From Will Wright's MasterClass

The Fundamentals of Game Design

Meet your new instructor: Will Wright, visionary game designer behind The Sims. In your first lesson, you’ll learn the core tenets of Will’s multidisciplinary game design process.

Topics include: What Are Games? • Take a Multidisciplinary Approach • Explore Branching Paths of Decisions • Embrace Constraint • Design Beyond Zero-Sum Games • Expand Player Creativity

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Meet your new instructor: Will Wright, visionary game designer behind The Sims. In your first lesson, you’ll learn the core tenets of Will’s multidisciplinary game design process.

Topics include: What Are Games? • Take a Multidisciplinary Approach • Explore Branching Paths of Decisions • Embrace Constraint • Design Beyond Zero-Sum Games • Expand Player Creativity

Will Wright

Teaches Game Design and Theory

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Preview

All of us are set in our own little world view. We think we see the big picture, but we all see a little slice of the world surrounding the lens. I would like to imagine that people have the opportunity to see a much wider set of perspectives on the world, and that games might be the mechanism, the vehicle brings that to them. We can take almost anything and make it a fascinating interactive experience. What I'm really doing is, I'm giving the player a toy, and the player is turning it into a game. Every designer has the opportunity to create something incredibly unique. At the same time, every designer faces the risk of creating something that no one will be able to understand. As a designer, you're actually dealing with two computers. First, the electronic one, sitting on the table in front of you. But more importantly, the player's imagination, the player's brain. And that one is far more complex, and we have barely scratched the surface of it. During the course of this class, I'm going to expose you to a number of kind of fundamental concepts about game design. Basically psychology of the player, the mental modeling that goes on; how to use game mechanics as part of your tool set, and how to develop your tool set as a designer; how to think about the overall structure of what's going on underneath the hood; how to build emergence, surprise, cool, detailed worlds; and to try to predict what's going to motivate players of your games and pull them in, and get them emotionally involved to the point where they get into communities that are built up around these. And so there are many different levels of game design, and we're going to kind of start with the fundamentals and work our way outwards towards larger and larger more strategic levels of thinking around it. Every designer is unique in some way, and my games have tended to be very specific in terms of real world simulations generally-- games that tend to encourage player creativity, player storytelling. There are a lot of other approaches to game design. But I think a lot of the fundamentals that I'll be talking about in this class are going to be things that can apply to any genre of game. And I think by going down to that fundamental level, it's going to give you a lot more opportunities to kind of come up with creative inspiration to bring in new approaches, new ideas. Basically, how to amplify your own internal creativity in ways that are coming from a fundamental level rather than just the feature level. I'm Will Wright, and this is a simulation-- a simulation-- a simulation-- of my MasterClass. So you're probably watching this because you have an interest in games. But what are games? We all know what games are. We play games. More recently with electronic devices, games have taken a totally different kind of turn and gotten much more elaborate, more ubiquitous in our lives, I think. But games really are something that have been around for thousands of years. Different...

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.

I'm way more encourage to tackle game design and learn more

Getting realistic opinions from a master is important for gaining an insight into the field.

it has thought me many ideas of design i haven't thought of yet. and helped me make better decisions

I'm going to University for Game Design and Programming and trying to get started on my own with small android games. I loved this class. I'm working my way through the pdf's still but found the information helpful, clear, and concise. Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge!

Comments

Mia S.

"You can take almost any technology that we have and view it as an extension of the human body. Television, telescope, our eyes, our vision. Telephone, our speech. Car really kind of extends our legs. If somebody hits your car, you don't say, 'My car was hit,' you say, 'Somebody hit me while I was driving.' The car becomes me, it becomes an extension of your body. I think that computers and games and things we're dealing with on the entertainment side can extend a lot of these in a lot of ways. When I was watching players play 'The Sims' initially, it was like, 'He was hungry, then he did this, that,' and they very smoothly shifted to, 'Then I got tired and went to bed, then I woke up.' They shifted from 'he' to 'I' very smoothly. We now, with these little microworlds, have the ability to basically externalize what's in our imagination and share it with other people. Used to be that you had to have a very rich skillset - had to be a fine artist - to do that, to paint something in your imagination and then share it with other people. But now with these tools, the creative leverage they give us, average, casual game players have the ability to externalize, create things of their imagination, share it with other players, and actually have these shared imaginary worlds. In 'Spore,' we actually had all these editors where the players were making cool things; in some of the levels, the design of your creature really influenced the way you would play that creature in the world, its performance. Other parts of it, like designing your spaceship, didn't have a whole lot to do with the performance of the spaceship, it was purely aesthetic. But people would spend just as much time crafting this very unique thing that was part of their player identity in the game - and as they were playing in the space level, they were front and foreground all the time with this spaceship, and so they really felt like that was them. When you get to the space phase, there are actually millions of planet you can go to, and we could never create millions of creatures, so we decided that every time a player made a creature, it would go up to our server and we would use it to populate everybody else's world. We were hoping to get maybe 100,000 of these creatures in the first months after we'd uploaded the creature editor; instead, it was so popular, we got a million in the first week. In fact, we passed five or six million in the first month, which is more than the number of species on Earth. So it was kind of extraordinary, how much players embraced that. Basically, we were turning the average player into a Pixar artist - they were able to create a brand new character out of their imagination and have it come to life. I think that's one of the examples of the computer giving creative leverage - a creative amplifier. And a lot of people are using computers for different creative fields, but same thing - it's a creative amplifier for everything they do,"

