Design, Photography, & Fashion

Early Prototyping

Will Wright

Lesson time 08:39 min

Rapid prototyping is a central component of Will’s game design process. Explore various types of prototyping and learn how to “find the fun” in the early stages of the design process.

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Will Wright
Teaches Game Design and Theory
Collaboration, prototyping, playtesting. The Sims creator Will Wright breaks down his process for designing games that unleash player creativity.
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Once I have an idea for a game, I start making prototypes as soon as I can. The early prototyping is probably the most important stage. We're trying to imagine different types of rules that might be applied to the system that we're basing the game on. You're basically trying everything you can think of for how to turn this concept into a game, whatever it takes for you to cheaply get a sense of that's fun, that's not fun. [MUSIC PLAYING] Well, a prototype is usually interactive. Not always, but usually. And we're taking like some little bit or part of the game that we have a question about. Should we go this way or that way? And it might be an interaction question. Is it better to have the controls work like this or like that? It might be a visualization or a graphics question. Should we do this point of view, that point of view? Should it be this style, that style? But it's something that we feel like we can't answer unless we actually touch and play with and interact with a little bit. Even if it's just turning the world around and looking at different camera angles. And that's when we decide, OK, we're going to build a prototype and we're going to build the simplest possible thing we can that will help us answer that question. As I'm playing with this one little piece in hand and imagining the rest of the experience, can answer that question? Oh yeah, this would be much better top down. This would be much better 3D. This would be much better with that kind of player control. But you know, it really needs to be answering a question as cheaply as possible. You don't want to go spend weeks and weeks building this. You want to build the cheapest, simplest little thing that you can build that you can sit back and say, OK, I'm pretty confident now that we go this way. As we get further down the path, it's, you know, can somebody learn how to use this interface? And we can find out what the failure states are, how we need to change it to make it work better. And even further down the road, it's, how engaging is this to players? And that's a much, much more open-ended question and a much broader range of answers that, for certain people, this is very motivating. Most people, it isn't. Or it's somewhat motivating for a lot of people, but if we did this, it would be much more motivating. Or, you know, the social component is working well here, but not the individual. So those are much more I'd say subjective in terms of interpreting the results. The very initial ones are very clear usually in terms of, OK, we go with A instead of B. And I think, you know, we think of it in those terms. [MUSIC PLAYING] Prototyping can take different forms. I mean, sometimes it's cutting up little pieces of paper and these are now game units. And you have, basically, rules, and you can move your thing two spaces every turn, and you might have a very simple turn-based two player game and you're moving the pieces of paper around. ...


Explore the Possibility Space

Learn the art and science of game design with Will Wright, the mind behind SimCity and The Sims. In this game design class, Will teaches you how to create games that empower players and unleash their imagination. You’ll develop a tool set for understanding player psychology, as well as learn Will’s approach to generating and pitching ideas, prototyping, playtesting, and building a community.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This class is one of the most balanced and thought-provoking treatises of the game industry that I've ever seen. It should be a keynote at GDC :) Thanks to Will for sharing his vast wealth of knowledge with us!

Will Wright's Master Class on game design was very insightful into how a mind that is responsible for such pioneering games works and operates. There were may take aways from this course that I look forward to applying to my own work in the future.

Great start to what I hope will be a window into a new world

I learned about a lot about first class systems and design mindset.


Comments

Patrick W.

What does it mean by looking at your idea through different perspectives in the document for this lesson?

Mike V.

The attached PDF does not open; when you try to open it you get a piece of XML with the text "Access Denied, Request has expired". I hope it is restored soon as I enjoy these PDF attachments thoroughly

A fellow student

Just a small feedback, the subtitles were a little off in this video, they were showing up before the speech. It can become a bit confusing.

Kevin-Brandon C.

I like the idea of building tangible objects. It really brings the game to life. It makes you think what experience do you want to come to life.

