Chapter 3 of 21 from Will Wright

Early Prototyping


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.

Topics include: Answer Specific Questions • Prototypes Can Take Any Form • Build Tangible Models • Find the Fun • Use the Most Expedient Platform

Will Wright

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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Class Info


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 some of the most popular simulation games of all time—SimCity and The Sims. Will teaches you how to design games that empower players and unleash their creativity. You’ll develop a toolset for understanding player psychology, as well as learn Will's approach to generating and pitching ideas, prototyping, playtesting, and building a community.

The Sims creator Will Wright teaches you his personal strategies to design fascinating games that engage players and enable their creativity.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with an exclusive Game Design Document template to use in your own work.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Will will also critique select student work.


Will Wright

Will Wright Teaches Game Design and Theory