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Design & Style

Iteration and Scoping

Will Wright

Lesson time 15:59 min

An iterative process can continually improve your design. Learn Will’s strategies for scoping and iterating, including his helpful “feature triage” method.

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.


As we get further down the development process, the prototyping we're doing is far more granular. There are a lot of things that you can do, and a very small subset of that is what you should do for the player. Scoping really is going to come down to what is the right sweet spot for complexity and interest. And so you try to find that sweet spot with scoping and prototyping as one of your tools for discovering that. For "Spore," we did 50 or 60 prototypes of different areas of science that we might have included in "Spore." And again, most of them were not included. After playing with the prototypes, we decided either it didn't really fit in with the overall concept, or that system as a little toy, this wasn't a very fun toy to play with. But the ones that were fun to play with, we figured out, OK, which one of these can we now click together and build into a larger experience. And then eventually, they turned into gameplay prototypes, where actually there is a game there. One of the prototypes that we developed for "Spore" had a scripting language. And in fact, I could take the same little code base-- I, as the designer, could go in and change the scripting of it and change the rules within the simple prototype. And so I, in fact, was doing a lot of the programming on these prototypes to explore different rule sets. And in fact, I was able to recreate very simple versions of "Sim City" and a few other games within these "Spore" prototypes. And some of them were using very interesting systems and typologies. Some were network-based, others were grid based. And the fact that as a designer I could very quickly go on and script-- over one evening, I could try five or six different rule sets, play with them for a while, gravitate toward an area. Once they got roughly in some area I liked, I could take it back to the programmer and say, now build me a better version of this. Or maybe it had some limitation, I wanted to add a little-- couple more commands to the scripting language. But, in fact, I was doing some of the programming on the last half of the prototype. The programmer would give me a little scripting engine and code base that I could script and change the rules on. So again, it very rapidly allowed me as a designer to explore different rule sets. A lot of times, I would work with design teams. And every week, there would be a triage session, and we would say, OK, what are the biggest risks of this project? They could be technological risks, they could be design risks, they could be production risks. And then we step back and say, OK, how do we mitigate that most effectively? Sometimes a technological risk-- can we actually build this? Let's build a prototype and see. If it's a design risk, let's see if we can find some-- build a prototype or find some other game that shows us this will be fun. Can the production team manage these assets in time, whatever it is? And hopefully, every week we're trying to basica...

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.


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

I have improved a lot to extend my knowladge about Game Design

Really insightful advices to become a better game designer. I really loved it !

This class made me enjoy the very broad scope and creativity involved in creating top quality games. Will kept me engaged all the way!

Will, thank you. I'm not a game designer but as a project manager i liked that you covered many frameworks and novel ways to look at the world. You have opened my eyes. I've always wanted to take a course from the creator of simcity.


Mariam H.

Hi. I added this class by mistake. Is there a way to delete it from my profile?

The Fool

Simple scripting is kind of a deep topic. It's pretty intimidating actually. Suddenly, you're the programmer. All this power in your hands with some mumbo jumbo words like an old Magician. It helps to start out with something you can see results in quickly. Try Scratch from MIT. I know it looks like kid stuff, but has the power to teach you things. Try Livecode for quick drag and drop User interface design and application development. Google "games made with Lua.", find a list and see if maybe you already own one, then look to see if you can nudge some data in a file somewhere to change things in your game experience, start with the name of something that can be seen on screen. Check out "Table Top Simulator" game, it's been customized to support everything under the sun. Also try Construct, you can edit games in your browser with a bunch of menu items and toggle controls. Adobe XD is free. That became free because UX industry standard Invision is free. Check those out. Prototyping is it's own world, spend some time exploring Lesson 11.

Rich C.

If you want to succeed, double your failure rate. - Thomas Watson, Sr, IBM president Folks are very afraid of failure. Even the word. Maybe we're taught this? Shouldn't be. Think about it. Without failure, you wouldn't be walking. Failure is essential to growth and progress. Someone said if you're not failing, you're not trying. Chuck Jones said something like you have to get the bad drawings out. The main point is to get to the good stuff, which takes patience to do. Have faith. It's always better, each time.

A fellow student

I am a global recruiter for gaming industry and i found this lesson quite helpful. Just one suggestion for the team and coach - the speed of the speech is too fast, that sometimes i found it a bit hard to catch up and focus for a long time. Filming team can make an effort to tune that before shooting.

Matthew M.

I watched the preview of this lesson before signing up for the course and it spoke very strongly to me as I am currently working on my first game. I originally started working on one game idea and got relatively far into developing the core mechanics when I had an idea to add another mechanic. This mechanic would allow for a different form of game play than what I was originally designing and I became way more excited about working on this different part of the game than the original game. So I decided that if I was that much more excited about working on and playing this other game, then I should set the original game off to the side and focus on this new idea and make it as great as it can be. If I am still interested in making the original game afterwards, then I will continue with it after I have gained the experience from finishing this other game. Thank you Will for this course on Game Design and Theory. It has been very insightful and has made me feel more confident that I am making the right decisions on my first game. I look forward to learning the information in the future lessons and thanks again.