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  • Writer's pictureLingheng Tao

GD#1 Notes on Core Gameplay (I)

This series of blogs are my notes on some creative core gameplay design.

For the first project in my portfolio for graduate program I was planning to make an ARPG, but I got really stuck at level designs. This seems to be rather intuitional, so I decided to take some notes on some interesting core gameplay I met along with the philosophy and theories behind.

Interesting, many really successful games have an essential feature, especially an intriguing mechanics. When we talk about Super Mario Bros we immediately recall the red blocks, the green pipes, and the jumping Mario. The new Mario work, Super Mario Odyssey, also features with the mechanics of throwing the hat.

Mario throwing his hat which interacts with many other game objects

It is not strange that some games leave deep impression because they have creative game mechanics, and we recall this mechanics with the game, i.e. link the game with this mechanics closely. For example, we recall the assassinate mechanics when we think of Assassin's Creed; we recall the magnet and ice maker when we think of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; we recall the geometrical illusion when we think of Monument Valley ... there are bunch of variants of these mechanics, but the innovative ones always leave a stronger impression.

This in turn means, if we want to make a game that is really intriguing, considered as revolutionary, creative, or astonishing, re-skin won't work -- we should bring some fresh element into the game. For me, making an ARPG makes level design necessary and most dominant. There are not so much space left for level design to be considered as innovative. Only things that may help may be incorporating some puzzle solving into the game level, as what God of War or Sekiro did. -- I was thinking in this way, but later I did find some super interesting games which make linear flow much more playable. I don't mean that the following are definitely universally good for all the ARPG level design, but let's see how we might involve these elements into our games.


Obviously these two renderings are representing different information, which may be very important for the current level. This largely increases the playability of the linear flow of the level design, and at the same time, builds a better environment for a more complicated story narrative. What's more, right now in this game these two renders read rather parallel; we may even think a way to interrelate them? For example, moving an object from RHS to LHS? Why is this specific object not in both scenes? How may this affect the level design?

Anyway, this game has the core gameplay which I will call it a dual representation. When you want to introduce this game to others you definitely will start with, "oh you will see two different maps at the same time when you play!"

  • The Pedestrian by Skuukom Arts, This game involves reorganizing and connecting the 'maps' for players to construct their own levels or own paths towards the next level, as shown in the following pictures (grabbed from Steam store page).

This modularized design of levels is really innovative, and requires a relatively closer interaction with players and designers. This cues game designers about whether levels have to be fixed. If not, there may be a bunch of interesting experiments that we can do with the map, for example, modularization, randomization, different ordering, different transportation...; however do remind that if the map itself is complicated, this modularized design may make programming implementation really hard.

This game has the core gameplay which I will call it a modularization and connection. When you want to introduce this game to others you definitely will start with, "oh you should manipulate with the map boards to find your way!"


To be continued ...

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