A brief update on our "Special Edition" offering of 600.355: Video Game Design Project with MICA. Today we had Dan "Delta" Collins as our guest speaker. Dan gave a great talk about simulating the core mechanics of a game to determine how well-balanced everything is. A lack of balance leads to players ignoring certain options because they are not helpful in "winning" the game, which in turn means that (as a designer) you wasted a lot of effort adding things that nobody actually wants in play.
After his talk Dan went around to each team of students and tried to "extract" the core mechanics of their games in order to give them feedback and advice about how they could approach a simulation for their paper prototypes. Here are a few snapshots of this process:
For next week the students have to put together basic simulations of their central "encounter" or "conflict resolution" mechanic to determine if the options they are offering to players are all more-or-less attractive and should therefore stay. Our hope is that this process will help them further refine and simplify their rules, so that next week's final playtest will be a huge success and enable us to hand out lots of A grades for excellent paper prototypes.
This is the first time we're using the idea of simulating game mechanics in order to analyze the balance of a game design in a course, so it was really helpful to have an expert on the subject to introduce the basic ideas behind it. In the future we hope to expand this approach and present it earlier in the course to allow students to use it repeatedly to iterate on their designs.
Thank you Dan for coming all the way down from NYC to help us out! We hope you enjoyed your visit as much as we enjoyed having you.