The 7 Worst Game Design Mistakes

Mistake #1 – Designing a game like “hit game” but better
I’ve guilty of this. I remember wanting to create games like “Warcraft or better” or like “Diablo but better” (10 years ago) and there’s couple of reasons why this is bad: first of all it hardly brings much innovation in the genre. And secondly, that design (and business opportunity) has already been taken. Designing a game that’s already been seen won’t simply bring creating innovative games – and might not be financially intelligent.

Mistake #2 – Copying design from other games
Blatantly cloning some hit genre can be a good strategy in some situations (if you are fast, and can make it work), but it won’t work for long since others are going to do that same faster than spam spreads in the Internet. If you simply copy some other game, without adding any depth into it, you are simply cloning something that won’t help you much.

While sometimes “making bit better games” or even “cloning games” might be okay, I really wish to see some things made really good and polished.

Mistake #3 – Not copying design from other games
I think it’s also mistake not to copy something from other games, and trying to come up with totally 100% creative design. I think the groundwork for designing games has been done to help you design better games – so there’s no reason why not take something that works, and build on that.

You may also “borrow” design from other game types. Look board games for example: there’s lots of turn based board games that would make fine real-time strategy games, if you add some depth into them. There’s lots to learn from other games.

Mistake #4 – Leaving too open design
I think that it’s better to get something small finished, than leave something big unfinished. I’ve seen people designing games by leaving the design so wide open that it scares me. They tell (and I’ve been guilty of this as well) that in this game “everything is possible” – and they want to make sure that game design is open for changes. While changes are necessity, leaving big design totally open will most likely belong to category called “almost finished” – something that probably won’t ever be done.

Mistake #5 – making too strict design
The other mistake to do, is to make too strict design that isn’t open for changes. There might be reason for having certain design and stick to it… but if for some reason players don’t like the design – then it needs some changes. And if you don’t allow changes in your design, you are facing a big problem as people simply won’t like your design.

Mistake #6 – Forgetting little things
We all should learn from Japanese. Just watch some anime series (like Fullmetal Alchemist) and pay attention to the details the drawers do. They draw beautiful scenes that might be seen like 2 seconds. They spend a lot of time for something that has no pretty much practical value: There’s all kind of details that please the eye. While these details aren’t the core of the series, they show that these people are dedicated to bring quality work – and it shows.

Similarly it’s good to put some effort to making details in the game design. They can be anything from butterflies that give you extra points, or special animations that might have nothing to do with the actual gameplay… they might be anything in the design that really doesn’t matter in terms of points – but matters in terms of seeing a polished games. Tiny details are important, don’t forget them. They can give your player the feeling of playing a polished game.

Mistake #7 – Forgetting big things
While tiny details are important… I wouldn’t base my game design on small things alone. The big or major things that define the main design must be finished first. That’s the heart of the game – and it must be fun. I’ve started designing games from points like “collecting rocks” (still have open ideas what to do with this game – and the big thing might be missing here) and “piling boxes” (very basic concept, yet pretty fun according to players – the big thing was remembered here) and that makes all the difference.

Bottom line
Concentrate on big issues, but don’t forget tiny details. Don’t clone games, instead learn from them. Have a clear design that’s open for changes.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Sarper: thanks

    Anne: well… actually they were the first that came to my mind. I’m sure there’s plenty of more “worst mistakes”…

    papamook: glad you like ’em.

  2. Very good article.You can add the “beatiful technology, no fun / no gameplay” mistake too!

    Even the producers of AAA titles do these mistakes a lot! Doom3 for instance, have great graphics but boring and repeatitive gameplay which makes the gamers forget Doom3 in less than 6 months.I rather play old titles like Moonstone, Vikings, Theme Hospital, which are no great great graphics but legendary gameplay :)


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