lunes, 10 de junio de 2013

Gamification Design Steps: Mechanics, aesthetics and storytelling (III)

Gamification Design Steps: Mechanics, Aesthetics and Story

Mechanics, Aesthetics, Storytelling... We've heard so much about them but, do we actually understand how to use them? Which one should go first and why? What are the design steps that we should follow to create a great gamified system?

This is the third part and final conclusion of the "Gamification Design Steps" series that started with an introduction and the 4 critical questions of the design process, and it is aimed to answer all those questions, introducing the upcoming next part of this blog: advanced mechanics, aesthetics and storytelling in gamification. 

But as a way to start, let's have a look at the previous parts of the "Gamification Design Steps" series:

- Part 1: An introduction

- Part 2: 4 critical questions

Great! So now we have some knowledge about Professor Werbach's model and we know that designing a gamified system involves 4 critical questions that are: WHY, WHAT, WHO and HOW and we are going to focus on the most important of them, the HOW, the real steps to follow when starting to design.

So, some small tips to remember before starting the design process:

- Designing is an iterative process, we are going to build a prototype, test it, tune it and keep on going, and that is going to happen quite a lot

- Our main tools are going to be mechanics, aesthetics and storytelling, if you want to know more i recommend you to read some books on it! You can find the list of the best ones to read here (i have some, just ask me if you want them for free!)

Also, if might be of use to have a look at the player types! They are one of the key points too! All the info is here

- And last but not least, design is the funniest part! It's where all the magic takes place so let's have some good fun! However, and as Scott Rogers says, "Designing game systems is haaaaard" so be ready for it!

Designing a gamified system? Challenge accepted! Here we go!


So here we are, some big company just told us they want to apply gamification and we are already thinking of cool mechanics, fancy aesthetics, maybe some epic story... but hey! this is not the beginning! Designing a system is like building a house, it's the base we should start with, not the furniture! 

Always keep in mind one thing: a game is a game because of the experience it delivers to the player. Without the experience, feelings and emotions, it's just an empty system! And it happens the same with gamification. 

Our very first step is the experience. We should ask ourselves this question: What feelings and emotions do we want our players to experience? Or in other words, how do i want the players to feel when playing my gamified system? 

Think of it for a moment, what do you feel when you are playing Guild Wars? Final Fantasy or Team Fortress? And what about The Sims or Angry Birds? 

It is very likely that you are thinking of words such as freedom, power, joy, wonder, courage, mistery, risk, anger, etc. Because if something is clear, is that games deliver experiences through feelings and emotions, and we should really take this into account. 

So, first of all, what is going to be gamified? Is it a product, a learning process, a working environment etc. And then, which kind of experiences may fit better? What is it that we want to provoke in our players?

In example, if we were to gamify a candy shop, it could be great if we design a magical, delicious and tasty system that encourages freedom, awe, fantasy, etc. We already have some ideas about our players, so it's just a matter of matching the players and the best feelings.


How are experiences delivered? How can we make our players feel really deep and rich emotions?

Well, that´s a big thing, and there are so many elements involved, but one of them and our next step, is what Jesse Schell calls “The theme”. So, what is it? 
And to answer that question let´s formulate another one: why are theme parks called like that? Joining dots? Sure you are! 

The theme is the representation of the experience, what the game is all about, a general framework, the type of magic circle where it all makes senseIf we think of Disneyland, the main theme is the magical world of Disney, a fantastic environment where dreams come true and the impossible is not. Anyway, the list of themes is at some point endless, going from medieval to super heroes, and we can always mix themes to create a new unique one! 
Oh! and just as a reminder, the theme is not the genre of the game, because a pirates game may well be a FPS, or a RPG, etc. So, choose the experience you want to deliver, and pick the theme that will transmit them in the best and most powerful way!


Now we’ve chosen a theme that will enhance the experience, and deliver outstanding emotions and feelings to our players, it´s time to put it all together and start the journey with the SMA design model!

So, how do we actually start designing? First of all, let´s have a look at the main elements of the SMA Model: 
So, we are going to use 4 elements:

- Story, Mechanics and Aesthetics (SMA) as our main design tools

- The player’s journey that will give us 4 design stages: discovery, onboarding, mid game and endgame. They are very useful because they split up the design process into 4 phases, letting us focus on every player and their perfect SMAs. For more info about Yu-kai´s great explanation of the 4 stages have a look here:

Note: we’ll leave the discovery stage for the end

- The gamification player types that you can check out here: We have 7 types and each design step should be focused on some of them. To put it simple, the onboarding will be focused on the Enjoyers, as well as the endgame will have the intrinsic players as its main point. 

- The 3 types of Fun: quick fun, extrinsic fun and intrinsic fun that match with the player types


So now we've got everything, let the magic begin!

SMAs Design Procces

Define the objectives and goals: WHY

Describe the desired general actions: WHAT

Know your main types of players, but foster all: WHO

Determine the experience, theme and a simple prototype of the player’s journey
Combine the stages, with the types of fun and player types using lean processes within design phases. Advance through them like this:


- Prototype of the onboarding storyline

- Mechanics and aesthetics that will fit better with the enjoyers (quick fun)


- Prototype of the midgame storyline

- Mechanics and aesthetics that go better with the extrinsic players (extrinsic fun)


- Prototype of the endgame storyline

- Mechanics and aesthetics that go better with the intrinsic players (intrinsic fun)


= Phase 1 completed -> Design process completed 20-25%






= Phase X completed -> Design process completed 100%

This might be a complete design process but it is my personal approach, there are many others and all of them are valid! I really want to focus on the words “learn/test” and “pivot/go on” as the main keys of the process.

So now it´s about time to start talking about mechanics, aesthetics, storytelling and many other things in further detail But that will be on our next posts! Don´t miss out!! There´s still a long way to go!

Victor Manrique