We ended up with a game that I didn t know how to win. I didn t know which were the best strategies or tactics, even though I designed all the game s systems. That is what makes a good strategy game.
” Julian Gollop, talking about his game X-Com: UFO Defense
What are the game design elements that make up a really good game? Of course, there is no definitive answer to such a question. Nonetheless, as a game designer you will be expected to intuitively know the answer. Understanding game design, as with any art form, is very much an internalized understanding, a gut reaction, a feeling you might have. It may be that you will not be able to form that answer into words, but you will need to understand what aspects of a game are strong and which are weak, and how the latter can be replaced with more of the former. Experience plays a big part in understanding what makes a game fun, experience both as a game designer and as a game player.
Over my years of playing and creating games I have come up with my own answers for what makes a game great, and in this chapter I discuss some of those qualities. Some of these topics may seem fairly distinct from each other, yet to my mind they all play a crucial role in making a good game. Certainly I cannot hope to list all of the knowledge I have, since, as I mentioned, much of my understanding is more akin to a sixth sense than anything I could hope to write down. But the ideas contained in this chapter should provide a solid foundation.