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Why DriveThruRPG? It’s the largest download store for role-playing stuff in existence and you’ll probably end up buying much more than just your copy of Ludotronics. Which would benefit game designers everywhere!
Why not Amazon? For one, illustrated non-fiction isn’t well-suited for the Kindle format. Also, at a €14.99 price point, Amazon’s cut amounts to €9.75. Well, no.
Level One: What’s the Thing?
What Will Ludotronics Help You Achieve?
You Can’t Teach Talent But You Can Teach Process
Ludotronics is a conceptually complete paradigm and, building on that core, a comprehensive design methodology for intermediate and advanced game designers. Certainly, it offers benefits for beginners too, or for professionals. But industry professionals will have hammered out their own personal methodologies over time, and beginners might not want to commit to a methodology, any methodology, just yet. Also, beginners might occasionally be confused because the most basic nuts and bolts of the industry that usually go without saying will go without saying. Moreover, there’s an abundance of terrific introductions to game design on the market, all aimed at beginners, and there’s an equal abundance of explorations into specialized game design topics on the market, directed at professionals.
Now, what if you’re a game designer to whom creativity and innovation come naturally, and your games are enthusiastically received? Do you need a paradigm or a methodology? Probably not. But you will still find a handful of tools here that you can put to use. Rare is the game that springs forth from the game designer’s brain fully grown, armed, and armored like Athena from Zeus’s skull.
However, if being creative doesn’t come naturally to you, as it never came naturally to me, then you will already be appreciative of tools that support the creative process. Paradigms and methodologies exist to do just that.
Beat 1. The Concept
Ludotronics is not about game production or project management, code development or asset creation, game art, game writing, or marketing. It is about what’s generally referred to as concept development, that path from coming up with a raw idea for a game to greenlighting a refined version of that idea for pre-production and later development. It is about a particular methodology, Ludotronics, that will help you whip ideas into shape until they are strong and sturdy enough to qualify for a killer proposal and become the beating heart of your pitch presentation, your written proposal, and later your game design document.
Beat 2. The Document
Talking of which. Hypothetically, you can use the Ludotronics paradigm to generate huge game design document–style volumes where everything’s meticulously fleshed and figured out. But this might not be advisable. Of course, the time-guzzling behemoths game design documents have become as a kind of industry standard have their place if you know exactly where you’re going, from franchise sequels and series installments to formulaic gameplay in well-known genres. (There’s nothing wrong with any of these!) But as warehouses for fresh ideas and uncharted potentials, such documents have suffered severe criticism, on and off, through time. And for a reason. They’re just not flexible enough for the rapid changes that are constantly called for when trying something new in highly collaborative environments, and it will vacuum precious time out of your project if your team tries to keep such a document’s every nook and cranny current and consistent.
Instead, think of your design document as a sketch or, as it is often called, a “living” document. It should be solid, for sure, and convincing. Even elaborate. But thinking of it as a sketch or a living document will prepare you for the onslaught of constant, sometimes radical change your concept is bound to undergo. Think Thief: The Dark Project, Halo: Combat Evolved, or BioShock—they all started out as entirely different beasts. What happens to your original idea during development will depend on your cocreative team of inspired professionals, led by the Great Coordinator & Midwife more formally known as producer. Who, collaboratively with department heads and maybe in cooperation with a line producer, or as a scrum master or product owner, will help you lift the game out of your document and into the world. But what the world sees, most likely, will not be a faithful software version of what you once put down in writing—that was merely the foundation.
Beat 3. The Vision
Then there’s the question of vision. As former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt once famously remarked, “people who have visions should go see a doctor.” In the movie business, this sometimes manifests itself almost literally when a so-called script doctor is called in to provide emergency care for a—not always, but sometimes—overly ambitious screenplay that isn’t holding up against, you know, actual filming. Overly ambitious game design concepts can be equally treacherous, tilting toward development hell with maximum acceleration rates when reality is introduced to great visions created by great egos. Luckily, projects like this rarely get anywhere, and that’s a good thing. Visions are internal representations. As such, they have a severe problem with resolution—way too high and way too low at the same time. Too high because our inner eye excels at sculpting vivid experiences sharply dissonant with what either technologies constrained by the laws of nature or reasonable budgets can realistically achieve. Too low because our inner eye merely perceives the predominant path of its own choosing, not that surprisingly elastic range of contingencies the game will have to accommodate when confronted with a diverse range of players.
What your game needs is not a grand, cosmic Vision with a capital V. What your game needs is a sound, reasonable, and practical vision that elegantly translates into your design goal as part of your pitch, your proposal, and finally your GDD that will knock people’s socks off through clarity, beauty, conceptual integrity, and the promise of joy.
That’s what Ludotronics will help you achieve. That’s the thing.