Design & Style, Sports & Gaming

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.

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Topics include: Experiment With Simple Scripting Languages • Iterate on the Highest Risk Items • Iterate Away From Local Maxima • When in Doubt, Double It • Learn From Failed Prototypes • Scope Your Design • Feature Triage • Triage in Spore and SimCity


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...

About the Instructor

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.

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