Runes : Game Design Test
In early June 2021, I applied for a Game Designer position in a French Studio and I joined the selection process. The company sent me a Game Design test. I spent a week working on this and I would like to share the work I have done.
This Studio is currently working on a mobile MMORPG game designed for children aged from 7 to 10 years-old. Their project aims at developing cognitive functions in order to help them discover and learn how their brain works.
The Game Design test:
I received the following instructions:
You have to design a minigame respecting these rules:
- 2 minutes long at most.
- Mobile Game (tablet).
- No violence.
- Can be instantiated anywhere inside the game’s world. If a specific environment is needed, please describe it.
- Player have to interact with the game environment. Specific objects can appear if needed but it needs to be coherent.
- All actions from the player character are locked (forget about him).
- The minigame aims at improving player’s attention and memory. This is the main priority.
We need you to write a Game Design Document that could be given to a development team. They should be able to develop you work without asking any question. If you need specific asset, please describe them.
As a former primary school teacher, I have some knowledge about cognitive functions. Still, before trying to design anything, I went through a lot of documentation regarding attention improvement. I did not wanted to imagine a game that was fun and then try to adjust the gameplay to improve focus. I worked the opposite way. First, I found multiple proven ways to enhance attention capabilities, I choose one method that I liked and only then I designed the minigame.
The method I choose is the “Funnel Method”, which aims at improving the subject’s capacity to fix his attention on something and to control the amount that he needs for a specific task.
I was able to get this general pattern for my minigame owing to those researches:
Summary of my Game Design Document:
My work is available for download with the below links. It was originally written in French and was then translated into English.
I imagined a game where the player has to remember a sequence of runes. He has a short amount of time to memorise them, then he needs to select the correct ones in the right order to progress inside the minigame.
The sequence he has to memorise is always composed by 12 runes and is split into multiple sub-sequences. When a sub-sequence is valid, all runes are shown again and so on.
To complete the minigame, the player needs to pass all 4 stages:
- 1st stage: 12 runes split in 6 sub-sequences of 2 runes (easy difficulty).
- 2nd stage: 12 runes spit into 4 sub-sequences of 3 runes (medium difficulty).
- 3rd stage: 12 runes split into 3 sub-sequences of 4 runes (medium difficulty).
- 4th stage: 12 runes split into 2 sub-sequences of 6 runes (hard difficulty).
Feel free to download the full Game Design Document for all the rules and mechanics.
This test was only about game design and no prototype were asked, but I found it interesting to develop one. It took me 3 or 4 days to get to this fully playable version within Unreal Engine 4.
Game Design Updates:
During development, I was not fully satisfied with certain mechanics that was generating frustration. This is a list of updates that were made to improve player’s experience:
- The rune’s grid now provides 6 partially random runes (was 5).
Note: When the player reaches the 4th stage of the minigame, he has to select 6 runes to complete a sub-sequence. When the rune’s selection was set to 5, the player could not be able to complete the sub-sequence even if he memorised it entirely. This led to unnecessary frustration and time lost for purely random reasons.
- The rune’s grid now activates and deactivates synchronously with the sequence being shown (was two different timers).
Note: On the first design, the runes were selectable while the sequence was shown. This was a bad design regarding the focus improvement goal. The player just had to wait for the sequence to appear and quickly select the corresponding runes, barely involving focus and memorisation in the process. With this change, game’s flow fits better with the previously described pattern.
- Balance variable “time to memorise” has been replaced by “backseat timer”.
Note: The given time to memorise the runes is now always the same but if you fail to complete the sub-sequence, the runes are shown more frequently without stopping the timer. The game helps the player but it has a cost.
The prototype does not fully correspond to the GDD because some elements felt irrelevant regarding testing and balancing. The goal of a prototype is to test a design and does not need to be fully polished.
The following items were not implemented:
- Sound design (ambient sound, interaction feedback).
- Player’s result and automatic preset selection (but the preset structure is done and used)
- Player’s animations
- Gem’s animations.
- World elements like trees, stones or rivers.