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Journey producer says developers should design “aesthetics first”

Thursday, 31st October 2013 05:59 GMT By Ewan Miller

Former producer of Journey and co-founder of Funomena Robin Hunicke wants more developers to think about the feelings a game should inspire in the player, rather than designing mechanics first and working down to aesthetics. Clever thoughts after the break.

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“Instead of thinking of your game from the mechanics first, think about the aesthetics first,” she said at Gamesbeat. “Think of the feelings that you want to bring to the players. I believe if you start with the aesthetics and move backwards towards the mechanics through the dynamics, you can create successful games.”

Hunicke identified Minecraft as a game which very successfully drilled down on the feeling discovery and exploited its aesthetics to achieve that feeling. “”Every bit of Minecraft is built to make you feel that feeling or share that feeling with others”.

However, she identified a lack of inter-office communication as a hurdle to creating games with such a singular focus. Artists, designers and composers can all address a particular emotion in fairly disperate ways, so it’s imperative, she says to have developers sharing their feelings with one another early on in the project before work gets wasted creating differing ideas. Additionally, developers must be willing to address issues they see outside their own role within the team, which is traditionally taboo.

Speaking specially to the experiences of her new company Funomena, Hunicke praised the “powerful” experience of co-op gaming on a single iPad and said the team had gotten a lot of useful information by exposing their prototypes to children at an early state to understand how different types of players might try and interact with the game.

“If you wait until you’ve got the game six months down the line, you’re putting more barriers in front of your ability to reach a demographic.”

In reaching new demographics, she cautioned designers away from traditional combat interactions to challenge players and “reward creativity romance and dialog with other players” instead.

Thanks, Game Industry.

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8 Comments

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  1. drw85

    So in the future all games have no gameplay?

    #1 9 months ago
  2. fihar

    @1
    Essentially, she’s saying that developers should treat video games as a creative undertaking and not as a technical or a mechanical one.

    I remember reading that Okami was kinda developed this way.

    I honestly think that there are merits to both approach though. Super Mario Galaxy is a testament to that.

    #2 9 months ago
  3. wamp

    aight.. I’ll be the first
    I’m here for the hot redhead :D

    #3 9 months ago
  4. Neuromancer

    @3 ;-)

    #4 9 months ago
  5. onlineatron

    most of my favourite games this year—year walk, device 6, brothers, gone home—and a lot of the games i’m looking forward to—child of light, valient hearts, night in the woods, the witness—have strong aesthetic design. so there’s probably something to hunicke’s design philosphy

    #5 9 months ago
  6. DeVitowned

    @3. Funny, that’s why I am here.

    #6 9 months ago
  7. Cobra951

    Where’s the rest of her? ;)

    Seriously, I’m all for good story and aesthetics, but there are already long-established media for that. They’re called books, plays and movies. In games, I’m more interested in what I get to do than what I get to watch passively. Mechanics and gameplay are paramount. Story is secondary, and in some cases, not even needed. See Minecraft.

    #7 9 months ago
  8. Hybridpsycho

    Saying it like it’s something that works for all games. Depending on what kind of game you’re making you apply various ways to approach the development process.

    Stating something like this is stupid, it might work for some type of games but talking about it as THE ONE way to develop games is just silly.

    #8 9 months ago