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Game Design from a Game Designer

Ken Levine – Video Game Designer, Creative Director, Author, Screenwriter

Know for – System Shock, Thief: The Dark Project, Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite.

After listening to a podcast on Idle Thumbs from Steve Gaynor call Tone Control. He speaks with his former boss Ken Levine about his career and creative process. This is a look at how this speaks to me as the beginner in the world of designing.

Early in his development, they work to their consecrates. When planning and looking at making a game don’t plan to make something that you don’t have the means to make.
Aiming to make something small and simple and building on this as the game develops means you building on top of solid foundation and working elements and the design of another element will add to the previous one and feel like they connect. Games in the BioShock series follow this by having a character the embodies the foundation of the world of what the game stands for. Like Andrew Ryan


Taking for the idea of a man that can make a utopia for all and it will be wonderful, this is the main core idea fro the game. You can’t play that, but add to it all the other elements that make bio shock a game and you have a wonderfully engaging experience.

Designing in this was is something that, looking back on A Place to call  I did, I looked a core of someone exploring a house.
“Ok why are they doing this?” then my mind flip from narrative to look at
“Well wait how are they doing this?”
“is there a player model or character? No
“Ok How will players know where the character is onscreen”
“Hmm Foot Prints, No Player model”

As weird as all these sounds, it was choices made on other choices. Ken Levine talks about never write back story and that this comes from the idea or something and then work backwards. I find that this is something that works for my creative thinking a no linear progress of constructing idea and elements.

Work to a plan but don’t be scared to change.

When you design a game what is throw on paper and the first week might exist when you come to the end of development. What stands from this in game design, is that refining things alone the pipeline to the specific direction of your games direction. Have an idea, have a documented direction, know exactly what the end goal is. How you meet these point along the way could take many forms.

Bring elements from out side gaming to add context.

Looking at topics of context from novel or real world ideals and make a game around. As with the Bioshock series the idea of the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Promises of the next best thing and that what we have is better then the others, turns out to not be the case and how it falls from grace. Having this as a story with characters and interaction will have people intruded (as i know i was). taking these understandable elements and grounding in know elements or topic play start the game knowing something and then being told more.


Looking at other designers closer to home, Morgan Jaffit speaks about having a  a critical eye next to your creative eye. so not only looking at the project in its own light and also in the light of other game or and the market as a whole. You could make something that stands alone but this could be a bad thing. Making something that is like something but different is better because people know what it is like and can relate and then see and experience how its different.

Thank for reading.


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