Game Design Series I : Core Mechanic

Core mechanic is the center of a game, or the only thing that being nucleus of whole life of game. Core mechanic is statement of purpose of a game. Core mechanic is activity players perform again and again in a game however, in many games, the core mechanic is a compound activity composed of a…

Core mechanic is the center of a game, or the only thing that being nucleus of whole life of game. Core mechanic is statement of purpose of a game. Core mechanic is activity players perform again and again in a game however, in many games, the core mechanic is a compound activity composed of a suite of actions. The core mechanic in a game will usually be the purposeful interaction that occurs the most frequently. It has been defined as “the possible or preferred or encouraged means with which the player can interact with game elements as she is trying to influence the game state at hand towards the attainment of a goal” (Järvinen, Rollings and Adams, 2007).

As you can see, core mechanic can be described in many ways, but they clearly have common points. However, these explanations are insufficient for certainty. These explanations need to be examined in more detail. I will approach core mechanics with the traditional method “Core Diagram” and I will support it with feature-based approach.

Core Diagram

Core diagram is traditional and effective way to classified the game features and where come from and how link each other. It also provide to visualize the game elements.

The core mechanic in a game will usually be the purposeful interaction that occurs the most frequently. Another way to determine the core mechanic is, if without it, you wouldn’t be able to play the game at all.

The secondary mechanics are the interactions that happen less frequently. They could even be layered out from more frequent to least frequent.

Progression systems form the mechanical envelope of the game, being the source of change within the game system at a holistic level.

The Narrative layer is the outer most layer that puts all the inner layers within it into context.

The point behind this diagram is that every single mechanic or progress or narrative need to support core mechanic and should be part of it. Let’s get some samples core diagram.

First one is the diagram of Hearthstone or mostly card games like Hearthstone. As you see, every features supports the core. If would not, buying new cards or build a deck didn’t make a sense. Second one can be guessed from pig. It is the diagram of Angry Birds. In this model, we can see also the secondary mechanic connect to narrative. If we remove the narrative from secondary mechanic, it still link to the core, it is answer of “Why do we fling?”.

Features

Every single features which is added to game must be support the core mechanic or come from core mechanic. Features that don’t link to the core should be cut. Equally important to the core is this, every single feature and system in the game must make the core stronger or be necessary for it to exist in the first place. Should a feature fail to do this it should be cut or redesigned to strengthen the core. Considering the core, it will come with many features, but the ones that strengthen the core, are simple and do not disrupt the flow should be selected.

There are games with multiple cores, but they tend to suffer under this weight. Since the core directly affects the design, more than one core will direct the game to affect the game in its own direction and there will be confusion. At this stage, readers will most likely object that complex games like Grand Theft Auto V have such a vast number of mechanics, and so many are used to make the game progress, that the very use of the core mechanics concept may be useless. It is a valid point — complexity requires a precise terminology. Thus, I will use the concepts of primary (core) mechanics, secondary (core) mechanics and submechanics to solve some of these issues.

Primary mechanics can be understood as core mechanics that can be directly applied to solving challenges that lead to the desired end state. Primary mechanics are readily available, explained in the early stages of the game, and consistent throughout the game experience. Secondary mechanics, on the other hand, are core mechanics that ease the player’s interaction with the game towards reaching the end state. Secondary mechanics are either available occasionally or require their combination with a primary mechanic in order to be functional. The driving mechanic in Grand Theft Auto V is an example: it cannot be used exclusively to solve the main challenges of the game, but once mastered, it can prove of help to achieve the end state of the game. Submechanics are actions to the player as a consequence of the primary mechanic or actions the player does in a specific game state which occurs on some condition specified in the rules.

Core and Three Pillars

A game core is also supported by game pillars. Metaphorically, pillars support a roof just as pillars support a game. Pillars provide designers with constant reference points by which they judge the value of a feature. The concept of pillars is slightly different than a core in that it not only addresses the what, but the why and the how as well. Let’s look the picture below.

How do we use game cores and pillars? Well, once defined a game’s core allows us to focus our thoughts and the game’s features. If you’ve ever tried designing a video game, ideas are a dozen. Game cores allow you to focus your time and your budget on the stuff that will make the game stronger. Cores and pillars are not meant to constrain creativity, rather they’re great time saving and game improving filters.

Final Words

By consider the whole things we mentioned above, think of core experience of a game. The only thing that game is about. The game is created by its core like the thing which cause big bang in the middle of the infinite emptiness. By consider the whole things we mentioned above, think of core experience of a game. The only thing that game is about. The game is created by its core like the thing which cause big bang in the middle of the infinite emptiness. If you change the core you must check every feature of the game. Thereore,we need to think and decide first “What is the core? “. Running a country, going fast somewhere, killing or defence someplaces. Once you understand what a core is and know how to identify one practice thinking around possible core concepts. If you were to make the most dangerous game what would it be like? What is the one thing your game will be about?