The goal of the Game Designer should not be to stage the game.
That is a goal of a theater/movie director, a choreographer or even a writer.
Game Designers should design what the player can experience and come up with game mechanics that will allow him to do that.
Let me give an example.
I’m currently playing a game called Zeno Clash. There is a level where there are these huge monsters and on top of them a boss/hunter rides them. You have to shoot him off the big monster while at the same time avoiding squirrels with dynamite that he throws at you.
The whole arena is staged. The hunter is placed on top of the monster from the start. The whole movement is scripted. You can shoot the hunter off the monster only when his health bar is depleted. The only freedom you have is how fast you shoot and kick the squirrels to avoid them exploding on you. You can’t even walk beyond what the level designer made. You have to sit at a specific place and be forced to do what someone thought was going to be fun. It is like theater not a game.
This would be fine if it was 1982. But we have 2012! A new era must start.
The way a game like that should be designed is for the game designer to make a checklist, of what he wants the player to experience:
- Battles with riding monsters
- Shooting each other off the monsters
- Exploding squirrels
These should be as vague as possible, because you want the player to define the specific actions he wants to make. Let the player decide how he wants to kill the boss.
So now the engineering department should make another checklist with things to code that will accomplish these experiences:
- Mount/dismount on big monsters
- Collisions between squirrel/monster/player/enemy/explosion
- AI that can chase/runaway/idle/attack
Does that sound hard? It is basic stuff that anyone that has coded at least one game will have to go through. The hard part is making them all work with each other, so that the player can discover the game mechanics himself and use them as he wishes to accomplish the goal (in this case kill the boss/hunter).
Ironically this isn’t more work than scripting the whole thing in some fancy 100,000$ game tool. But the potential is enormous. Making all the elements work with each other will allow the player to experience a level where he can jump on a monster, kickback an exploding squirrels at the boss, explode the monster with the boss on top and make him fall dead and gib in full bloody glory.
I want to mount that monster and stomp the boss. Not have to go through some chores that the game designer imposed on me and force me then to watch a scripted sequence that I feel I had no influence on. There is a way to do this better.
I feel a new era is beginning. Where video games are finally starting to detach from the archaic forms of entertainment of the past. I am beginning to understand this new path and if more people making games do too, we’re gonna have some amazing games waiting for us to experience in the future.