Game Design Theory Level 4 – Advanced Game Mechanics and HUD / GUI Elements

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Game Design 404 – Advanced Game Mechanics…

Course Dates: Open-ended
Enrollment Dates: Enroll Anytime
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Course Structure

Building the Nuts and Bolts of Your Game 

So far we’ve gone over the most fundamental decisions about your game from the main character, story / plot, to combat and level design. Along the way we’ve learned a ton about how to design a unique and interesting framework to use as our guiding outline for an incredible game. Now it’s time to start filling in the details and the gaps in your game’s design and it’s Game Design Document. You need to be aware of how mechanics affect your game’s design fundamentally. Mechanics can lock you in to the way the game must look – due to animating various effects or sprites to achieve a mechanic, or the way the game “feels” to the player – if the mechanic is too powerful it dulls the game and if it’s not powerful enough it’s pointless and frustrating. There are lots of factors you need to consider when designing the game, and the actual mechanics ironically should be one of the last things because these will be the only thing changed significantly over the course of development. The story will same roughly the same, the game’s levels will still have a theme and the overall visual style will still be same because the art is already made. It’s the mechanics which will first designed and then created with code, tested and tweaked repeatedly. Most game development teams even make a separate Technical Design Document for the game that specifically details the technical details and processes involved with the game. 

mechanics vs gimmicks

Once we’ve went over the last topics related to mechanics, we’ll talk about the system of rewards and progression in your game as well as the economy. The player upgrades in the game are usually accompanied by an increase in spending money and also a variety of things to buy. There are guidelines that will help you develop a solid economic system that behaves the way you intend it to. We’ll discuss how to keep players interested and tips for introducing new abilities and making them fun to use. We’ll also discuss special power-ups and abilities that you may choose to give characters and some tips for managing and balancing these perks. 

Finally we’ll give students some techniques and hints for designing the Head’s Up Display (HUD – the icons which appear on-screen during the game) and also the game’s Graphic User Interface (GUI – The game’s menus, load screens, inventory and bonus material areas like trophy rooms, concept art galleries and literature). Students will learn great tips for keeping their game’s interface neat and clean with clear communication of the necessary information. We’ll give you common sense tips that will help you focus on creating a coherent experience with an accessible interface.  

  Along the way we’ll show you how to properly document your game’s design and outline with real world examples and tips from professional game developers. Documentation is essential for keeping track of information, game systems, characters, resources, ideas and concepts. All of this information needs to be organized, categorized and updated regularly for many reasons. An organized Game Design Document (GDD) is key to pitching a game, selling a game, working with teams so they understand your project and basically just a good idea to have so you can organize everything related to your project.


Course Overview:

Section 1 – Game Mechanics

This section reviews what mechanics are, their overall role in the game development process, genre-specific game mechanics, and tips for using mechanics to build the best possible game.

Section 2 – Power-ups, Game Economies and Player Upgrades

Consider how people make decisions in general when deciding what options to make available to players.

Section 3 – HUD / GUI Elements

This section will go over level design techniques that will keep players informed and focused on the variety of gameplay experiences around them.





At the end of the course students will have the knowledge necessary to understand the major decisions that need to be made in order to move forward in the design process. Students will also know how to properly document these major decisions along with all the information related to their project in an organized Game Design Document. This course prepares students for Level 4 of the Game Design Theory Curriculum which covers empowering the player, game economies, HUD / GUI, logical game mechanics and flow, troubleshooting / debugging and critical thinking. Upon completion of this third course students earn the title of “Video Game Level Designer” in the Game Development Guild.


 We would like to give a special thanks to our friends at GG Dev Pro for allowing us to use some of their material in our lessons.