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The Preliminaries

Given some broad path to follow in designing a new game - one suggested by such things as which audience you intend to pander to, or what you are known for or interested in or think yourself capable of producing, or, perhaps least noble, what has been selling the best in recent memory - there remains the task of determining what the player is to be presented with in terms of actual gameplay.

Gameplay is ultimately and always the product of a system of rules. Some systems of rules are simpler than others. Chess, ironically enough, is an example of very simple rules. The rules exist on only a handful of low levels. They serve simply to define the game board and the pieces, and how the pieces move, and the condition for victory. All the rest of the intricacy of chess is a consequence of these rules and is not explicitly defined in these rules. It is strategy, and while it has rules of its own it is not part of the basic rules of the game. It is an epiphenomenon of the rules.

This reasoning applies in general. The rules are what make a game, and in the interest of accessibility they should be simple and well-defined. Then, built upon the rules, is game experience itself, which varies immensely depending on the type of game.

At this point you may be tempted to dismiss all this, saying, "I'm not trying to reinvent chess, I want to {make money, have fun, waste my own time} and this is too much to worry about." Don't. This is not necessarily a description of how to make a complex game of strategy, it is a way to make an enjoyable game period. Just because I am using chess as my example in no way implies that a well-conceived game has to acquire a reputation as imposing as chess. A game that maintains both simple rules on one level and sound gameplay on the other is accessible to casual dabblers and fanatics alike.

This is good. If you want to make money, it insures that your game appeals to the widest possible audience, with all the collateral benefits thereof. If you want to have fun, lo and behold you end up with a fun game. If you want to waste time, it should be the time spent playing that is considered 'wasted' (enjoyably) and not the time spent creating the game by and downloading and trying it by the player that is considered 'wasted' (because the game is a turd).

Next : The Nitty-Gritty: Rules