Mia S.

"One of my design heroes is Charles Eames. Charles and Ray Eames were a design team, husband and wife; he had a great quote, which is simply that 'design is constraint.' Design really is, How do you work around constraint? Without constraint, there's no design, it's just pure imagination. To be a good designer, you have to embrace that constraint; say, 'Okay, within this constraint, what can I do that's really cool?' That constraint is really going to become your foundation - it's going to be, 'Here is my starting point, and within that constraint I was able to do this.' The consrtaint could be the technology in front of you - how fast the processor, the graphics; but the constraint can also be, What does my player know? What kind of skills do they have? Where does their imagination take them?' Those are constraints just as well, and the more you understand your constraints, the more you can now use that as your starting point to go off and do something really cool that nobody else has done against those same constraints. In a competitive game, usually with two players, there's a concept of a zero-sum game, which is that if a player wins, he gets a positive 1, the losing player gets a negative 1. If it's a tie, they both get 0. So basically, the sum of the two players is always zero - either I won, you lost, or it was a tie. So you can't have two winners or two losers out of a two-player game. A non-zero-sum game, you can - both people can win. The kind of games I do are not zero-sum games at all; in fact, most of the things I do don't even really have a clear win state. When you play something like 'Sim City' or 'The Sims,' what actually I found very interesting was to leave it to the player to define the goal state. When a person sits down to play 'Sim City,' I don't tell them they have to build the biggest city or have the happiest people or the least crime; players in their own mind decide that. They think, 'Okay, what is my ideal city?' and they try to build that. So the player is actually the one building the rule set and the structure, and the player is the one scoring it. I'm really just kind of giving them an open-ended toy. And then you get a lot of kind of interesting different play styles - certain players trying to achieve things, other players don't even really try to achieve anything at all, but try to use it for creative storytelling or creativity. A lot of people were playing 'Spore,' not really trying to get through all the levels, but trying to just make really cool things within the game that they would then go out and share with other players. So for them, the win state was more social - 'Can I make something really cool in this game, maybe even just tell a story that other people really like?' I think games have the opportunity to go way beyond just this zero-sum approach."

Mia S.

"Any designer, basically, when they're designing something, has to look at a number of factors. Basically, you're trying to balance all these things against each other. Think about just a chair, and all the different things, properties that you would like from a chair. You want it to be cheap, easy to move, easy to produce, comfortable, and these functions can actually be kind of broken down into a tree. Games have very much the same property - there's certain functional things about them, there's certain things that are economic (what does it take to produce the game? How much does it cost? What kind of a team do I have to build? What kind of skills do I have to have as a designer?) - and the designer needs to understand how to balance all these different things against each other, because your final design is going to be a balancing act - you're basically balancing all these plates on top of each other, and it's the designer's job to make them balance well. Now, as you're exploring your design, you're actually going through this very large branching tree of possible designs. There are infinite number of designs that you could be building in your game, and you're going to end up with one very specific design. And when you start out, you might have some sense about where you're going or kind of the area you want to be, but you do not know exactly how to get there. You're basically exploring this branching path of design decisions, starting with very fundamental design decisions (what kind of a game am I making? What's it about? What are the controls?) down to very incremental design decisions (what color is this button? How tall is the character?) - very very minor things. And a lot of these decisions are distributed throughout your team. You need to make sure that your team understands the vision so that as they're balancing their little parts of that tree, that they are in line with the creative vision for the whole product. Basically, as you're exploring this tree, there are a lot of different methods you have as a designer for figuring out which direction to go on what branch; now, you're really trying to prune these branches as efficiently as possible - that's why when we build a prototype, we want an answer from that prototype. We want to find out, Do we go down path A or B? If the prototype can't answer that, it's basically failed as a prototype. So we're really trying to efficiently prune the branches and continue down the right path toward our final design. As I said, you don't know exactly where you're going to end up on this tree, but the designer also needs to kind of know when you've gotten there. A lot of times I've seen game designs or even other designs where somebody went a little bit too far; some movies I think had a perfect ending and went a little bit too far. The designer needs to know, you've hit the sweet spot."

