Lit A.F. Game Design Newsletter #11

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Hello Game Designers,

No announcements this week.

Here is what happened this week in game design.
Good Reads

This amazingly detailed and well researched post discusses common themes in level design. In particular the authors studied 2D games, but these concepts apply to 3D game as well.

The patterns are: Guidance, Safe Zone, Foreshadowing, Layering, Branching, and Pace Breaking.


Layering is the technique of combining multiple mechanics together to create a new challenge or experience for the player. This could mean both multiples of the same mechanic or mixing mechanics together.

For example in Mario, a layering example might be coming across 3 goombas, a hammer bro and bullet bill all at the same time. The player has seen each of these enemies before, but not handled them in this specific configuration. This type of layering is how designers can use a few elements to create a wide variety of gameplay.


Branching gives the player a sense of choice and a feeling of empowerment as they dictate where to go next. Sometimes the branching doesn't make a difference while other times it might lead to a short cut or treasure room. In games like The Legend of Zelda, the levels can be played in any order.

The branch can give a sense of exploration as the player wonders what was down the path they didn't take. There's also conditional branching which is used in metroidvania games where players can only access certain areas after they have acquired certain abilities.

All 6 patterns are discussed in much more detail in the full post. If you are at all interested in level design, this is a must read post.
Watch and Learn
Great videos on game design

Save Scumming and the Design of Save Systems

Save Scumming is the practice of saving right before a difficult encounter so you can reload if things don't go well.

This encounter could have a reward the player desperately wants or could have an element of randomness that the player reloads until the RNG is in their favor.

Whether you believe this is cheating or not, the game's design should not make players feel obligated to do this. This would happen if 1) your game allows saving at any time and 2) the result of losing at that moment is costly.

There are several ways to design around this. You could limit when the player can save the game (and/or have a robust autosave feature), limit the downside of losing, or lean into save scumming.

All of these solutions come with other considerations that are discussed in the full video.

The main points to keep in mind are to make sure the saving system does not drag down the pace of the game. Saving should be a positive experience for the player, not something they feel they have to do constantly.

Odds and Ends
A collection of links from around the interwebs
The Importance of Definitions in Game Design [Article]
The entire team needs to be on the same page

Mundanity in Video Games [Article]
It's ok to be mundane...sometimes

The World Design of Metroid Prime 2 [Video]
Mark Brown is at it again with another stellar design analysis

Sitting in on a Design Meeting for Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order [Article]
Journalists share their perspective from the design meeting
Game Juice of the Week
Juice is feedback to a player's actions that is delightful and exciting. This can reinforce behavior or just feel good.
Game: Project Arrhythmia
Platform: PC
Release: June 14th, 2019

This is a beautifully handcrafted rhythm game.

The most obvious piece of juice is how the game matches the beat. Of course! It's a rhythm game! It's still worth pointing out how both background visuals and obstacles move with the beat. It both sounds great and helps you with the game.

For the camera shake fans out there. This game definitely uses that to help sell the weight of obstacles that aggressively move on screen.

Color also plays a huge role in this game. For starters, the player is a faint red color which none of the other objects in the game match. This makes it easy to spot where you are on the screen. Secondly, obstacles about to move will turn white. This gives you a heads up to dodge an oncoming attack.

The last piece to talk about is how the levels morph into one another. From one scene to the next, the shapes grow or shrink to reveal the next sequence. This moves the game along nicely instead of having hard cuts to new levels. There are still hard cuts, but they are less frequent.

We want to hear from you! If you have opinions about the newsletter, please respond to this email!
Thanks for reading!
- Olin
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