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Design & Style


Will Wright

Lesson time 19:54 min

Player feedback is your most valuable resource as a designer, and the playtest is your first chance to get inside your player’s mind. Will teaches you to use playtesting to identify your audience, interpret feedback, and more.

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.


Well, as you work on a project, in early stages, you're going to want to just get a sense of what does this thing feel like for me to interact with, or the other people on my team, how do we feel about interacting with this very simple little system? Sometimes it might not even be a prototype that we made, or it might be a game we pulled off the shelf. What do we like about that game or this game? Those are the cheapest prototypes, really, if you can find some other game that has some aspect of what you want to include. Then, as you start building something, you start building not just the system, but also the interface, the player controls. Typically you'll want to bring in a few people who play games, but they've never seen this, just to figure out the interface. Can they understand the control scheme you've got? Does that make sense to them? Can they understand reading the topography, the landscape? Do they have some sense of what they're supposed to do? what occurs to them as you drop them into this environment? So it actually can become a fairly granular process. It's not like we build the game, build the game, now we start playtesting. It's really like we're building prototypes from the very beginning that we are testing ourselves, and then over time, starting to test little game parts with a few people, here and there. And eventually, we're bringing in larger groups and maybe even at some point hundreds of thousands, capturing metrics and building these fairly complex diagrams of them moving through the game space. This is the first time you really have a little bit of a peek into the player's mind about how they're going to interact with this thing that you've built. As a designer, you kind of had this idea all along that I'm going to give them this. They're going to be able to do A, B, and C. They're going to try to get to D, whatever. This is what you're imagining. And as I am a designer, I'm trying to imagine, what would I enjoy? How would I think about this? But I put it in front of somebody else, and right off the bat, you start learning things. That maybe that wasn't as easy as you thought. Or they're not even trying to get to D. They're trying to get to F, over there, for some reason. And you go back and revisit your assumptions or maybe ask them why. What did they see that caused them to think that way. Or maybe there was just something they thought of that you didn't that would be really cool to try. And then again, you're learning. So I think that this is where for the first time, the designers are taking this concept out of their head and trying to put it into other people's heads and seeing how it fits. It's frequently very hard to kind of imagine the way other people are going to see or understand what you've made in a game. And there's really no replacement for actually testing it. We did a lot of what we called Kleenex testing, where we'd bring people in who had never seen the game before, put them i...

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.

A great deep dive into the game design process

Will Wright has always been a hero of mine and one of the main reasons I got into game development. To have a course where he discusses his personal perspective after so many years of only playing his games is refreshing. It comes as a helpful reinforcement of what all of his games have unconsciously taught me throughout the years. Thank you

Really interesting, insightful and useful! Will is a very creative and open-minded person! I hope to collaborate with him in the future!

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


C.N. S.

To be fair: SimEarth was the greatest game of the Sim series. The amazing depth for that game leaves me wishing I still had a copy that ran on my current machines. Also, the manual was like a university textbook and it was so interesting as a kid to have this book talking about theory and refusing to talk down to the player. Also, the game is like a slice of its time, putting into some of the worries of the day of albedo turning earth into a Mars like planet. SimEarth was such a rewarding game to play and master and I think there is a real value (if not an overstated commercial one) to making games and other works of art "for ourselves". Neil Gaiman said (in his masterclass) something I think that is really relevant: If I don't find my own characters interesting or likeable, then no one else will either. Same things for games and I think that sometimes creating works that we wish to exist so that they will exist is an incredibly valuable undertaking. That's the biggest motivation behind my own work: I make things because I think the world would be better if they did exist. So they should exist. My novel never sold well, I've made less than 100 USD over the past five years from it. But I'm glad that I did the work to make it exist. Occasionally, someone comes across it and tells me "Hey, I really enjoyed that. I thought this was really cool when the guy did that." Hey, Mr Wright. I really enjoyed SimEarth. I thought it was really cool that there was a game that treated the player with respect enough to give them the controls of a 747 and didn't tell them they were doing it wrong when they innevitably crashed the plane.

Marc-Andre C.

Regarding the Sims and focus groups ... Back in 90-something, I had a co-worker tell me that this new game called "The Sims" was coming out in 2 days or so. I didn't know what it was so this guy told me. My reaction was "This is the worst idea ever!" Well, a few days later, he purchased it, and let me use his CD Rom at work. I ran and got me a copy the same day, and proceeded to cancel a few activities soon after. So, the least you could say is, I can relate to this anecdote :)

Rich C.

Thanks for the "step-by-step" in the workbook. Playtesting is one of my favorite parts of game development. Lots of thrills and chills. ; ) My favorite group to test with are kids. They don't have the preconceptions and filters adults have. They're brutally honest. And they have particularly short attention spans, which means you really have to be ready with something immediately engaging in the first place. Something I'd add. It's also good to have a core group of playtesters who are not only extremely familiar with games (hardcores who play everything and have for years), but who have playtested games you have developed before. I work with a group of four testers (people like this) who've been testing our games for around 15 years now. Their observations have helped in too many ways to list here, and when we have ignored their advice....let's just say do so at your game's peril. ; )