Strange Systems

There’s a fantastic article by Simon Strange in this month’s issue of Game Developer Magazine. He talks about how to diagram game systems in terms of dynamic equilibria. What game systems impact what other systems? Which have a negative effect and which a positive effect? Which game systems are most tightly coupled to the larger design, and which can be tweaked until fairly late in development? It’s eminently practical, with a running example from Doom II that makes his concepts very clear.

What made me go “Ooh!” is that he seems to be essentially proposing an explicit form of systems thinking for game designers. As soon as I saw his diagrams, I thought of Stella and other tools for understanding dynamic systems. It makes me wonder whether this kind of exercise could be useful both for teaching game design and for teaching systems thinking. I’ll definitely be basing future game design assignments on this technique.

I also wish I’d had this tool earlier in the development process for my current projects. I’ll be drawing some system diagrams of my own game next week for sure!

Thanks, Simon!

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