Prototypes and Games

Gameplay needs to be tested. However it’s very expensive to evaluate gameplay after you have spent all the time and energy to produce a complete game. Enter prototypes. Prototypes of varying levels of technical sophistication allow the designer and developer to evaluate a game concept before they invest substantial time and energy in a game. This is essentially a “try before you buy” approach. Why would you commit two hundred employees to an idea your unsure about working?
In class we will talk about a few tools for prototyping. We will start with the paper-prototype as a low cost tool for testing some design aspects. The paper prototype is practical, low cost, and lets you build a board game equivalent of your video game (that’s a plug for the relationship of board, tabletop, and card games to video games).

I’d start with this information about building a prototype from Casual Games.com. It’s an easy to read list that takes about 10 mintues to consume and covers the basics. You should follow that reading, with some tips and tricks for paper prototyping from gamasutra.

Since paper prototypes do have their limitations (esp. flow), we’ll also have a brief discussion about basic game building technologies. These tools are relatively simple to use and allow you to test a new gameplay experience without the costs of complete development.

As you work, you might want to take a break by reading The Common Pitfalls of Game Prototyping or you could take a bigger break by playing some pitfall (Commodore 64) and super pitfall (NES).

Here are some paper prototypes done by my Protoyping for Games students.

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Lindsay Grace is a teacher, software developer and designer. He has served industry as an independent consultant, web designer, software developer, entrepreneur, business analyst and writer. Lindsay has a joint position between Miami University’s Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies and the School of Fine Arts. His research areas include human-computer interaction, creative and critical gameplay, and web design. He writes regularly about interactive media design and education.