Game design diaries: The One Question

Designing is just asking a lot of questions.

Advanced Game Design by Michael Sellers is a superb game design tome, and I can highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in game design. The book is bit heavy at times, but there is lot of useful stuff for all game designers, no matter the platform.

In the book, Sellers introduces the idea of “The One Question”, a game design tool that helps developers and designers to evaluate the viability and “theme-fit” of their ideas and features. The One Question is a simple question that should be asked again and again during the development of the game. It helps the designers to concentrate on the features that actually matter and support the experience goals.

Quote from the book: “Jason Booth, game designer on Guitar Hero and its successor Rock Band, said that the one question about features on Guitar Hero was “Does it rock?” If a feature didn’t contribute directly to that essential quality of the game, the team left it out.”

As I wrote previously, I’m designing a new game at the moment. In the core of my game are the characters. The experience I want to create is revolving around the characters, their motivations, pasts and (possible) futures. So, every time I add something to the game, I ask myself: “Does this help the players to tell something interesting about their characters?”. If the answer is “no”, then I’ll forget about the feature and don’t waste any more time with it.

Of course, you don’t always know how the features will work, at least not without prototypes and testing. But that’s a story for some other time!

To sum up: Formulate your own The One Question when designing a game. It makes things and decision making easier.