Choose an Interesting and Engaging Topic for Your Game
Games are about wish-fulfilment: what would you be interested in experiencing in virtual reality where it is safe to take risks? If you could be anyone, who would you be? If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Historical events, fantasy worlds, ordinary jobs, and precarious circumstances — games have been made about the most exciting and the most bizarre things. You can draw ideas from everything around you.
Having that fantasy in your head, try identifying one specific experience your game will be about. Is it about survival? Blowing things up? Shooting zombies? Building a pirate empire? The core experience of the game is called a game core or statement of purpose. Every feature and game dynamic should be necessary for the player to have this core experience, or greatly enhance it. Identifying the core of your game and building your feature and game system set from that will allow you to create a cohesive, integral structure and not a jumble of scattered, cool features.
The core is supported by the so-called ‘pillars’ of the game. What is the core experience? How are you going to achieve the players having it? Why is it so important? The pillars specify the core and capture the personality of the game: the characteristic atmosphere that makes it different from other games of the same genre. Is it dangerous? Gritty? Whimsical? The pillars serve as reference points during the game development process. They help you decide if the feature you have come up with strengthens the core and matches the character of the game.
Add interesting and unique characters to your game
The players associate themselves with characters in games which creates a great opportunity for an emotional attachment to a game. To make a character appealing, they are provided with a set of attractive traits, capabilities, oftentimes good looks, and something that makes them unique. To make a character relatable in a book or a film, they need to have flaws, preventing the character from achieving their goal. In a game, this can be translated into the character’s skill set and be something they work on through character development.
Generally, character creation in game design starts with character concept design. The artists gather references, draw character concept sketches, and slowly develop a look that will be a part of the game. Many game artists find fantasy character illustration the most interesting as it engages their imagination and allows them to create something unusual. However, drawing illustrations for any game genre can be engaging given there is creative freedom and the challenge of making it suit the style of the game.
Game character concept art is an important stage in game development which allows to translate the ideas about the characters into a concrete form and see how the story of the game starts to take shape. 2D animation artists (in 2D games) and 3D modelers and animation artists (in 3D games) need concept art characters to start working on the bodies the characters will inhabit in the world of the game, and the movements that will allow the characters to move through that world.
Create a Storyline that Will Keep Players Hooked
Not every game needs to have a storyline, but if yours does have one, there are a few things you need to consider. A good story has:
- something happening from the get-go, hooking the player
- the protagonist’s clear main objective
- everything in the game connected to that objective
- the bigger picture that is present and visible at the start
- high stakes
- an opposition force
- escalating tension
- the cause and effect rule
- setups and pay-offs
Mobile games usually have quite simple game dynamics but that does not mean your writing has to be. A good story and great game art can make even a simple game special and popular.
Design Creative and Challenging Quests for Players to Complete
All the game quests usually involve a combination of three things: “kill X”, “acquire Y”, and “speak to Z”. Despite that it does not sound particularly exciting, some of the most fascinating quests were created with that same mechanics. It is not the ‘what’ that makes a quest tedious, but the ‘how’.
First of all, the quest needs to be contextualized. It needs to be a part of a greater story and the world of the game. Even gathering tokens can be exciting if they are sacred runes that open up a forbidden ancient portal. Second, there have to be high stakes. The player needs to know what happens if they succeed and what happens if they do not. For the player to be engaged, the specific consequences of success and failure had better be tied to the core plot and objective of the game and not exist in a vacuum. A sense of urgency is great, whether evoked through a time limit or a time-sensitive process like being chased by monsters or saving a flower from dying.
The designing blocks of a quest are usually very limited as well: the player can move around, inflict damage, and maybe collect and give objects. But even with such a simple set, you can still create a quest that requires skill, thought, and feat instead of drudgery. It can require studying the enemy’s behavior, skilful playing, solving puzzles, or thinking creatively. What matters is that it does not feel like just busy work for the player to do because the developers simply had to send them to do something.
The UX/UI design is cannot be underestimated. A good UX/UI is clear, visually pleasing, and intuitive, making the player’s experience smooth and inducing only positive emotions when navigating the game.
As for the quests in particular, how you deliver the information about them is also important. Players hate reading descriptions written in small letters and much rather not read at all. Can the essential information be given to the player in a non-direct way? Can the protagonist themselves be observing what is happening and making judgments to create a sense of exploration along the way? Can an NPC deliver the message to the protagonist, yet have other roles to play, stories to tell, and motivations to pursue instead of existing solely to give out quests?
Offer Rewards for Players Who Complete Quests Successfully
However pleasurable the game action is, the reward is the biggest motivator for the player to complete a quest. If the core loop of your game is progressive, meaning your character is becoming more skilled and developed in response to encountering the more and more challenging experiences, the reward could be a new skill, gear, or advancement in the existing character capabilities. It should be a reward that is proportional to the amount of effort the player has put in and prepare the character for more difficult quests to come.
Still, the best quests are directly connected to the plot and the protagonist’s objective. For the player, feeling like they are making progress towards a bigger goal is what gives them the strongest sense of pay-off.