Design diaries are always entertaining to read if you’re into gaming, especially when they are about games that stood out. This diary is from the makers of the fantastic, and somber, This War of Mine ($1.99) and is a great inside look on how this heart-wrenching game came about. The blog focuses on player choice, especially the process of designing a system that organically leads to meaningful choices through gameplay. The first consideration was creating strong player motivation beyond the external kind that’s usually at the heart of most games (beating a level, reaching a boss, collecting, etc). By creating a strong narrative, players sacrifice efficiency for the sake of staying true to the game’s fiction – like walking around cities in an MMO even though it’s a waste of time.
This War of Mine took advantage of the conflict between optimal choice and narrative coherence by dangling the carrot of the need to gather as much resources as possible – since it’s a survival game – while at the same time giving players a narrative full of moral dilemmas. For instance, there are supplies for the taking if you don’t mind taking out the old guy who has them. Overall, a great peak into designing This War of Mine and highly recommended.