THE WAY OF THE DENKI: GARY PENN’S GAME DESIGN RULES


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2.5.2009

Brandon Boyer

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After some years working without much in the way of games media attention, it’s good to see Denki striking back as the release of its debut Xbox Live Arcade game Quarrel nears. Case in point, a two part studio visit feature by the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the latest of which reveals some of studio head Gary Penn’s golden rules for games making.

Penn, as I noted before, was creative director for DMA Design as it formed the first Grand Theft Auto and, more recently, helped design the Xbox 360 sandbox sleeper Crackdown, and these rules I found especially interesting:

Feel
“This is about trying to create products that feel good – they are substantial, they aren’t sloppy, the controls feel responsive, and you feel in control. But it also makes you feel good, so there’s some emotional resonance going on there. It’s not some deep meaningful need to create a game that exploits the emotions of love or hate, it’s just… hey, you know… feel something, feel good. Smile.”

Alive
“We try to make products that feel alive. And that kind of operates on two tiers – informative and attentive. You’re never in the dark for too long, the game never feels like it’s crashed, which can still happen when you get this… dead air they call it on television, it’s horrible when you get that in games. It’s making sure the game is keeping you informed at the right times, with the right kind of absorbable information. The main thing we think of is, we as developers are performers, we’re building toys, the tools of play, for players who are also performers. Performing on your own is tedious, but performing in front of an audience is much more interesting. That’s where the attentive element comes in – if the product has life, it’s evocative and attentive, it says ‘hey that was pretty cool, I like the way you did that’.

Twist
“There has to be some sort of meaningful twist in there. And that doesn’t mean it has to be wholly original, it just has to have something that distinguishes it from everything else. It can be a twist in the concept, a twist in the execution, and it has to kind of manifest throughout the product.

The full feature (and its first part) give more perspective on the studio’s process.

Gary Penn on the rules of game design [Guardian, via Infovore]

Previously:
Denki re-emerge with XBLA boardgame mashup Quarrel – Offworld
Denki does recruitment right – Offworld

Phil Spencer and Major Nelson talk Crackdown 2 – Offworld

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COMMENTS

  1. I’m completely fascinated by the whole idea of “games as performance.” I remember playing RPGs for my little brother when I was a kid, and doing all the voices because he couldn’t read fast enough. Admittedly, that’s a crude example, but I wonder about the day when people come to an auditorium to see someone play a level of a game in a particularly skillful way. Video Game Virtuosos?

    There’s also some interesting stuff in here about “Feel” and “Aliveness.” Is anyone putting together academic vocabularies for this stuff? We need better terms than “responsive.” I like “dead air,” that seems useful.


  2. Pingback: Of Words and Wool: The Making of Denki’s XBLA word-battler Quarrel | VENUS PATROL


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