Recently I have been obsessed with a game called Knights of Pen and Paper. Well, the second edition, actually, no pun intended for those who have played the second game. It’s a retro-style game in which a bunch of friends come together and play a tabletop role-playing game, complete with a dungeon master. The game is designed by KYY Games, and in my opinion, it is one of the best new games out there. But since I’m on the topic of great games, I think I’ll wander a bit and explore what makes one.There are several keys to making an amazing game. First, there are the mechanics, or the actual game play itself. What makes the game tick? It is repeatedly smashing a bunch of orcs? Flying as far as you can by tapping a bird? Or mowing down everyone else in the game? This is the most important part of the game. What makes people come back and play it over and over again. This is the sector where runners like Alto’s Adventure and Jetpack Joyride thrive. In Knights of Pen and Paper, it’s the combat system and the RPG elements that make the game excel. Their interesting combat system and customisable characters is what makes the game fun in one aspect: players get to choose who they want to be.
Of course, the next key is that graphics. Games are all about visuals, a lousy visual will reduce the quality of the game play, no matter how good the game is. Again, Alto’s Adventure comes high on the list. The game had beautiful art, setting it apart from all the other runners and making it a popular game. Back to my case game. There are many people who think that pixel art is not as “high definition” or beautiful and games with more modern art, but pixels is an art medium unto itself, going all the way back into the Roman time, when there were mosaics. But as art is all about perspective, it’s up to you to decide whether you think it’s beautiful or not.
The third element to a great game, whether people think so or not, is a good storyline. Now, there are many games out there that do not need a storyline, like the sandbox game Minecraft or the numbers game Threes. However, for games that do need or have a story, it must be worked on. Sure, it’s easy for a game developer to create a cliche and get on with the mechanics, and sometimes that works, but the games that stand the test of time have had good stories to tell. Super Mario Bros, for example, sets up a league of enemies and several heroes, Mario, Luigi and friends who set out to defeat them. In Knights of Pen and Paper, there is a funny storyline as the dungeon master runs the game but loses control to the older forces existing in the role-playing world, Paperos, and as he is antagonised by the Paper Knight, a second edition player who is invading the world.
That’s my short spiel on game design. I hope you learned something from it, or, if you’re a game designer, had a laugh at my attempt to draw lines and boundaries over it. Just remember that good games come from good mechanics, good visuals and a good story to tell.