To Avoid Failing Read This: Game Mechanics – Advanced Game Design

I’m giving everyone fair warning. If you don’t want to dedicate time to learning a pseudo-coding, diagrammatic language this book might not be for you. This “applied theoretical framework,” as authors Ernest Adams and Joris Dormans put it, has a lot to offer in modeling game systems. It’s especially good at modeling their economies. But there’s a learning curve.

If this terrifies you stop reading. If this turns you on, you’re probably in the right place.

I’m honestly not trying to scare anyone away here. Okay, maybe I am just a little, but I’m really interested in machinations and it’s taken me in an inordinate amount of time to understand how to use the machinations system.

One great thing about the system is that you really don’t even have to buy this book to use it. Author Joris Dormans has made the system publicly available on his website. He has even made his dissertation, upon which this book is based, available under Creative Commons. I enjoyed the dissertation so much I took the liberty of formatting it for print and submitting it to to get a copy for my bookshelf. It is titled Engineering Emergencegamemech

Even if you’re squarely in the camp of: “Oh no! You’re turning games into maths,” I still think this book has something to offer. Being able to graphically represent your economy quickly and easily as a designer has tremendous value. If you can understand how resources move through the systems that you create you can more easily alter those systems.

As a tabletop designer making minor adjustments can often be excruciating because it can feel like you need to do all of your playtesting over again. Getting a feel for where something should be economically in-game is something I hope to master one day.

I really like this book. I love how laser focused it is on the mechanical side of games. The authors even address the “player centric” approach to game design. Yes, be about the player, but hey there’s all this stuff that you need to do to make that player experience. And guess what? It requires engineering.

Think about that paradigm shift for a second. What if you were referred to, not as a game designer, but as a game engineer? These things we create, we aren’t just designing them, we’re engineering them. Even the language we use to discuss our games is often more closely associated to engineering jargon than design.

Maybe at some point it would be helpful to take off the hat of designer and try on the hat of engineer. Just a thought.

Enough meandering, if you want to geek out on how to model your in-game economies buy this book. It’s a text book, so expect text book pricing. Or, if you would be satisfied with Engineering Emergence you could do what I did and get a copy printed.

Either way, I hope some of you–at least one of the 3 of you–have fun discovering machinations.


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