Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fit - Make it Appropriate for your Game

Finally... you are ready. Your game mechanics are clear, relevant to the player, evoke strong emotional responses and regularly reward good behaviour. Your publisher is playtesting your title, then turns to you and says, "wow, this is a great game, but recent demographic testing has shown that games with a witty animal companion sell 33% more merchandise."

Because you've budgeted your time well, you're pretty sure your team can pull it off... but should you?

If your game is light-hearted and whimsical, maybe it will be a memorable addition.  If it's a dark tragedy dealing with the psychological horrors of suicide and adolescent development... maybe not so much.

That decision is what I call Fit.

Fit is a very subjective and nuanced area where two people making the same game can make very different decisions work. 

However, there's three major guidelines in the area of fit that will help keep you on the right path. 

Fit the Theme

Deeply understand the theme and direction of your game. A story adventure about exploration and making friends in a magical world lends itself nicely to companionship and charm. 


Conversely, a darker world about survival, escape and independently unraveling a long-forgotten empire naturally lend themselves to a solitary experience... but that doesn't mean it can't be done.

Dat Potato
Similarly, even in an incredibly dark world, you have constant companionship fit naturally into a game. Dishonored by the incredibly talented Arkane Studios is an excellent example. 


So let's take a moment and consider the differences in the companions chosen:

  • Pokemon - a warm, whimsical companion who communicates primarily through body language and spontaneous action. 
  • Portal - a cold, cruel and calculating computer program who was your nemesis from the previous game.
  • Dishonored - the severed heart of your dead lover, reincarnated by an ambivalent god who is only interested in watching what you will do. 

In each case, the developers chose the right tool to suit the game mechanics and theme of their world. Do you think they chose wisely?

Next time, I'll talk in depth about how Fit relates to your audience and your mechanics. 

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