Understanding “Systemic” in Video Game Development

I want a machine that does X

To be useful, the declaration ‘machine that does X’ should be something manageable, like “I want my world textures to change during an event called [rain]”, or “I want the player to receive an email from the mission giver whenever a mission is completed”.

Good Systems Add Fun To Other Systems

The more hours of high quality player experience which can be produced using system X, the more valuable system X is as a production asset. This creates a temptation to make monolithic systems, but if you remember from the previous exercise: [Machines that do X] are much better to design in small chunks.

A Useful Lens For Systemic Structure: Data

I talk about data structures a lot, and it’s really about who needs to touch the data. Once you start to have several [Machines that do X], you will likely at some point spend time deciding which functionality should go inside which system. At this point, it can be useful to focus on the needs of your design team.

Why Is “Systemic” Good, Again?

Certainly there are occasions where handcrafted content is a workable solution — I've shipped a few “boss fights” wherein the entire logic of the encounter is driven by the level script, effectively a chunk of code that cannot be reused anywhere else in the game. Most high-quality games feature memorable “one time” moments that are readily addressed by a content-driven approach.

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Game Director, WB Games Montréal. Video game nerd. Designer. Tech head. Views expressed here are my own.

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Geoff Ellenor

Geoff Ellenor

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Game Director, WB Games Montréal. Video game nerd. Designer. Tech head. Views expressed here are my own.