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Ian Fish has put up an article for Gamasutra about common pitfalls in game design processes.
1. Not Structuring Time For Game Playing
2. Placing Too Much Importance On Paper Designs
3. Peer Review Not Taken Seriously
4. Decision-Maker Picked For His Producer Skills
5. Not Taking Advantage Of Placeholders
6. Allowing The Story To Control The Game Design
7. Not Giving Designers Enough Tools
8. Entering Production Without Something Fun
9. Not Keeping Design Documentation Up-To-Date
10. Not Making Outside Playtests Part Of The Process
Even though this is only one opinion and we may not agree with all of these points, the summary is very interesting. Especially time allocation for gameplay, or more precisely idea research, and point 9 are worth to examine for.
Recently, Microsoft announced its upcoming visual game design environment, Kodu, to be released “later this spring”. Combined with the level editor in Little Big Planet, these two should provide fascinating case studies for the project.
Another interesting piece on formal game design is the paper “An experiment in Automatic Game Design” by Togelius and Schmidhuber (find the paper in here). The authors created a program that would automatically create new games based on an underlying schema (or “meta-rules” or “axioms” as the authors call it). To evaluate the games, they had a genetic algorithm with a fitness function based on the idea of using learnability as a predictor of fun. Therefore games that are easy to learn but hard to master would get high fitness values with the algorithm, thus indicating a fun game.