So prior to the site update this page was populated with dozens of tips from my twitter feed all with pages of their own to deep dive. Since the ‘update’ it’s time to start anew.

You can also search for #DesignerTip on twitter, but expect tips from all kinds of designers from UI to Interior.

I’ll update this page when I tweet each one.

  1. Keep designs contextual
  2. Level design golden rule #1: What it looks like in the editor is not how it feels in the game
  3. Use focus testing wisely. Watch them get things wrong. All players will make mistakes and experiment regardless of audience.
  4. Use focus testing. Measure responses against the state of the game. Many can’t overlook obvious dev elements
  5. Never chew gum in an interview.
  6. Reality bites. Never use it as a point of reference when defending your designs.
  7. Reality is good. Consumers expect many components of the real world to exist in a game.
  8. Reality is relative. Only use the aspects of reality you need and only to the extent you need them.
  9. Don’t get precious. When it comes to getting that massive vision into low RAM, cuts must be made.
  10. Time is money. Use rule of half’s when reducing existing level content. Cut in 1/2 and check rather than by 10% multiple times
  11. Time is money. Make multiple changes on different threads of problem/implementation before every cook/compile.
  12. Learn. Versatility is important to survive and thrive. Know Maya? Lua? QA tricks? Premiere?
  13. Luck & superstition are very much present in a player’s decisions and their perception of unseen game calculations
  14. Learn. Read/play/watch/listen to the classics. They’re classic for a reason.
  15. Hone your critical skills by playing outside of your favored genre. Every experience makes you a better designer.
  16. Random notes. Keep a notebook of design ideas. Allow yourself to blue sky as much as possible, but make notes.
  17. Ideas come at inconvenient times: A) Just as you drop off to sleep B) on the toilet C) in the shower. Make notes ASAP.
  18. Random notes. Often a single concept will simmer and evolve as you’re exposed to different influences. keep notes of it all
  19. Being a vision carrier is different than laboring a dead point
  20. Conflicts happen. Be informed and flexible when resolving.
  21. Step back and see the big picture. Sometimes what seems important in the here and now is trivial or opposing the Big Pic.
  22. Add detail in the places where (most) people will notice it.
  23. Add ‘secret’ detail (flying rats/stars/rooms) in spaces off the main path where the main path is currently linear only.
  24. Other designers are an exceedingly valuable feedback resource. Peer reviews are a great wash to test a design against.
  25. QA techs have usually played more hours than you in certain genres. Use them for feedback on designs too.
  26. If you’re recreating a location from reality, actually go there. Pictures and video don’t do it justice
  27. Keep designs contextual
  28. Level design golden rule #1: What it looks like in the editor is not how it feels in the game
  29. Expect players to play with the game as much as play the game.
  30. Some ‘games’ are just toys. Some games have toys within. Know the difference. Exploit the difference. Toys are good too!
  31. I’ve never met a level designer yet that didn’t love construction toys when growing up (usually Lego)
  32. Good designers have innate raw talent. Great designers recognize it and shape their output constructively
  33. The cautious player will keep to the edges of a playspace, the strong will run direct A-B
  34. There is a hunter/gather in all of us. Players drift more to one than the other, but both drives are within every player
  35. Enable the gatherer by providing not only things to gather, but a clear way of displaying how much is left to gather
  36. Swearing in games is hard to do convincingly. Avoid if you’re new to speech writing.
  37. Everyone loves a fall-over gag.
  38. Feedback to the player in game is as important as the designs it’s informing the player about
  39. You played 100s of games and became a designer. Promoted to lead?Gratz, but team managing is a whole different ball game…
  40. What motivates designers? It’s highly unlikely to be money. Sure that’s good in the short term, but that happy wont last
  41. Take care of your body. You’ve only got one. Posture/spine, lighting/eyes, ergonomics/carpal tunnel and so on.
  42. Don’t over-design. Sometimes you’ve just got to get on with it.
  43. Ensure your designs are scalable: Feature designs will only get partially implemented. Divide into Need, Should & Please
  44. Don’t get sidetracked. Learn simple prioritizing skills to manage time demands.  Grade tasks as import and/or urgent
  45. Write lists. Listing tasks to do helps considerably in getting it done. Everyone loves ticking off lists. Use em!
  46. Keep an eye on experimental titles and indie games. Often a single concept here is the diamond in the rough
  47. You make the rules. The player has learnt them. be careful if you want to break them for even a moment
  48. There are 3 categories of frustration: Human interface failure- “I know I ducked that FFS!”
  49. There are 3 categories of frustration: Unfair systems – “How the hell did that redshirt know I’d be there?”
  50. There are 3 categories of frustration: Establishing the rules and then breaking them…
  51. How you decide Game Over is as important as how you reward success.
  52. Scoring systems should primarily work on 2 levels: 1)Points for actions. 2) Recognition of skilled behavior
  53. Game design is part art, part science.
  54. Respect the talent of those around you. Maybe not their habit of eating fish 4 lunch, but defo the talent
  55. Assume that when you sit down, put headphones on, ready to get stuck into something that you’ll get but 30 secs peace
  56. If you speak to a lot of people (and you should be) then avoid onions/garlic/etc + keep mints handy.
  57. See the end vision: like it? Champion it. It’s easy to join others griping about WIP.
  58. Consider players with disabilities; eg color blind/part deaf and work solutions in. End result is better for all
  59. Young players enjoy playing the same rules but with varied gfx. They are not a fan of difficulty curves.
  60. Gamers have wildly different gaming habits. With complicated systems, add reminders, but don’t harp on.
  61. Concept art is an invaluable touchstone. Use it and use it often to help you see the wood amongst the trees.
  62. Monikers are important. Title everything appropriately to minimize misleading readers.
  63. Remember, folks will read your designs without you there to explain stuff. Make it concise and comprehensive.
  64. Games are escapism.
  65. Recognize when meetings are going badly off-topic and halt the tangent from eating time – but follow up later.
  66. Learn. Diversity in life is good. It allows you to pull from unexpected sources at unexpected times.
  67. Always know your strengths and your weaknesses. You’re misguided if you think you have neither.



Leave a comment