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The "Turducken" Method of Game Design and Analysis: Using Compulsion Loops to Develop and Test Game Designs


"Compulsion loop" is one of the hotter current buzz phrases in game development. What, precisely, does it mean? And what is its practical, day-to-day value to a hardworking front-line designer, an IP-focused brand manager, a metrics-driven product manager, and an overloaded multi-project creative director? An engaging game design is like a delicious "turducken" (if you don't know what that is, ask Google). It is a tasty micro-experience wrapped in a juicy progression stuffed inside a crispy epic narrative, all which drive us to play just one more turn, just one more minute. To take one more bite. This game design "turducken" is built of layer upon layer of chained and nested compulsion loops -- those activity/reward/reveal cycles that are at the heart of successful games across many genres. This is not a theoretical talk. It is heavy on utilitarian, real-world methods for developing and analyzing game designs using an atomic unit of gameplay: the compulsion loop. The first part of this talk lays out a clear method for using compulsion loops as part of a rigorous method of game design analysis. The second half is devoted to using compulsion loop structures to accelerate, organize, and communicate game designs. To start, we move quickly through the definition of the term, giving clear examples from multiple game genres including Monkey Island, World of Warcraft, Civilization, Call of Duty, Frontierville, Chess, and Blackjack. This is followed by a step-by-step breakdown of an example game design to identify its elemental compulsion loops, and thereby judge where that game design will likely succeed and where it needs revision. Stepping from analysis to design, we discuss a practical method for incorporating compulsion loops into the creative process. We then walk through the game design process together, using compulsion loops to give our ideas structure and ensure player engagement.

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  • GDC Europe 2011
  • Kyle Brink
  • iWin
  • free content
  • Game Design
  • Design