I've been making a 2D platformer in Unity and it's been going great. I have the fundamentals down (and as an experienced programmer, I know how to get the results I want; this is not a programming question.)

I've been floundering, though, because I realize that I lack vision in terms of a game direction. I originally wanted to make a Metroidvania-style game, but decided to scale back as I thought that would be too ambitious (and take too long) for my first game. As such, I've decided to create a platformer/run-and-gun type game.

I've played enough platformers to know and intrinsically understand basic mechanics, but I also realize that the best games have a core mechanic that defines the game. Megaman's core mechanic, for instance, is obtaining and using boss weapons and abilities; boss battles and levels are built around this. Metal Slug revolves around weapon pickups and its tank gameplay.

I guess I'm at the point where I have a code demo....but it's not a game; it has no soul. I've basically just proven to myself that I can write a platformer game in Unity.

I want to know of any good resources on aspects of video game mechanic design not centered around programming - book recommendations would be amazing, but online resources or other types of resources would be great as well. (Worth noting that I'm not looking for guides on designing levels, but lower-level mechanics, like jump height, hp limits, core mechanics to define a game, etc.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ There's a very long blog post that might provide some guidance on Metroidvania type design here: subtractivedesign.blogspot.com/2013/01/… \$\endgroup\$ – jzx Jul 29 '14 at 1:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately, list generation type questions are too open ended for the format of the site. \$\endgroup\$ – MichaelHouse Jul 29 '14 at 1:35

One of the best resources for mechanical design is pen and paper. Everything that happens on a computer happens one step at a time, which means you can prototype just about any part of your game using paper.

As for what's best (you mentioned jump height), it's really a question of what's best for your game, so the best way to figure it out is to play with it. That's where paper helps, as you can reiterate quickly and not worry about implementation. Aside from paper, you could set mechanic-specific variables (such as jump height) as public, as long as they are implemented this allows quick iteration by changing the variable in Unity's inspector.

When you're thinking about a hook mechanic for your game, remember it can be pretty much anything, as long as you actually include it in the game! Think of Mario - personally I'd say the main mechanic there is jumping:

  • Enemies are defeated by jumping
  • Levels are traversed by jumping
  • Puzzles are solved by jumping
  • Power-ups affect jumping (even the fireball cuts down enemies so you can focus on jumping)
  • ... Jumping

You could however design pretty much any type of game around any mechanic (that doesn't mean it's going to be a killer game). How about a platformer based around acrobatics? Strip out the combat and that's pretty much Prince of Persia. Or a platformer based around environmental manipulation (Gravity Guy is a great example of that). Say you wanted to do Gravity Guy, you could still keep run-'n'-gun, just like Mario has Goombas but the main thing you're doing to get around a level would be flipping.

Finally, one of the best books I could ever recommend on game design is David Perry on Game Design as I find it's pretty much just a massive toolbox.


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