Peter is back with some observations on design paradigms. What do they do and what are the pros and cons?

In the world of game design one can make plenty of observations on how designers work. Some start from the bottom, with the core gameplay mechanics getting finalized before other decisions about the game are set. Decisions such as settings and platforms come into play after this. Others start from the top and work their way down, the point of origin is what I want the game to say, what the story to be told is. The actual game worked on can have a large impact, smaller games are usually more gameplay driven with a basis on a few simple core mechanics whereas. Other games are largely story driven and focuses on a narrative, an example could be games based on movies or books.

Based on these factors you can make decisions about how to develop the game. For a bottom up designed game, with solid core gameplay but a lack of narrative, levels (or level, depending on how small the game is) can preferably be randomly or procedurally generated. This minimizes time spent on level design, something that can consume a vast amount of resources. However, this method has weaknesses. Random levels can feel, well, random. It’s harder to make meaningful content without strict control over game flow and thus random content often feels bland and paradoxical enough predictable after a few
sessions. On the other hand, precreated content is expensive to make but makes sure you as a designer can present challenges and assets when you want to, in the way you want to.

For the mobile market both paradigms are useful, simple games can benefit from precreated content and the simpler the game, the cheaper that content is to create. More complex games can similarly benefit from random or procedurally generated content, especially if the creation system is advanced enough to create interesting levels. Another solution is to combine the two paradigms, precreated levels that are filled with random content, making every playthrough of that specific level a whole new experience. Ideally, that is.

Personally, I prefer the precreated content route, that is how I was trained and most games I enjoy are of this category. However, learning to develop for the mobile market means I have to think differently, adopt new skills and find ways to solve new problems. Most interesting!

- Peter