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I really can’t say enough good things about this game. I’ve already written about the experience elsewhere, so I’ll try to stick to seeing SpaceChem from the game designer’s perspective.

Things SpaceChem does right:

  • Player freedom: The story stays out of the way and lets the game go. You can even ignore the story entirely, and just play the “puzzle” part of the game. The puzzles let you solve the challenge any way you want. There is no “right” solution (though some are better than others). SpaceChem never forces you to take time out of gameplay to experience the story. It’s totally optional. Continue reading

Fast Travel

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Travel is a common mechanic in nearly every game. Moving pieces in space is a powerful symbol for changing the state of a system. Walking is a familiar experience, and draws us into the game world.

However, computer games commonly enforce a strict method of transit, with the player’s experience lasting as long as the character’s. Say you want to walk to the doughnut shop. You’ve got to walk down the drive way, go a ways through the neighborhood, travel a few blocks through the commercial sector, and finally walk through the parking lot (maybe you should have driven your car!) to the doughnut shop. Maybe it’s fun the first time… Continue reading

(No more) Busywork

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Don’t make the player do busywork. Anything the player can do easily but can’t avoid is busywork. Our subconscious takes care of these tasks in real life. Build a subconscious into your game for crying out loud!

What if there were a “Turning the key” minigame every time you start a car in GTA. Absurd? What about lock picking? Busywork shows up all over the place; Players largely put up with it; They shouldn’t.

Why do we get busywork in the first place?
  • Tutorial: It has to be long and boring!? People are forced to complete worksheets at school, but this usually requires the threat of actual physical pain. Games do not have this luxury. Make your tutorial enjoyable, and let the player quit when they get the idea. Continue reading