Mia S.

"Games borrow from so many other different design fields, not just entertainment, storytelling, things like that, but also things like architecture, product design, fine art, mathematics, cognitive psychology. Games incorporate all these different design fields in an interesting way, and the more you can expose yourself to these different design fields, the better designer you'll be. I think game design is probably one of the most challenging design fields there is - to be a good game designer, you first and foremost have to be a good designer. So I think just getting into the idea of the mode of thinking, of - how does a designer think? How do they learn? Where they pull inspiration from... and don't close yourself into just the gaming world, look at all sorts of things all over. I've learned so much from weird fields like, you know, Japanese gardening, or biology, eocnomics, whatever, you can pull all these things in, and as a designer, use these as parts of your creative palette. One of the things that I really would try to inspire up-and-coming game designers to do is, think, 'How do I learn continually? From other people, from myself, my own mistakes?' But then also, just do it, try it. You can do something as simple as design a little game on a piece of paper and go show your friend, 'Let's play this game, here are the rules,' see how that works out. The more you're doing that - just always inventing little games, even if it's with toothpicks on a tabletop - you're going to learn lot that way, and that's much better than just sitting in your head for two years, coming up with your master design and then one day trying to realize it and finding out that it's too complex to realize. You'll be much better off doing continual, ubiquitous, everyday kind of local game design."

Mia S.

"You're probably watching this because you have an interest in games - but what are games? We all know what games are, we play games; more recently, with electronic devices, games have taken a totally different kind of turn and gotten much more elaborate and ubiquitous in our lives. But games really are something that have been around for thousands of years - different cultures have played games (board games, social games) for a long, long time, for a lot of reasons. Games, really, right now, have different genres. We have things like puzzle games, first-person shooters, strategy games... these are different subsets of the game space. But games really are a subset of a larger thing called 'play'. Play is just exploring, it's experimenting, trying different things, usually in some symbolic representation - some little toy of the real world, with a very low cost for failure. In a lot of ways, I think games have been somewhat misaligned. We've associated games with violence, something little kids play... but that's actually been true of any kind of new media that's come long. In any kind of media - radio was actually looking down on film when film became popular, film looked down on television, television looks down at games. Games are the up-and-coming thing that in some sense is breaking boundaries - doing new things; and that's what makes games interesting to me as kind of a topic, as a medium."

Mia S.

"I'm going to expose you to a number of fundamental concepts about game design -basically psychology of the player, the mental modeling that goes on; how to use game mechanics as part of your toolset and how to develop your toolset as a designer. How to think about the overall structure of what's going on underneath the hood - how to build emergence, surprise; cool, detailed worlds; and to try to predict what's going to motivate players of your games and pull them in, get them emotionlly involved to the point where they get into communities that are built up around these. So there are many different levels of game design, and we're going to start with fundamentals and work our way outwards towards larger and larger, more strategic levels of thinking about it. Every designer is unique in some way, and my games have tended to be very specific in terms of real world simulations, generally; games that tend to encourage player creativity, player storytelling. There are a lot of other approaches to game design, but a lot of the fundamentals I'll be talking about are going to be things you can apply to any genre of game. By going down to that fundamental level, it's going to give you a lot more opportunities to come up with creative inspiration to bring in new approaches, ideas... basically, how to amplify your own internal creativity in ways that are coming from a fundamental level rather than just the feature level."

Mia S.

"All of us are set in our own little world view. We think we see the big picture, but we all see a little slice of the world surrounding the lens. I would like to imagine that people have the opportunity to see a much wider set of perspectives on the world and that games might be the mechanism, the vehicle that brings that to them. We can take almost anything and make it a fascinating interactive experience. What I'm really doing is, I'm giving the player a toy, and the player is turning it into a game. Every designer has the opportunity to create something incredibly unique - at the same time, every designer faces the risk of creating something that no one will be able to understand. As a designer, you're actually dealing with two computers: first, the electronic one, sitting on the table in front of you; but more importantly, the player's imagination, the player's brain, and that one is far more complex and we have barely scratched the surface of it."

Joel Kirk R.

The WORLD is a great gameboard, and this Master Class is teaching me the rules of LIFE!

Molly E.

My favorite part of the Sims was always designing the houses and then decorating them. I'm interested to see how he thinks about building these worlds and the rules in the games.

Robert S. D.

Best Course I ever taken in Game Design. Such a cool teacher and pioneer in game making. Please fix the Diploma glitch bug MasterClass. I have watched ALL chapters many times over. Still cannot have my diploma for this course. Thank you for the course though! Invaluable for my game creative future. For anyone's game creation future! Thank you Will Wright! One day I hope to thank you in person with a game of my own in my hand. Or at least a great concept prototype!