Game Design Tips From 5 Games I’ve Enjoyed

Here are five games that have impacted my game design.

#1 – Sims
Sims was one of the simulation games I enjoyed a lot. There’s a lot to learn from this game, and here’s one key game design lesson: players enjoy simulation games where there are humans in the game. Sims does a lot of things good – but in my mind, I believe one of the big reasons for why Sims is such a popular game is that you can easily relate to the characters in the game.

#2 – Battle For Middle Earth
Another game I’ve enjoyed playing a lot. There’s some game design lessons that can be applied (especially for RTS games). First tip is to use different units. I really love how they’ve done it. There’s different units that can be countered with other units. Each side has different weapons. Great license and innovation in the building structures are also worth remembering (you can’t build freely in the game, instead there’s only dozen of spots where you can build something – that’s pretty creative in my opinion).

#3 – Kudos
There’s great lesson in this indie game: 2D can beat 3D (not that it automatically will, but it can). Basically Kudos is “just” a game where you click buttons and new text appears and numbers change. Technically it doesn’t sound amazing, but the gameplay is simply superb – and 2D fits very well for the game style. You can find Kudos and other games from Positech website.

#4 – Sid Mayer’s Pirates (on Commodore 64)
In the C64 version I played the gameplay was so that if you sailed to the west it took you ages to get back to the east. The wind was so that sometimes you could go pretty fast north or south, but to east it always took ages. It practices some patience (since it took half an hour to get back to where you wanted) but I believe in terms of game design there’s a lesson: don’t bore your players with traveling. Another tip worth remembering (for any simulation game) is that trading stuff is fun: I really enjoyed buying different spices and guns from one city and then selling them in some other city.

#5 – Civilization
If Sims taught us that controlling a human character in games is fun, then Civilization sure shows that controlling a nation can be fan too. Civilization has lots of powerful game design elements that can be used: showing progress and rankings for example – it was nice to see how advanced civilization you had compared to others. Different ways to win the game was also pretty good idea: it was nice to win the game by having different goals.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Tip #2 is not true in my case :P

    I enjoyed a lot the BFME I & II games, but I hated the first one’s fixed building placement. I prefer C&C free, zone based building.

    Tip #5 is really true. And with Alpha Centaury Sid did it even better, by allowing you to even build/customise your own vehicles and really having different ways to win (becoming friendly with the aliens for example).

  2. Regarding Kudos, there’s a lot of 3D graphics, though static, prerendered. So I guess your point is that static graphics can beat dynamic ones.

  3. Tip 4 is my favourite !

    The first ZELDA on N64 solve quiet well this problem. They give you an horse ! and they also use the horse to solve some egnime.

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