Common Game Design Pitfalls

Enthusiasm comes not only from playing a game but also from its development, how it operates, how much better things look from just a month ago, and from the reaction or feedback from those testing it for the first time.

People play games for several reasons so technically there are no hard and fast rules and you can do whatever you want. However, if you take your game too far outside of what a player expects or is accustomed to, you risk alienating them.

If a player gets stuck on a particular level for more than a few days and you provide nothing to help them, they are more likely to abandon their game and less likely to try another of your games

Game Do’s and Don’ts

Write your game with a particular type of player in mind. Before you begin you should have some idea of your target audience. If your game is aimed at minors, keep the text content in-game short, and supply more detailed information for grown-ups. Minors seldom buy games and rely on grown-ups with credit cards. Avoid clones or creating a game similar to [brand name]. Clone games that offer little over the original struggle to get noticed and mentioning an existing popular game or brand are often a sure-fire way to get sued and or excluded from listings.

Whilst describing your game as a Tetras Type or Match 3 game is acceptable, avoid Word of Warcraft or Bejeweled – these are trademarks. Balance familiar with unique. Game players like familiar things like control and gameplay. The less time they need to spend getting the “hang” of your game the faster they can get on and play it however, they also want it to be unique and exciting. If feed-back includes “Awesome, it is just like playing xxx” then your game already has a rival month if not years ahead of yours.

Avoid including anything you cannot prove rights to use. Graphics, music, code snippets are freely available on the web but do not assume they may be copied and used freely unless they explicitly state so in writing. Mario Bros and Pokemon images are readily available however they are all copyright with a penalty of $10,000 for each offense.

Avoid Making it Too Difficult This is often the number one pitfall game designers fall into. If a level or puzzle in a game becomes too difficult for a player to complete, that point marks the end of the game for them. Games often need to be challenging but the difficulty has to be finely balanced with the intended player’s skill.

Writing your game for the masses rather than just a select few will help ensure maximum exposure and the best way to do this is to ensure your game requires as few specialist things like hardware controllers or graphics capabilities as possible.

If you write your game in supper high resolution of 1600 x 1200 because the graphics look stunning, you have inadvertently alienated players with screens less than 17 inches and that includes 80%+ of Laptop players. These super-high resolutions use more resources, thus slowing your game on some systems, and on small screens make text and scores unreadable.

Most game distribution networks recommend screen resolutions of 800 x 600 or 1024 x 768.

Of course, if you need the quality and don’t mind limiting your audience or care if it is published or not when it is finished, you can safely disregard all these rules and do it your way.