Game Design: How to Create Video

and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish

Lewis Pulsipher

Table of Contents

(The page numbers are not accurate because this TOC is from the original manuscript. It does show the contents of the book.)


Chapter 1 The Process of Game Design

What is it like to be a designer?

A. Ideas, and how little they have to do with success

Ideas Alone Are Worthless!

Getting Ideas

“Stealing” Ideas

Recording Ideas

B. Origins of Games

Theme or atmosphere (story, title, image, emotion)


A particular game, a game system, or a genre


Components (primarily tabletop games)



And a last admonition about origins of games . . .

C. The core of a good game design process (no, not ideas)

D. Developing a game concept: what should you ask yourself?

E. The processes involved in game design: a systematic view of game design

The Processes

Conceive and refine ideas

Play game in “mind’s eye”—thought experiments

Conceive game, structure, framework

Create and refine prototype

Write notes-rules-software

Solo playtest

Playtest with others


Alternative ways to look at the process (MDI/MDA)

Stages of game design–average time spent on each

F. The structural parts of a game, from a design point of view


Player Interaction rules (and number of players)

Objective/victory conditions

“Data storage”. (Information Management)



Information availability

Conflict resolution/interaction of game entities

"Economy" (resource acquisition/conversion)

G. Some essential questions you should ask yourself about your design

“Distinct” questions (yes/no, or just a few possible answers): (“digital-style” questions)

Spectrum questions (a wide range of possibilities along a spectrum, “analog-style” questions)

Other questions

H. What’s important in designing games, in “one page”

I. What’s important in designing video games specifically,
in “one page”

J. Maxims of game design

K. Examples of early notes for some games


Chapter 2 How someone learns to design games

A. The immediate objective of an aspiring game designer

B. Differences and similarities of video games and tabletop games

C. Why aspiring designers should start with tabletop games

D. Why no one can make a AAA video game by himself

E. Derivative/subsidiary forms of video game a beginner can make

F. How one person can make a complete video game from scratch, rather than modify an existing one

G. Traditional games are NOT a good guide to what we can do with tabletop games







Checkers (Draughts)



H. Formal Education

I. Math


Chapter 3 What is a game and what makes it a good game?

A. What is a “game?”

B. The characteristics of good games?

C. What makes a game “Epic” or even "Great"?

1) Scope

2) Player commitment

3) Tension and memorability

Great Games

D. Why people play games

Something can be enjoyable or challenging to some, yet certainly not enjoyable or challenging to others


E. The elements of a game

F. What games actually amount to
(A list)



G. The kinds of interaction that occur in games
(A list and diagram)

H. The types of challenges in games
(A list)

Physical challenges

Mental challenges

I. Checklist/reminder list for gameplay characteristics


Chapter 4 You must know your audience/target market

A. What are game designers trying to achieve?

B. Some game playing styles that designers must take into account

Reaction to Chaos and Randomness

Role of Chance

C. Differences between hard core and casual video gamers
(A list)

D. Video Games and Tabletop Games are becoming more alike

E. Who plays games, and what kinds of games do they play?

F. Characteristics of "21st century" games


Chapter 5 Making a playable prototype


A. What to know about making playable prototypes

Don’t Worry about Prettiness

B. The formal video game design document and how to write a good one

What is it, and what is it not?

Why write a game design document

C. The video game concept document (pitch document)

D. Typical problems when people first try to write video game concepts and design documents

E. Video game documents–examples

Dragons’ Rage High Concept

Conquest High Concept

The Fury of the Northmen High Concept

F. Making tabletop/paper game prototypes (physical details)


Chapter 6 How to work with and improve the prototype

A. The purpose of playtesting

B. The stages of playtesting

Solo Testing

Local Testing

“Blind”/External Testing

Rules testing vs. bug testing

C. What to look for in the playtesters

D. What to look for in the play of the game

What you're doing

What the players are doing

How the game plays

How the game works

E. Is the Interface Good?

F. Simplifying a Game

G. What to do with the results: Change, change, change–love it or fail

What to do with the feedback

H. When/how do you know it's worth pursuing further?

I. Checklist/reminder list for gameplay characteristics

J. When is it “done”?”

K. Playtesting questionnaires


Chapter 7 Designing levels (stages, scnearios) for video (and tabletop) games

A. What are you doing when you make a level?

B. The process of creating a level

C. Points to consider when originating a level



D. What is the situation, what are the characters,
what is the plot or context?

E. What kinds of obstacles might be in a level? (a list)

F. Kinds of quests (a list)

G. "Bosses"

H. Some level design Dos and Don'ts

I. Document editing advice
(A list)

J. Brief examples of level design documents


Chapter 8 Some specific video-game issues and genres

A. Life is different for a full-time video game designer compared with a freelance game designer

B. What you must know about video game genres

C. Stories, narratives, and "sandboxes"

D. World-Building

E. The Interface

F. Too much like work

G. Products versus services, retail versus free

H. Is creativity important in video game design?


Chapter 9 Designing specific types of games

A. Multi-sided games

B. Social networking games

C. MMOs (massively multiplayer online games)

D. Casual/”short experience”/mobile games

E. “Serious” games (education and training)

F. RPG (role-playing games)

G. CCG/TCG (collectible/tradable card games)


Chapter 10 Reference lists and resources

A. List of possibilities in each of the nine structural sub-systems of games

B. Some books about game design

C. Classic games an aspiring game designer should know (brief descriptions)

Video Games

Tabletop Games

D. Software for video game production (brief descriptions)

E. Software for tabletop/paper game production (brief descriptions)

F. Sources of pieces for tabletop/paper games

G. Online Resources (web sites, files, forums)


Glossary for Game Designers