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

Going Forward: Emergence and Complexity

emergence and complexity


From here, game mechanics become vastly more multifaceted. Now that the basics of game mechanics have been introduced, the truly complicated structures begin to take shape to create emergence and complexity. Emergence is the process by which the game becomes more complex and the player sees how all of the game’s elements come together to form the core experience. As the game emerges and reveals itself players are supposed to feel increasingly intrigued and investment in the gameplay. This part of the lesson is where we begin to layer simple mechanics to create interconnected choices for the player. It is important to remember that this is not dependent on complex rules but rather simple rules that combine to create complex behavior in the game design.


Design Mechanics, Hazards & Props That Work With & Complement Your Enemies


Think about the game itself and remember that in the bigger picture all of these game elements are supposed to be cohesive. Enemies, obstacles and props belong in the game world and are a natural part of it, and the player character is a part of the same world with the same physics, graphical style, etc. For a specific example consider a platform obstacle that has an enemy waiting on the other end. If the enemy is armed with a projectile, this could get tricky. You can use a moving platform with a projectile enemy to create a complementary effect where the player must ride the platform while jumping to avoid projectiles and then defeat the enemy while escaping the platform in time.


If you use props you can have your enemies or obstacles interact with them to create more interesting gameplay. Consider a destructible building prop or structure where you can have enemies that charge through the structures out of nowhere to ambush the player. You should design your jumping distances to match the size and movement patterns of your platforms and terrain. If you want to create time-sensitive hazards – like a steam vent that turns on and off in a pattern where the player runs through – you have to make sure the player character can move fast enough to make it through the most narrow windows that your challenges require. Don’t make a vent that goes on and off so fast the player can barely get through 9 times out of 10.


Enemies in the best cases should be able to interact with or use props like players can. When an enemy can use a “buff” technique of some kind which increases their stats in some way, like stealing the player’s power-up, it gives the player an incentive to try hard but it also creates an extra dimension of danger and excitement. Some players will let the enemy power up to take on a challenge. An enemy’s mechanics matter too. In general it’s easier if small enemies have similar mechanics to other smalls, medium enemies have similar mechanics while bigger enemies or bosses tend to be more unique and built with mechanics specific to their scene or a superpower of some kind. 

Sample Movement Chart to Keep Track of Speeds for Various Game Elements 

                                                    jump speed        movement speed     projectile speed       timed obstacles 

base 2                                               2                                4                                  8                          20-40

base 3                                               3                                6                                 12                         30-60

base 5                                               5                               10                                15                         25-75 


By smaller types and medium types having similar mechanics we don’t mean identical gameplay elements. An enemy can have a flying speed that is similar to a completely different enemy’s walking speed. Similar can mean that if enemy 1 is walking at speed 3 then enemy 2 flies at speed 6. These speeds are related to each other evenly in simple math (2×3=6) and patterns like this are naturally more pleasing to the human brain. Any old combination of speeds might seem fine to have on screen at the same time, but it’s easier to keep up with if mechanics are similar or multiples of a central number. I like to make games based on 2, 3 or 5. Speeds for the game, the jump distances, time settings, etc. will usually always be based on the number 2, 3 or 5. Think of a game where a player character jumps up with a speed of 3, moves with speed 6, shoots projectiles that move at speeds 9-15, and conquers timed obstacles that give 30 or 60 seconds to finish. That’s neat, clean and easy to keep up with as good coding usually is. You can plan this out in advance before you start your game to give yourself an advantage when you start development.