Feb 16, 2006

Scientifically Measuring Games

Carpe Delirium attempts to create a heuristic method for evaluating game designs.

* Originality - It possesses elements that have never, or at least not in this particular combination, been part of a game before.
* Freshness and replayability - It is different each time it is played. Repetition in sequence, progress, and events are avoided.
* Match between system and the theme - The system uses concepts intuitive and familiar to the players through their understanding of the theme.


* Complexity and target groups - The complexity of the game rules is consistent with the target audience for the game.
* Complexity and influence - The complexity of the game rules is commensurate with the player'’s level of influence over the course of the game.
* Learning - The presentation and order of the rules make the game easy to learn.
* Playing Aids - Summaries of often-used, complex information are provided for players.
* Completeness - Rules cover all possible occurrences in game play. Players can easily find answers to rules questions.

Player Involvement

* Player desire - Players want to play it again.
* Player influence - Players have the opportunity to affect the games progress and direction. They play the game, the game does not play them.
* Tension - There are no long periods of relatively low tension. The game gets to the action relatively quickly.
* Reasonable waiting times - Players are not subjected to long periods of inactivity while they wait their turns. Players act simultaneously or are involved in others' turns.
* Meaningful choices - At any decision point a player has small number of meaningful choices. There should not be one option which is optimal for all decision points.

Balance Issues

* Equal opportunity - The initial state of the game gives every player an equal chance of winning.
* Turn order - Overall the first and last players should have neither an advantage nor a disadvantage over the rest of the field.
* No early elimination - All players are involved in the game until it'’s almost over.
* No runaway leaders - Every player has at least a theoretical and preferably a practical possibility of winning until the very end.
* No "kingmaker effect" - A player who no longer has any hope of winning cannot somehow determine the winner.


* Recognition rather than recall - The game components make the game status visible, minimizing the players'’ memory load. A player should not have to remember information from one part of the game to another.
* Legibility - Text is clearly legible and tokens are clearly distinguishable.
* Uniformity - The title, theme, format, and graphics give a unified impression of the game.
* Component quality - Components are durable, functional, visually and tactilely appealing.
I don't agree with everything said, but I believe that this list is quite useful as a sort of checklist for a designer to go over with each major iteration of a design.


  1. Anonymous3:36 PM

    If you get a game to meet all of these criteria and you aim it at the 12-60 market you’ll have another Monopoly, Risk, or Trivial Pursuit on your hands. Having said that, if you focus on another demographic and increase complexity you’ll still have another hit i.e. Puerto Rico. I know you’d love to have your game be compared to your two favorite games of all time, Risk and Puerto Rico, but the point is those are successful for a reason; the reasons listed above.

  2. Okay, I don't mean to force myself to meet all of these requirements. But I think that at least keeping them in mind when taking "big picture" assessments of your design can remind you of concerns that you might have myopically overlooked.