Started on a new university project and we are supposed to be keeping a weekly blog up so I guess I will start here. In this project my role is that of a Designer and Artist. I fill in niches and help getting bigger parts done most of the time right now though.
So this week my work has been separated into 2 different artifacts if we could say that. My job is to finish both the elevator pitch and the MDA Framework for our small game. I’m mostly going to write about the MDA Framework here.
So what is an MDA Framework? First off MDA stands for Mechanics, Dynamics and Aesthetics, so the overall framework is a breakdown of these 3 things. It explains the Aesthetics, the Mechanics and the Dynamics of the game you are playing.
Mechanics are the underlying rules of the game and is one of the things that the MDA framework explains. Everything that happens inside the game adheres to the mechanics of it. For example in our game we have a light mechanic. This light mechanic is tied to objects inside the game and what it does is that it depicts how much light a specific object creates and in what shape this light is created (for example a Flashlight creates a cone of light while a lamp would create a circle of light). This light then decides if enemies are able to detect the specific objects.
Dynamics are how the player interacts with the set of mechanics the game presents. It is what the player does with the mechanics that are given to them. An example mechanic would be the Bait dynamic in our game. The bait dynamic is specifically created so that our player can attract guards. This is due to the Sound mechanic and the Detection mechanic of our game.
By using our sound mechanic a player can attract guards; this is due to guards trying to find the source of the sound (detection mechanic). This means a player can draw the attention of guards, but then sneak by them afterwards.
Lastly we have the Aesthetics. The Aesthetics of a game is what the player feels when playing the game. It defines if they are feeling like a smart agent, a superhero or a villain. These feelings are created by the player exploring the dynamics by using the mechanics and if a game does not fulfill its Aesthetic goals the design of the mechanics and dynamics are failing to deliver and need to be re-iterated.
The reason why this is important is due to it being the defining part of a game; it is how everyone on a team can quickly refer to a common ground of design ideas to work by. Giving a greater sense of direction within the team and this becomes even more important when working on bigger projects than our current game. But it doesn’t lose its importance on small projects.
How I’ve done this is by breaking down our core ideas on how to create an exciting game and using parts of the game design we chose as a team to build from. Following this I wrote down our aesthetic goals, how we wanted our game to feel to a player. This was the easiest part since I was free to write down how we thought the player would feel or how we as a team wanted the player to feel.
After I had written these downs I started working on the mechanics by using the ideas of the team and the game design, writing down every rule that the player and the game had to adhere to. This part was harder and took more time than I had imagined as it required a lot of knowledge about the game, some which had not yet been defined.
When the Mechanics was finished, I started writing down the Dynamics, The dynamics needed to be as a bridge, created a net between the mechanics and the aesthetics. When writing these I had to make sure all our mechanics was used in a dynamic within the game and that all these mechanics helped fulfilling our aesthetic goals.
So to wrap it up, the mechanics of the game is the rules, the dynamics are how the player is using them and the aesthetics are what the player is supposed to feel. If you find the MDA Framework exciting and want to know more you should read “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research “ by Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc and Robert Zubek.
Have a goodnight by a Van and a Game Designer.