XHXIAIEIN

# Chapter 03: Early Prototyping --- Once I have an idea for a game, I start making prototypes as soon as I can. The early prototyping is probably the most important stage. We're trying to imagine different types of rules that might be applied to the system that we're basing the game on. You're basically trying everything you can think of for how to turn this concept into a game, whatever it takes for you to cheaply get a sense of that's fun, that's not fun. --- ## Answer Specific Questions Well, a prototype is usually interactive. Not always, but usually. And we're taking like some little bit or part of the game that we have a question about. Should we go this way or that way? And it might be an interaction question. Is it better to have the controls work like this or like that? It might be a visualization or a graphics question. Should we do this point of view, that point of view? Should it be this style, that style? But it's something that we feel like we can't answer unless we actually touch and play with and interact with a little bit. Even if it's just turning the world around and looking at different camera angles. And that's when we decide, OK, we're going to build a prototype and we're going to build the simplest possible thing we can that will help us answer that question. As I'm playing with this one little piece in hand and imagining the rest of the experience, can answer that question? Oh yeah, this would be much better top down. This would be much better 3D. This would be much better with that kind of player control. But you know, it really needs to be answering a question as cheaply as possible. You don't want to go spend weeks and weeks building this. You want to build the cheapest, simplest little thing that you can build that you can sit back and say, OK, I'm pretty confident now that we go this way. As we get further down the path, it's, you know, can somebody learn how to use this interface? And we can find out what the failure states are, how we need to change it to make it work better. And even further down the road, it's, how engaging is this to players? And that's a much, much more open-ended question and a much broader range of answers that, for certain people, this is very motivating. Most people, it isn't. Or it's somewhat motivating for a lot of people, but if we did this, it would be much more motivating. Or, you know, the social component is working well here, but not the individual. So those are much more I'd say subjective in terms of interpreting the results. The very initial ones are very clear usually in terms of, OK, we go with A instead of B. And I think, you know, we think of it in those terms. --- ## Prototypes Can Take Any Form Prototyping can take different forms. I mean, sometimes it's cutting up little pieces of paper and these are now game units. And you have, basically, rules, and you can move your thing two spaces every turn, and you might have a very simple turn-based two player game and you're moving the pieces of paper around. Other times it might be a more constructive experience where you're actually drawing something on a piece of paper, and you have rules about how much you can draw, and you add up how many things you've drawn and what the cost is, and you're actually doing your own little kind of economic bookkeeping along side of it. You know, what we call paper prototyping isn't so much it has to be paper. It really more means that it's off the computer. You know, you're not really programming, but you're doing it with tangible little objects. One thing that I tried starting a long time ago was when I was first coming up with the game, I was trying to pitch it around, I would actually make two or three different box designs myself. I'd just put, you know, print the stuff out, glue it to the side of a box, put them up there, and show them to people. Which one of these games would you like? It's all the same game in my mind, but you know, these are three different ways of kind of informing, you know, what the game is about and presenting it. In some sense, that's a marketing prototype. And I would see that, oh, people really get box B, but A and C they don't like at all. That would just tell me a little bit about how somebody initially thinks about this whole idea and which direction I should go in terms of communicating. So that's kind of, in some sense, a communications prototype. Later on, as you start kind of playing with how we present the player or what's the interface, you know, those are things that are fairly simple. And again, sometimes these are things you can just pull off the shelf and say, you know, this game uses control scheme A, that one uses control scheme B, and they're both driving tanks. Which one feels better? As I'm imagining the rest of my game, which might be completely different than these off the shelf games. But at least, in terms of the controls, I can sit there and imagine my game with these controls. So these prototypes can take any form. It's anytime you have a question to answer and you feel like if you could build something, whether it's a fake box, or a control scheme prototype, or even two games off the shelf that you're playing one little part of, will it help you figure out which branch down that design tree that you want to take? --- ## Build Tangible Models I found that when I make games, a lot of times it actually helps me to build real, tangible things from