Design pillars are a tool for game designers to keep themselves on-track. Every time a new mechanic, a part of the UI, a piece of art – anything – is to be added, changed, or removed, it should be checked against the design pillars. “Is this change at odds with the design pillars, or does it agree with and reinforce them?” If it’s at odds, it’s probably a good sign that the change should not be implemented.
It can also be useful to occasionally look over the game while keeping the pillars in mind, to try and find anything already in place that goes against the pillars. If such a thing is found, it may need to be changed, or even removed.
While these pillars are not absolute, changing them would signify a huge shift in the game.
Easy to Learn; Hard to Master
Mysterious Space should be easy to learn to play; it’s difficulty should never come from the player not understanding what they’re seeing or hearing, or not understanding how to complete an action they want to complete.
At the same time, beating Mysterious Space should be hard! Sure, you should know what the goals are, and have some notion of how to get there, but to actually achieve those goals…
Something New Every Time You Play
This is the way of Rogue-likes, and most games that put procedurally-generated content front-and-center, and if Mysterious Space is going to ask you to play again and again in order to master it, then every time you play should be an opportunity for you to see something you’ve never seen before. Procedurally generated content is a great way to do this!
But it doesn’t need to be the ONLY way!
Unlockable content… alternative modes of play… different strategies to victory… Mysterious Space should explore all these possibilities! Relying on procedurally-generated content alone will not be enough!
A Glimpse of A Possible Future: The Singularity
Mysterious Space is set in a time when the human race is changing in ways never seen before: true virtual reality made possible by nanobots, technologically-enhanced humans, and artificial intelligence are all here, and their impact on human civilization is great.
The setting is largely based on The Singularity is Near, a fun book by Ray Kurzweil. If you’ve never heard of The Singularity, read this book, or at least look it up. (Though I would also strongly recommend reading The Drunkards Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, by Leonard Mlodinow, to remind yourself just how bad humans are at predicting the future… sorry, Ray.)
Currently, Mysterious Space is very weak on this pillar – it does not convey the setting well – but this will change…