that compact designs are worth exploring because they can be developed more easily and at a lower cost while still delivering a good product. The fact that Starcraft and Civilization are popular is a testament to the fact that complexity can work. However, simplicity can work, too, and is often neglected.

I have a few more things to say.

I will be exploring the idea of simplicity in design in future posts, as well as discussing other design ideas.

Also, I've made a new year's resolution: I will try to post at least three times per week. You have my word.

Peace, love, and elegant solutions,

- Henry

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