Designing with PGDI: Selecting Components

This quarter, I am expected to present something at Open Studios, an event that showcases Digital Arts & New Media student work (plus a few diligent people), in various stages of completion, in a gallery-like setting. I went through a number of possible projects before I finally settled on Designing with PGDI. Designing with PGDI is a project that follows game creation from blank slate to a working game, using the Player-Game Descriptive Index (PGDI) as a tool for design. PGDI is a model I developed, over the past three years, for describing digital games (and apparently doors) and their players. Follow the link if you want to know more. The first part of the process is selecting some components to focus on for the game I’m going to design.

PGDI has 26 components, divided into six categories. The categories are largely organizational, but I put certain components together for a reason. For this project, I’ve decided a few things:

  1. The aim of the project is to evaluate PGDI as a tool for design, so concept generation is part of the project and is being documented (i.e., this post is part of that).
  2. I don’t want to focus on more than one component in a category. I think the systems will get too large for that.
  3. I don’t want to design for the social category. I don’t want to complicate things too much by adding other players into the mix.

That means I need to select five components, one each from the Participation, Mastery, Immersion, Customization, and Progression categories. An easy way to do this would be to carefully consider and select the components. A number of people have expressed a concern that this might lead to me making a game that fits categories I feel comfortable with, and so I won’t get the best results from the project.

I agree with this sentiment, and have chosen to go about this rather haphazardly. As a quick aside, I have participated in a number of game jam events (notably Ludum Dare). In these events, designers are given a randomly generated theme that is only revealed at the start of the event. I make this aside because I intend to incorporate something like it into my component selection process. Namely, I want to get a randomly generated set of components and use those components like these themes, driving the concept and the mechanics of the game.

To that end, I have done something very risky. I’m putting my game project into the hands of a random number generator. Oh, but not just any random number generator. I’m using the most human random number generator possible. That is, I asked my friends on Facebook. Specifically, I asked them to give me numbers, out of context, which I coded with arbitrary letters (A, B , C, D, E). Those arbitrary letters I assigned to each of the categories I was polling. In essence, I asked people for numbers in a certain range, and those numbers happen to coincide with the components I’m going to use.

Now, I’m not a masochist. I can’t make every game. So I’ve made a concession and gathered more than one set of these numbers. In fact, I have three such sets of numbers. In the end, I’m going to pick one set and use that to design a game. Below are the three sets I received. I haven’t decoded them yet, so hopefully I have something I can make. Perhaps I’ll post about possible designs for all three of them. What I hope is that I won’t be able to envision one game that can meet all three, since that would be very damaging for PGDI as a tool for design. Without further ado, I give you some tables.

Category Number Component
Participation 3 Power
Immersion 3 Excitement
Progression 1 Ability
Mastery 4 Process
Customization 2 Experimentation

Set 1

Set one suggests a game that is strongly influenced by Power, Excitement, Ability, Process, and Experimentation. There might be something here.

Category Number Component
Participation 1 Agency
Immersion 4 Instinct
Progression 2 Character
Mastery 3 Discovery
Customization 1 Building

Set 2

Set two suggests a game that is strongly influenced by Agency, Instinct, Character, Discovery, Building. This is a bit more esoteric. I’m not sure of my ability to make a game that focuses on instinct, much less one that also has a building component with character progression.

Category Number Component
Participation 3 Power
Immersion 2 Emotion
Progression 1 Ability
Mastery 5 Skill
Customization 4 Uniqueness

Set 3

Set three suggests a game that is strongly influenced by Power, Emotion, Ability, Skill, and Uniqueness. Power and Ability showed up a second time in this random assortment. I can get a feel for this, but it’s not as obvious to me as Set 1. With Emotion and Uniqueness, I can imagine some kind of social storytelling, but Power and Skill make this idea a bit unwieldy.

That’s all three sets. Feel free to comment and throw out suggestions, though I will probably wait to read any comments until I’ve thought about these more. I’m hoping to have the components selected and some vision of the game made by Tuesday. We’ll see how it goes.



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