Anatomy of a game

Before setting out on actually building a game, its pretty important to be aware of all the elements that act like its building blocks. Building a fun and engaging game depends on how we choose to use these elements to delight the player’s senses.

The game world

Regardless of whether the game is 2D or 3D, the player is going to be interacting with various elements in some sort of environment. Every tangible aspect – the audio/soundtrack, colors/textures/lighting, AI players/NPCs, terrain and the player’s character itself are displayed as part of the overall world.

In most cases, the whole world is not made visible to the player all at once. It is broken down into smaller segments which are commonly known as “levels” or “stages” in gaming lingo. Then it comes down to the design to make the transition between these stages. The transitions can be specific (the player is notified of a change in the stage) or more implicit (the player is simply moved to another segment of the world, ex: another room, building, map etc.)

The “actors”

Kind of like in the movies. These are the various objects that are displayed within the currently visible part, or segment, of the world as described above. In addition to being visible, these objects can also interact with the player character themselves and vice-versa. The player itself is also an actor. Examples of in-game actors include,

  • NPCs (Non-Player Characters),
  • the ground,
  • terrain elements like trees, hills, walls, other obstacles etc,
  • items like power-ups, weapons, vehicles

… and the list goes on. To put it simply, everything that exists in your game world is an actor.

Game mechanics

Merely having actors in the game is not enough unless you clearly define their roles. This is where a good chunk of the game logic comes in. Each actor is bound by the rules defined in it. It interacts with the other actors under clearly defined constraints. The fun largely depends on the difficulty (or lack of it) created enforcing these rules.

This is also where you can get creative and experiment with variations in the logic. You can even control how the actors co-exist with each other.

The goal

There should be a point to playing the game and the player needs to know what needs to be done in order to win or complete it successfully. It could either be beating a certain score, killing specific enemies or completing the final stage. Some games do not have a set ending in that they are essentially endless (like the endless runners genre), and in such games, it usually is a matter of how long you survive combined with how much you manage to score. Either both or one of these metrics are then used to determine your ranking among the global players or your friend circle.

Rules of the game

It should be crystal clear to the player how they can go about fulfilling the goal as described above. Many games furnish the player with a clear set of objectives that need to be fulfilled before the current stage can be completed. A clear set of objectives makes for a better gaming experience and keeps the player coming back for more.

In the end, a game is not just a piece of software but an experience which can bring joy to the player if done right. More stuff on game development in upcoming posts!

Jenson Jose

Jenson currently works as a Senior Developer in the telecom sector. He is involved in the design and development of multiple network automation projects, making use of Python/Django, Perl, TCL/Expect, Shell scripting among other technologies. He enjoys gaming on his PS4 in his spare time.


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