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General Game Design: Strategy Games

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Do you like to use some brains along with (or instead of) brawn when gaming? This chapter is for you—how to create breathtaking strategy games. And do we have a roundtable of celebrities for you!

The Experts

  • Sid Meier, Firaxis

  • Bill Roper, Blizzard North

  • Brian Reynolds, Big Huge Games

  • Bruce C. Shelley, Ensemble Studios

  • Peter Molyneux, Lionhead Studios

  • Alex Garden, Relic Entertainment

  • Louis Castle, Electronic Arts/Westwood Studios

  • Chris Sawyer, Freelance

  • Rick Goodman, Stainless Steel Studios

  • Phil Steinmeyer, PopTop Software

  • Ed Del Castillo, Liquid Entertainment

Sid Meier, Firaxis

There's a very good reason why Sid Meier is one of the most accomplished and respected game designers in the business. He pioneered the industry with a number of unprecedented instant classics, such as the very first combat flight simulator, F-15 Strike Eagle; then Pirates, Railroad Tycoon, and of course, a game often voted the number one game of all time, Civilization. Meier has contributed to a number of chapters in this book, but here he offers a few words on game inspiration.

"Find something you as a designer are excited about," begins Meier. "If not, it will likely show through your work." Meier also reminds designers that this is a project that they'll be working on for about two years, and designers have to ask themselves whether this is something they want to work on every day for that length of time. From a practical point of view, Meier says, "You probably don't want to get into a genre that's overly exhausted."

For me, working on SimGolf is a fine example, and Gettysburg is another—something I've been fascinated with all my life, and it wasn't mainstream, but was a lot of fun to write—a fun game to put together.

To Meier, it all boils back down to passion:

What do you get excited about, and what are you good at? Do an RPG, not an action shooter just because it's in style. Find something new and fresh—publishers want to be leading-edge, too, so they're usually receptive to new ideas. But remember, for every 20 guys who walk into the door, maybe two ideas are worth considering.
There's a temptation to create "the ultimate game of all time," so keep your focus on a couple of cool features, make sure those are great, and leave some room for a second game.

Be sure to read Meier's advice on programming, artificial intelligence, proper game testing, breaking into the industry, and more in later chapters.

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