the game before I actually build the game. When I was actually working on "The Sims" at some point I decided I wanted to have a little neighborhood for the original Sims. And you would pick a house and build a house, in the neighborhood. I actually first built a real model of a little, you know, a few houses and a little landscape. And this is the model I actually built for "The Sims." And this is actually the original Sims, what it looked like. So it was actually a fairly close representation. For "SimAnt" I built a giant ant. And for everything I've made, I've tried to bring it to the tangible. And it helps me think about it in certain ways when I'm actually touching it. And I wonder, like, in the game, how can I make it feel tangible? How can I make the player feel like they're actually touching something real here? --- ## Find The Fun As we start building prototypes, we might find, you know, kind of sweet spots, really fun things. That's a really cool dynamic, or I like that tool, or it's really enjoyable making this thing. Then we start figuring out, how can we take those really good spots and spread it out through the rest of the design and make it part of the spine? On a game like "Spore," you know, we started building some of the editors very early on. And it was so fun building things in the creature editor, we decided, hey, let's see if we can do a building editor. Oh, and that's cool, so we can do a vehicle editor. And so we decided that the editors would be consistent across all the levels. They would operate pretty much the same, but each one was its own special thing. But yet it was kind of a core activity that of gave connection across the different levels. Because "Spore," really, you know, otherwise, was like, five different games that happened to be connected. But the editors gave kind of thematic consistency across there. And player familiarity. When I got to the next level, I already knew how to use the editor. So I think we look for things like that. Or you know, even like the tools in "Sim City." When you're laying down this, you know, that tool operates pretty much the same like, you know, roads operate almost the same as the water pipes. You look for things that you can kind of leverage across the design so once the player learns one thing, they've learned five things. But also gives kind of a consistent one thing, they've learned five things. --- ## Use the Most Expedient Platform Well, as a designer, I'm going to look at these prototypes, interact with them, and come up with some decision about where we should go. I don't care what they're built out of. So typically, depending on the programmer I was working with, maybe they might be very comfortable throwing in a little code base and they could very rapidly So from my point of view, whatever was the least amount of friction for the programmer creating this. Because at the end, I just want to be able to interact with it for a few hours and then make a decision. And we're basically going to throw that code away. Or the programmer might actually take that code base and evolve it into the next prototype. There's so many different programs. It could be, you know, JavaScript. It could be Unity. It could be hardcore C. I don't care, again. But that really depends a lot on, you know, the programmer and their familiarity. You know, again, whatever is going-- they can create the fastest possible thing for you at the least possible cost. So I'm totally agnostic in terms of what platform or code base it's built in. As a student, you want to learn prototyping. Again, I would say find some system that you can program to some degree, or script, whatever you're familiar with, and then imagine how you could actually create some simple interactive experience with that. Do that a few times. And now start imagining, OK, how could I make that better? What questions do I need to answer? So basically, this, again, is a navigation instrument for you. It's a compass to help you figure out, I want to go this way or that way. And just play with simple rule sets. You can kind of get a sense of how you navigate that kind of a tree. ---

Mark O.

Learn 1 thing, learn 5 things. The power of player familiarity. Like WASD.

Rich C.

Spot on, Will. Here's the thing. In my experience as a developer, unfortunately this step is something often not done (it is more likely to see, inherent, in the indie development process than it is in commercial development). When it has--I do it with my dev group--it pays off in spades. When it's not done, headaches compound and little can be achieved without it. You need to know that you actually have something demonstrable (something that not only can be shown, but proven: it can be used/played with by normal humans), you need to know it works and you need to know it's fun up front (trying to find the fun later is....possible but not optimal to say the least). If this isn't done first, you're in for a bumpy ride with the distinct possibility that your project will never finish.

Fernando C.

Always loved the Spore prototypes and I'm so grateful that they were released to the public. If you haven't, you can check them out at: http://www.spore.com/comm/prototypes

Shan K.

HI guys, It's interesting that a "compass" was analogized to the prototype design bc we are literally looking for direction when navigating branching possibilities.. with the prototype itself moreso a toy than a work tool.