This is a guide for working with scientists, doctors, teachers, and other unstructured video game development team members to develop new game mechanics. In 2010 I was a scientist and improvised learning game design and product management. immune defense was the result. I learned iterative game design and development. If you follow this general plan from the beginning with a team of 2 developers, 1 artist, game designer, and scientist, you can create a game like Immune Defense in 2 years.
The game mechanics are the way players learn and we want players to solve problems like real scientists. Or you want the player to feel in a certain way. You’re probably making a stress-relieving game, and the designed result is a lower heart rate. Whatever your definition of success is, the whole team should talk about it in the first place. Test something on paper and see if the heart rate of your target audience actually decreases. It will take a week. Then it analyzes the data and gets everyone to meet again to come up with creative solutions to problems. The point is that at the top of the cycle, you decide what to test during your game design session, what you need to develop to test, and which evaluation tool to use.
When I present my game ideas to scientists, they come up with neat details that inevitably make the game more fun. When I talk to teachers, they say helpful things like, “I’m going to ask my students to describe these specific organelles. So if you include them in your art, it will be most effective.” . In addition to the five-person team, there are others such as teachers, researchers, and other scientists who are part of a larger team. Involve these people in your game design session. We host three design sessions over the course of a week for everyone to consider any issues found after the playtest session.
Expect about 10 iterations. You and your team will go through this full cycle 10 times. You have to build the first 5 or very simple prototypes on paper and repeat the evaluation tool as well. This may take up to 5 weeks to complete. Then, launch three prototypes in the game engine and test them on the devices you plan to use. This can take 3-6 months. I plan to scrap this code and start fresh for the last 2 iterations.
Another consideration would be tutorials/introductions. If you’re using the game in the classroom or as part of a therapy program, it’s very likely to give players three minutes to read the intro, so you can make an introductory level or two at a rough level enough. 3-5 times or 3 months. If you plan to make a game that random app store users can pick and play, add at least a year to your schedule.
I’ve blogged about collaboration before. You can see how my diagram has changed since then. We welcome your comments and suggestions. See my research page for more papers and presentations. We are very happy to help you with your game project. Email Melanie at MolecularJig com.