The Developer Manifesto

The Developer Manifesto
Intending to outline a set of commonly-held principles and beliefs for guiding the course of game development, the intended result of which is the creation of a 'good game'.

Where 'game' is defined IN THIS CASE as a piece of interactive digital media, which has rules and objectives, whether explicit or implied, and which seeks to express an idea, theme, or narrative. This definition would include Mario, Shadow of the Colossus, and the single-player campaign of Halo 3. It would exclude Pong, Second Life, and the multiplayer version of Halo 3.
(It would stammer and throw its hands up in defeat when presented with Minecraft.)

Where 'rules' refers to mechanisms which limit and direct player actions.

Where 'objectives' refers to a point or purpose the player's actions seek to effect upon the game world, or which the game world seeks to effect upon the player, whether explicitly stated or implied through the assertion of rules.

Where 'good' is defined as achieving optimal expression, through perfect unification of all gameplay, story, and artistic elements.

Where 'gameplay' is defined as the mechanistic regulation of the player's input, actions, and interaction with and within the game world.

Where 'story' is defined as the narrative arc of a piece of digital interactive fiction and/or the emotional arc which is imposed upon the player.

Where 'art' is defined as encompassing all visual and aural elements which create the atmosphere and aesthetic of a piece of digital interactive media.

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"The Developer Manifesto"
10/11/10

Updated: 10/12/10

1 All story elements should also be gameplay elements.
Everything which transpires in a game's narrative should involve and enhance player interaction.
No piece of story which cannot be conveyed in the form of engaging gameplay should be allowed to exist.

2 All gameplay elements should also be story elements.
All actions which the player takes or is capable of taking should be accounted for, justified, or reinforced by a game's narrative.
No action or consequence which does not support or cannot be justified by a game's narrative should be allowed to exist.

3 All story elements should also be art elements.
Everything which transpires in a game's narrative should be reinforced by appropriate visual or aural elements.
No piece of story which cannot be conveyed in appropriate and optimal aesthetic form should be allowed to exist.

4 All art elements should also be story elements.
The overall aesthetic style and atmosphere of a game should reinforce narrative elements.
No artistic element which impairs the expression of narrative or theme should be allowed to exist.

5 All art elements should also be gameplay elements.
Everything in the player's immediate environment should involve and enhance player interaction.
Nothing which does not directly or indirectly affect the player, or which cannot be affected by the player, should be allowed to exist within the game world.

6 All gameplay elements should also be art elements.
All actions which the player takes should be reinforced by appropriate visual or aural elements.
No action which cannot be supported by artistic elements should be allowed to exist.

7 Player input mechanisms should be intuitive and accessible without prior knowledge, skillsets, or external media.

8 Everything which transpires in the game world should affect the player, occur as a result of the player's actions, or both.

9 Every potential player action should create a corresponding consequence.

10 All gameplay, narrative, and artistic elements should be as interactive or player-engaging as possible.

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These guidelines are intended to highlight positive aspects of game design which all games should, ideally, strive towards. Failure to meet these guidelines does not result in a 'bad game', and I am not implying [your favorite game] is a bad game because it does not meet one or most of these guidelines.

To put it another way, no one is saying Shadow of the Colossus is instantly a bad game because it is relatively inaccessible to newcomers -- only that it would be a better game if it were more accessible.

I do believe, however, that the 'better' and more 'important' a game is historically considered to be, the more of these guidelines it probably meets -- or the stronger and more uniquely it meets specific points. Likewise, I believe that games generally considered to be 'bad' can be autopsied and found as failing to meet most of these guidelines, or violating specific points particularly hard.

This is a living document.

(PLAYER 1 HAS SPOKEN >:O !!!)

teknoarcanist:
1 All story elements should also be gameplay elements.
Everything which transpires in a game's narrative should involve and enhance player interaction.
No piece of story which cannot be conveyed in the form of engaging gameplay should be allowed to exist.

This is a belief loads of people seem to hold. Sure, it's generally better to go all Half-Life and let us play through everything, but sometimes I like my cut-scenes.

But then, I like QTEs so what do I know.

Nice list. I personally hope that devs use more "causality", less QTEs, less cutscenes, and worlds that make sense internally (the world/game follows the rules it sets, and dont break them for unjustified reason).

I'm not sure, but i think the most frequent words in the manifesto are "all"/"everything"/"None"/etc.

Let me put it this way: *I* may have crazy ideas, and may often propose things to people that feel utopic... but i'm not THAT crazy.

Don't get me wrong, we dislike similiar things - but what you request is way beyond reasonable and efficient.

@Lyx: I also use the words 'should' and 'ideal' a few times ;P

"Ideal" has a lot to do with "idea" - so things, that only exist mentally... also things, which the one with the idea often cannot imagine him/herself :-P

I prefer high but reachable goals.

Great list, I agree fully. Especially all player actions having consequences; I want to see more of that in games. Not just you kill that one good guy and suddenly you get the bad ending. I want it to be much more intricate and personal.

Snork Maiden:

teknoarcanist:
1 All story elements should also be gameplay elements.
Everything which transpires in a game's narrative should involve and enhance player interaction.
No piece of story which cannot be conveyed in the form of engaging gameplay should be allowed to exist.

This is a belief loads of people seem to hold. Sure, it's generally better to go all Half-Life and let us play through everything, but sometimes I like my cut-scenes.

But then, I like QTEs so what do I know.

I do believe Quick Time Events would fall under the rule which you have so conveniently quoted.

OT: The last few parts of the list are really the only ones I majorly don't like. I may be taking it out of context, but it sounds as if you believe the world should be shaped by the player only. Essentially creating a Sim world. I'm also not a big fan of game choices. Be them in Fable or Mass Effect,every choice is designed to be either Evil or Good. No in between and even in Games like Fallout and Oblivion, the In between usually ends up biting you in the ass or going in a way you didn't plan. For example, look at Fallout 3's Tenpenny Tower mission. If you manage to convince everyone that the Ghouls should come in, they will all be slaughtered when about a week later by the Ghouls, essentially going with the Ghoul's version of the Evil plan.

The Army of Two sequel also tried to do this, by giving you the option to make moral decisions that would either have minor or drastic effect on the story. Unfortunatly, it also doesn't make a gray zone, it gloats that it does, but it really doesn't every decision is either good or evil and almost every good decision eventually turns out to be evil.

That all said, I don't mind the 9th choice, as long as the developer doesn't attempt to include moral choices. I'm fine if they find a way around it, but morality decisions have been an issue with me in video games for a while. They don't really immerse you into the character, they just make your character act like a douche bag for a little extra cash or they let the NPCs walk all over them and foil the bad guys for less of the reward. These aren't good mechanics, personally, I like the way the first Kane and Lynch's multiplayer urged the player to make the evil decision by tempting them, but never forcing them into a major confrontation where they are forced to choose.

In the game, you steal money from people, splitting it with your team. If you kill a member of your team, you become a traitor and receive all the money you collect. The more money you have, the more weapons you receive and the higher your rank becomes. If you get enough money, your character will mumble something under his breath, usually only audible to the player. These lines go along the lines of "Jeez, the first time I make it rich, why do I have to share?" The game never changes and you play the same setting over up to 9 times. If you were a traitor last round, you spawn with a black jacket and all your team members remember your actions. That is a much better way of introducing the morality component compared to Fallout 3's method of saying something evil and then committing an evil act.

 

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