Commandments of game design: Jason Kapalka, PopCap co-founder

Jason Kapalka

In the process of putting together our 10 Commandments Of Game Design feature, we got in touch with some of the industry’s top videogame creators and asked them to tell us their own commandments. Some gave us one or two key doctrines, while others sent over a full list of ten (or, in the case of today’s preacher, PopCap co-founder and chief game designer Jason Kapalka, eleven). Over the next few days, we’ll be publishing their thoughts on the website. As ever, you’re welcome to add your own thoughts in the comments thread below.

 

Anyone can play

Design your game with the idea that literally anyone should be able to pick it up and learn it, not just the hardcore genre fans. Not everyone will. But game genres that descend into a spiral of hardcore cliquishness become stagnant and ultimately die off.

 

Make tutorials fun

These days it’s rare to have games without a meaningful tutorial, though they do exist (Crusader Kings II). But there are many tutorials that are boring and drawn out. Ideally the tutorial is inseparable from the game, as in the Zelda or God Of War titles, so you never feel like you are doofing along on training wheels waiting for the good stuff to begin.

 

Be generous

Pinball designers knew this: why give 10 points when you can give 10,000 for a good bumper hit? Don’t be stingy with the cool stuff, whether that’s points or treasures or new cars or exploding rainbows or whatever. But…

 

Make people work for rewards

While games shouldn’t be punishing to learn, you lose the thrill of accomplishment if everything is handed to you on a platter. Even a simple game can have tiers of achievement to strive for, letting skilled players really push their abilities. Whether that’s slaying a ridiculous boss in Dark Souls or completing a Master challenge in Peggle, overcoming serious difficulties is one of the greatest joys games offer.

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