Designing with PGDI: Set 1 Conceptualization

In the last post, I randomly generated some PGDI components to use in driving the design of a game from blank slate to playable game. To do that, I polled a social media network for numbers and assigned them to the components. I got three sets from people, and so I’m going to examine each set of components individually. The aim with these Set conceptualizations is to come up with a good idea for something to explore. This will be pretty freeform. A lot of this is freewriting, rather than structured writing. By Tuesday, I’m going to be selecting one of these design ideas for going forward.

First, here’s the components for Set 1.

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

So, let’s think about this game. Players feeling like they have a strength or are stronger than something else is important to the game. The player also needs to have a mirrored sense of tension. Perhaps the tension of this game is related to that feeling of power. The game is going to be largely ability locked, that is, the player advances from beginning to end by gaining and using abilities. Process, but not skill is important to the game, so it is more important to understand how systems work in the game than it is to perform actions. Perhaps this is a game about manipulating systems. This is supported by experimentation, which deals with playing around with different actions in the world and combining them to new aims.

The odd component out is Excitement. With the other components, one could imagine a game where the player has some kind of god-like power to change systems and affect the game in certain ways, perhaps driving agents to interact, and maybe searching for and gaining new systems to implement over time. But Excitement? Excitement is a physical response in the player. It gets the heart racing. It provides a sense of vertigo. It makes players hold their breath. And I think that that can be found in this game, I just have to make sure that that feeling is as important to the game as any of the other components listed here.

So, what I’m thinking is this. You have all these systems that you can manipulate and the manipulation of those systems interacts with the game world in some way. The game world is inherently dangerous. That is, there should be some concept of needing to use the systems in order to survive. As the game goes on, the manipulation of the systems needs to be done faster or more frequently. This rise in tension will mirror in the player, and emphasize the need to master the systems. Players will need to find additional systems to complete tasks in the game. The systems should be simple overall, and should be able to work together in some way. Thus, turning on multiple systems will have different, combined effects, derived from how the various systems work individually. Another way to think about this: perhaps all the systems are available from the beginning, but the ability to use more than one at a time is not available.

At this point, I saved this draft and got some sleep. The following thinking happened at the end of the next day.


After a day of thinking about things, I still am having a bit of a problem coming up with just the right game for this set of components. The main thing that is throwing everything off is that Excitement component. But, here are a few things I’ve come up with overall.

I realized that I was approaching process from the wrong direction. Process isn’t about using systems (though it can lead to that). It’s about mastering those systems. It’s about knowing how the systems work and interact. This is a good pairing with Experimentation. Because Experimentation and Process are both here, I need a game that will be able to address both. This means that the game will contain a few complicated systems for players to understand, and the player will have the freedom to control those systems.

The fact that Power is present in this set suggests to me that this game will surround a powerful being, perhaps a minor god of some kind, which the player controls. This might match with Ability, as the player’s power might expand based on how many followers they have, or something like that. I think that the gameplay needs to forefront the idea that the power could be taken away at any time, if the player fails in some way. This is to create something that the player will feel tied to, and threatening that in some way can help get to Excitement. The Excitement will come in the form of tension. The player will need to feel like they have more things to worry about as time goes on in the game.

So here’s what I’m thinking. Keep in mind that the details will be fleshed out over the course of the concept phase, if I go forward with this idea. The idea is that you play as a civic leader who is on the cusp of godhood. The people trust you and revere you, and you have some minor sacred power, but you’re not a real god yet. To get there, you need to gain the favor of the gods, and develop a following.

The game would focus on two major systems, that of a town where you rule, and the place of the gods, where you make appeals for power. As systems, the player needs to understand how to collect followers and appease the various gods, without creating enemies or rivals in the town, or enmity and jealousy in the gods.

On top of that, in order to make appeals to the gods, you need to travel through a dangerous and changing landscape, which gets more treacherous as you gain more power. Plus, you have to do that quickly and efficiently, as the severity of issues that arise in your town or amongst the gods becomes more and more dire. In the beginning, it will be pretty easy, almost laughably so, to emphasize the sense of power you begin with.

The threat of succumbing to a god’s rage, being lynched by an angry mob, or being devastated by the perilous path should provide enough tension to fulfill the Excitement component. The Ability component will come into play by needing to appeal for more power to solve the problems of the people, while the gods will be paying attention to how many followers you have and what those followers are doing. Keep in mind that the Ability component can be as simple as acquiring keys to be able to unlock parts of the game. In this case, it will be acquiring gifts of the gods as well as followers.

Experimentation will come into play as you can get favor from different gods and this will affect how the game plays out.Essentially, you can appeal to different gods and they will give you different gifts, and your choice of what to take will affect how the gifts affect the town, and how the gods favor you. There should not be a single route to victory, as the game is essentially attempting to balance two unequal systems, to gain favor. This shows how the Process component is being focused on. The player is in a place of power and it is very obvious that this is the case, and gaining more power is the focus of the game, so the Power component is satisfied.

Some title ideas: “God-King”, “Sacred King”, “Ascension”, “Minor God”, “Small God”, “Gaining Favor”, and “But for the Grace of the Gods” (that last one is a reference).


So, that’s what I’ve come up with. It wasn’t easy. This set really had a big curve ball in it. I hope my rambling wasn’t too difficult to follow. I know that this style of freeform writing can be a bit rough to read after the fact, but I’m really trying to make my concept generation transparent. Let me know what you think about this idea that I finally got around to. Are there any pitfalls you see? Do you think one of the components isn’t getting enough attention here? For those who know the model well enough, are some of the other components bleeding through and showing stronger than these components?

The next Designing with PGDI post will be looking at set 2. For those who need a refresher, set 2 looks like this:

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

Some other ideas I had:

  • A vehicle that had multiple controls, but each could only be operated by a single individual (you picked up more on the way).
  • A system of possession where you:
    • Took control of people and led them on pilgrimages where they would gain power and the ability to possess another person.
    • Influenced that person to procreate with particular people to create a strong, magical bloodline.
  • A robot where you had to find components that gave it multiple abilities to use over time.
  • An airship/space captain who managed a crew and told them how to fly a craft, though had no direct control.
    • This included needing to get crew members to like you, so they would listen to your orders more readily.
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