How to Structure a Game in Gamestar Mechanic

Every game in Gamestar Mechanic is built on some sort of structure. In a maze game, the maze is a structure that connects the various challenges and goals. In a survival game, the structure is created by the combination of goals and rules that determine the player's strategy.

Structures are an interesting art form. Whether it's the design of the rooms in your level, the use of enemies to guide the player around the level, or the goals and rules that govern the experience, a structure should be well-designed — though it can be creatively designed as well. The following sections provide tips for setting up various structures of a game.

Setting up a floor plan for your game

Floor plan refers to the structure of your game space. Think about how a building is laid out, with the rooms fitting together so that everything is neatly accessible. If you use nothing but avatars and enemies in your game, the floor plan will probably be a rectangle, defined by the boundaries of the level. However, you can use sprites, such as blocks, to break the level into several rooms of different shapes and arrangements.

The following figure shows a game with an interesting floor plan. Its portals lead to separate rooms in which the player can find keys that are necessary to navigate to the right side of the level. By creating four paths that split off from the main, left-to-right course, the designer makes an interesting nonlinear structure for the level. The player must go down each of the vertical paths before continuing to the right.

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Other floor plans can include open-world games, where players can go wherever they want, with only the marginal use of walls and barriers or giant objects (such as islands and monsters made of blocks that the player can navigate around).

Putting together challenges and goals

The structure of your game determines when the player faces challenges and completes goals. For example, if a game is structured so that a challenge lies in the path to a goal, the player must clear the challenge to reach the goal.

Always set every goal behind at least one challenge. This requirement becomes especially evident in games where a player has to hit a goal block or collect a certain number of points. If a player doesn't face a challenge in obtaining the goal, he gets no sense of worth or satisfaction from it. To work challenges into the structure of your game, consider the routes the player must take to reach every goal, and then consider the challenges that inhabit those routes — flowcharts (or graphs that map out functions through paths and potential routes) can be quite useful in this regard.

A timer or an energy meter can be a great addition, especially on small levels. When you impose a universal time limit, the system sprites can make every part of the level more challenging.

Finding beauty in structures

When the components of your game are arranged in an interesting way, the structure of the game becomes entertaining in its own right. Original structures, such as neatly shaped levels and innovative combinations of goals and rules, can improve or even define the gameplay and visuals.

The following figure shows an advanced game structure. It's a perfect squared square, which is a square composed of many squares (each a different size). In the complete game, each square may contain a challenge or a goal — or both. The squares may be connected by portals or pathways, with their difficulties sorted by room size, color, or position. You can discover all kinds of original structures of many sizes and types, so be sure to look for inspiration in designing your own.

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