Daniel Cook, the Chief Creative Officer at Spry Fox Games, examines the process of iterating video games to improve them through tightening the system of cause and effect.
New designers often treat the systems at the heart of their games as inviolate features of nature. The properties of a sniper rifle, the combo system in Street Fighter or the energy system in a farming game are treated as mathematical facts. You can tweak some values, but the basic system has always existed and will always exist. Yet the truth is that these systems were invented and then adopted because they had useful properties. They are easy to pickup, yet provide sufficient depth for long term mastery. They are designed artifacts.
We can design new systems that hit the sweet spot between mysterious and boring. By looking at you new games through the lenses listed above (and likely some others that I’m forgetting) you can iteratively tune the systems, models and skills at the heart of your game to be more or less understandable. By following a methodical process of invention, you can take a weak game and turn it into a great game that dances hand-in-hand with player capabilities.