The “Love” Game Design Concept

This is nothing new. iI’s just something I believe works in 90% of all games out on the market (AAA or small/casual/indie).

0. Create a game with both old (known) and new game design mechanics.

Even if the new mechanics are not perfect, this concept shall help you get people to enjoy your game

nothing is to ugly - if you polish the "fun" part

nothing is to ugly – if you polish the “fun” part

1. Build a sandbox/prototype version of your game (programming!) where you add one sub-mechanic after another, programming/adding whatever your game-mechanic(s) need(s). [i.e. basic level design, basic enemies, pickups, resources, whatever].

2. Try to do only the most necessary things. i.e. leave effects (visual/particle/sound) out. Use programmer art / existing game art to jump start programming. In other terms: develop game-play, all else is of minor interest (and yes: I’m very interested in aesthetics)

3. Tune, add, remove (sub-)features until you are having fun, every time something makes fun try to keep it in this form (imagine RPG-alike “skill”, try to conserve the thing that makes fun as a “skill”) and add new things creating new sub-features (new skills)

4. When all your sub-features come together, create a flow in which all can be used (i.e. easy enemies in a RPG-alike dungeon crawler require skill “close range fight”, better enemies require “first far range, then close range fighting”, …)

5a. You will never be satisfied with your features, you will always believe that the game needs more features (adding) or better (tuning) or less (removing and improving what’s left) or exchanged (removing and adding new things).

5b. BUT if you spend a lot of love and time into creating your sub-mechanics, players will be able to experience the love. This is what counts!

7. Use “try to make players come back for wanting more (Rule 77 )”, add turn based game-play. This will most often happen due to meta game-play “wrapping” around your inner mechanics. For example the RPG-dungeon-crawler returning to a town for shopping, then back to the dungeon, is clear turn based game-play: you see something expensive and cool in town and thus go earn more gold by using the good (but never perfect) core-game-play mechanics.

8. Also create hard levels / hard tasks / hard puzzles so that players will loose due to the lack of something that THE GAME will provide (knowledge from a second look at the level, level-up gained sub-mechanic, etc.) [be sure to now let players loose due to something they lack (intelligence in solving puzzles or eye-hand-coordination-speed for controls, etc.). These hard levels are also fitting to the “turn based meta gaming” concept. Players will want to solve the hard task and will try again (typically with new insights or after trying something easier first, etc.).

9. Because of the lure of your game to show constantly / often new things (your creatively created sub-mechanics), players will want to continue to play and because of the meta-game will fall in love with your game. Simply the satisfaction from the meta game (”turns”) will glue your players to your game. They will grow more and more used to minor problems of your game and will reach the same state you as a game developer reached: love to the game details.

10. People will be very happy to have your game. (i.e. play)

11. The remaining trick is, how to lure people into loving your game BEFORE they love it. i.e. how to lure them into playing at all. see marketing / pr campaigns of all kinds (from AAA big budget marketing to personal indie presence in forums/blogs/etc.)

the result shall be: people buy your game.

Daniel Renkel

Daniel 'sirleto' Renkel is a true indie game developer (at heart ;) and a part time simulation engineer (space- & aircrafts). He's studied computer science at the university of Darmstadt, Germany and has a background of 8 years as game developer (assistant projectmanager, game designer, associate producer and technical artist). He worked on a whole number of PC and console games including the Aquanox series. Visit for more information about this current android mobile phone games.

3 responses to “The “Love” Game Design Concept”

  1. Krystian Majewski

    12. ?
    13. PROFIT!

    But slightly (but not really) more seriously, skeptical Krystian is skeptical:

    1. Actually, the experience of me, Yu-Chung and Fabricio was unanimously that we all tend to remove features. The first prototype tends to be too complicated and too bloated.

    2. How can you tell if a game “feels” right if content and art is completely missing? In some (not all) cases, both are quite important for the enjoyment of a game. This is a dilemma we already addressed in one of our podcasts (in one of them that wasn’t released I think) and still have no proper answer for.

    3. You define “Fun” as the ultimate goal. That’s bascially what we have right now and there are some concerns about this approach. “Fun” has no morals and no meaning – it’s hollow. That doesn’t mean that the game can’t be fun but shouldn’t there be more ambitious goals? Where are these defined in your process?

    4. This sounds like you favor a bottom-up approach to game design. I recently had a talk with Peter Thierolf who described how he made his first game (a shooter). He used a bottom-up approach as well but when it came to designing levels, he found out that his approach started to fail. The levels were boring. He quickly ran out of gameplay elements and even if they were nice and sophisticated, they couldn’t hold the attention for longer then half of a level or so. He realized that in this case, switching to top-down made all the difference: he first defined a couple of what I think he called “Gameplay Moments” – little episodes of gameplay that he wanted the player to experience. Like a certain surprising turn of events or a difficult decision for example. Then he implemented the gameplay elements and systems to make these moments happen. These were often things he wouldn’t even think about if he only focused on the mechanics.

    7. You forgot to mention the trick! Turn-based addiction often comes from a low-hanging fruit setup at the beginning of each cycle. Daniel Cook wrote a superb breakdown of the idea in his Advance Wars DS Game Design Review.

    8. Why do you think this is necessary? You expect players to WANT to solve difficult levels. But what if they go ‘meh’ and play Mafia Wars instead?

    9. You think that players love the mechanics. Really? Game designers certainly love mechanics. Players are just as glad to play the billionth clone of a mechanic they already know. What hooks them are often things game designers never think about. See: my posts on the reasons why my girlfriend is playing games. Or the experiences of Cyan with Myst Tourists which we will discuss in upcoming podcast.

    11. This is model where content (gameplay) and form (marketing) are clearly separated. But as game designers, shouldn’t we strive to create a process where these two aren’t separate and maybe even competing entities but actually two faces of the very same coin? And shouldn’t a game designer invest at least just as much time to develop the other side? What are the steps in this process?

    Finally, if “Fun” is all you are going for, I think step 0 and step 11 are most important and most difficult ones. The other ones are purely optional. ;-)

  2. Digital Tools

    Harhar, I want to jump right in between the middle of Daniel and Krystian. While I was reading the article I really was like: hey, this sounds pretty much like an agile development practise to game-design (aka bottom-up), we lately also had the discussion about it on this blog ( I am in general a strong supporter of agile.

    But to offer some words of my own insights: I think agile is really not suitable for any kind of game. Like Krystian said: I can be hard to engineer emotions that way. I think, agile gamedev is mostly interesting for level-based games, like bubble bobble, advanced wars or meat boy.

    I also think like Krystian, that sound and graphics cannot be outside the prototyping-phase. I’d love to talk about “tracer-code” – not prototypes.

    It is always more important to think about, what to left behind, than what to add!

  3. axcho

    So basically, more polish equals more love. :) I think that’s certainly part of it, but I imagine that there are many other factors, like your vision, your purpose for making the game, the emotions that your game invokes, the aesthetic appeal of the game, and so on.

    Interesting idea about turn-based gameplay. I guess it does make sense to incorporate some sort of discrete action-reward sequence even in real-time games. I can see this even in terms of replay, for games like Canabalt.

    This part I don’t really understand:

    “Because of the lure of your game to show constantly / often new things (your creatively created sub-mechanics), players will want to continue to play and because of the meta-game will fall in love with your game.”

    Do you have any thoughts about how to design sub-mechanics that will continually create new experiences? I’m not really clear on the relationship between these and how “players will want to continue to play”.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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