On Tuesday, I attended a talk titled Truth in Game Design by Jonathan Blow, creator of the game Braid – a platformer puzzle game, where time is manipulated in several interesting ways.
Jonathan started his talk by arguing that simple ‘systems’ often contain a lot of hidden beauty when observed closely.
To illustrate this, he showed us a movie clip zooming in on a fractal, and he also gave some examples of discoveries within the system of Conway’s game of life. Both of these systems are based on a very simple equation or algorithm.
Applying this to game design, he observes the game he has built, and asks certain questions to this system: “What if you would be able to reverse time?“, or “What if the time was determined by the position of the player on the screen?“. By slightly modifying the game in order to answer these questions, unexpected and interesting results can be discovered. Jonathan used this technique to discover many interesting puzzles for his game, Braid.
This is exactly what you can do when prototyping, but in a safe environment. When you have a prototype, you have this unique chance to explore your initial design idea, and discover interesting gameplay mechanics, while staying in a safe environment, separate from your production pipeline.