I am designing the journey of a game for a client these days. It is a fun activity, also when you don’t have all the information you need to complete it. Anyway, it can be struggling, because it is very critical for the entire project.
A journey is the prediction of how the Players should behave in the game. At the same time, a journey imagines what the game offers to the Players, according to each stage they are in. When the journey is extremely detailed, usually you have a game with less freedom. The possibility space leaves fewer choices for the Players. When the journey is just sketched, you may oversee things too much.
General rules for journeys
- Draft your journeys on a spreadsheet
- The first column (or one of the first columns) should always be regarding the time
- There should be some feature to represent the stage of the Players inside of the game. In many games it is level
- You can briefly describe what the Players should do and the narrative around it given by the game
- Each step should have its goals
- Each goal should be reached using at least a single mechanic, or a combination of mechanics (skill atom). The key here is to always teach something. Remember: to have fun is to learn
- You can define the challenges that the players will find over the journeys
- Reaching each goal (every line/step of the journey) should unlock something meaningful for the next steps of the journey
It is hard to imagine exactly how the whole game should go. Especially with big games. Journeys are usually iterative, at the project start you have less definition and more questions. You can add those questions in a separate column. It is not necessary to balance at this stage, keep it clean and balance later. The last thing, journeys are very much needed also for simple puzzle games. In that case, we talk of the beat chart more than the journey.