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Article - 'What makes a good game?' by Angroth

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 9, 2003

Blurb

What makes a good game? Looks? Gameplay? Story? Music? Read on and I will tell you just what I think!

Body

What makes a good game? Looks? Gameplay? Story? Music? Read on and I will tell you just what I think!
The first and most important thing that makes a good game are the gameplay features. This is when the effects of the graphics have worn off and the people are actually looking for something in the game that will make them play it again.
If a game is a clone of another game then it is something we have already seen! So a game has to be original if its going to catch our eyes. For example, most fighting games now are the same and offer little new. The companies are trying to invent new features, like destructable objects but then all other games that follow have it too, so you end up with more of the same. For games I enjoy things such as Bushido Blade and Vagrant Story. It is totally original and no one has copied it, yet…. It’s okay if a game is a clone but it must be a good one to succeed.
So, what innovative features are good for a game?
In RPG Maker 2000, the latest awe factors are, custom systems such as, Custom Combat System, Custom Menu System, Custom Skill System and one or two other features, like a mini game of racing or cards or something. It would seem that if you have done this then your game will get more recognision however custom battle systems can be a bit dodgy and hard to make so if worked on well, the original combat system is fine! But to make it that one step further and more definitive, you must move on to the next stage….

The first thing that always catches peoples attention in a game is the graphics. It is not as important as the gameplay as the long term effects of the gameplay will pay off. Whether the person searches for good looks in a game or not, if the game does look good, then it will be remembered.
For example, before the game Bouncer arrived in shops, most people were thinking ‘I cant wait to play this game, it looks great!’. The reviews were generally giving it a good status and it seemed like it would be the best game ever.
However, after playing the game, reviewers and players felt that the game had little else to offer other than graphics. So after you had played it once, you would most likely leave it on your shelf or sell it.
Another example I could use would be Final Fantasy VIII. No one generally agree’s with me on this one but, I felt that it was the weakest of all Final Fantasy’s. Simply because the focus was only the graphics and not the gameplay or story.
So what we have is a strange situation. Graphics are useful and helpful but they cannot make games good alone!
This means graphics are good for giving a game recognision, but you need more than just looks to win people over. Spending too much effort on graphics and on nothing else, gives a low lastability game!

Story! If the games story doesn’t capture you, then you have lost the battle to the other games that offer the same quality gameplay. A good game must have a good story or else it isn’t really good at all. Revenge and love are age old stories that are going crusty from age in the game industry. Rather than fighting a God or an omniscient being, people generally want something different for a change. Games that fall with a shallow story and little character building are due to the fact that little planning was used. The story is where you must really show what you can do to the viewers. Games like Kindred Saga (no offence) I thought seemed a bit shoddy, and I didn’t like it.
So for a good game, an original plot with a few twists and some dramatic moments do the trick. Don’t do steriotipical dramatic points though. Do something unexpected like, killing off the main character or something! Remember to build the characters personalities though! Plan them out if you need to.

Now if the last few criteria have been met, then utilisation of music and sound effects are needed to make the game that extra bit crisper. If the games music are out of time and use wrongly, they can cause a dramatic moment to be humourous. A humourous moment, to be vengefull, and so on. www.vgmusic.com is a great website to find YOUR OWN original music that will make the game better. Even if you search for days on end to find the perfect midi, then that’s fine! It’s better than rushing a game and making it a pile of dog ****!
So, well timed music and correct atmosphere is the method to holding the game together. Accompanied with sound effects, the game can be very cool. Sounds make your game seem more real. Computer games use many varieties of sounds. Sounds are not THAT improtant but they do count as a final little booster to the game.
If a game has correct atmospheric building music, timed well, with some cool new varying sounds, it will hold the game together well.

The last few things that make games the tiniest bit better are the little details. For example historical content of the game and of the area’s that you visit and of the characters you play. Also small little final touches such as rain in some locations and so on. Remember, maps shouldn’t be boring to explore, a good game keeps the player content to play always! And even the smallest details make a subconscious effect on the player.
Have as many little extra bits and pieces to make your game that much better.

Here are the final points laid out for quick viewing:
· Graphics are good for giving a game recognision, but you need more than just looks to win people over. Spending too much effort on graphics and on nothing else, gives a low lastability game!
· In RPG Maker 2000, the latest awe factors are, custom systems and one or two other features, like a mini game of racing or cards or something. It would seem that if you have done this then your game will get more recognision however custom battle systems can be a bit dodgy and hard to make so if worked on well, the original combat system is fine!
· To keep people, an original plot with a few twists and some dramatic moments do the trick. Don’t do steriotipical dramatic points though. Do something unexpected like, killing off the main character or something! Remember to build the characters personalities though! Plan them out if need be.
· If a game has correct atmospheric building music, timed well, with some cool new varying sounds, it will hold the game together well.
· Have as many little extra bits and pieces to make your game that much better.
· If you have all of these, then your game must be a truly good game, well done!