The Lazy Designer,  Writing Resources

The OTHER Solution in Game Design

The Other Solution

For the most part throughout my Lazy Designer series I focus on what I believe is the right way to implement particular design tasks. Based on my experience I have a recipe book, so to speak, of design solutions to specific problems. Throughout the books I make reference to these.

The other day I was wondering if there was a different way to go about solving problems. What if you selected a random, or rather bizarre, solution? (Admittedly I hadn’t slept much the night before).

Low Morale

Some early RPG games (including Baldur’s Gate 1) allowed enemies to flee once their morale broke. The players basically kick the enemy’s butt so bad they try to get away.

Over time BioWare stopped doing this. Players did not like to chase down enemies — and occasionally the fleeing could mess with plot completion. The solution to the “running away” problem was to cut the morale system. Admittedly most of BioWare’s game had lots of other cool stuff going on that this was not a huge loss.

But what if a different solution was adopted? What if players could lasso fleeing enemies or corral them somehow? Maybe they could teleport to them, or activate a device that teleported the enemy to them. So we eliminate the fleeing with a new game mechanic. It would not have made a lot of sense in the context of most of BioWare’s games, but it might be an interesting way to experiment with reintroducing the morale mechanic.

(I’m actually experimenting with this in a game I’m working on.)

Other solutions might be to introduce a “frozen with fear” mechanic — panicked enemies only run away a bit and then cower and try to hide.

Friendly Fire

Another mechanic I enjoy is the tactical element of having to control area-of-effect devasatation. Not being able to just toss a fireball for fear of crisping your friends. Forcing the player to make the tactical decision of using consumeables to protect against flame.

Unfortunately most games cut friendly fire… friends are not hurt by anything their allies do. This makes the games easier to implement, and easier for players to understand (and control) the combat situations.

But what if…

Being hit with friendly fire (assuming it does not kill you) makes you try harder to win the battle, swiftly. That is, the fighter gets hit by his friend’s fireball and now does additional damage and maybe even additional attacks. He’s so freaked out that his crazy wizard friend is going to kill him with another fireball that he just wants to end the battle. And now.


The idea is to take an odd solution to a classic problem and then turn it into variant gameplay. Can you think of any others?

The Game: Status

I’m not going to get into the habit of updating the prototype game I’m working on, but I’ve made decent progress recently and figured a once-in-a-while update wouldn’t hurt anything.

To this point I am:

  • Fairly confident in my procedurally generated environments. They don’t look good enough for release, but they are substantially better than any manual level I’ve built previously.
  • Targeting system is about 75% complete. Players can cycle through enemies and get appropriate targeting information.
  • Faction system is about 90% complete. There’s a system for tracking like/dislike between groups, adding new groups dynamically, and adjusting reactions as necessary.
  • Save/load System is in place.
  • Conversion to a new GUI system is in-progress.
  • A handful of conversations have been written and testing in-game, but I need more work here, to figure out the direction I need to go.
  • The movement system is adequate by I need to work on it. In fact my current sprint is pushing me towards completing procedural content generation and refining the movement and camera controls.
  • No combat system… other than a placeholder.

The Lazy Designer: How To Be a Design Manager

Also, “How to be a Design Lead”, the final book in the Lazy Designer series is now available too, though the official announcement won’t be until next week.

(I’m editing the bonus content for the Lazy Designer series… which I need to get back to now.)

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.