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Loops are a great way to drive design discussions with everyone on the team. They are a simplified version of a flowchart and the last element connects to the first. I see that there are different definitions of loops and today I want to show you mine.

As with many other definitions related to game design, the fact that there are different versions implies often that you need to make an effort to understand the point of view of who’s driving the conversation.

Game, Core and Meta loops

When I say game loops, I mean the sequence of most used features within the game.

  • The example above represents an action-adventure game like Uncharted
  • Every circle represents a feature, a collection of mechanics that creates one or more dynamics
  • The arrows represent how the game is supposed to lead the Players to the next feature

With core loops I mean the sequence of actions that the Player performs more often during the gameplay

  • The example above is the core loop of a match-3 game
  • Every circle represents a mechanic
  • The connecting arrows can be read as “so that”: As a Player, you swipe tiles SO THAT you match 3 or more tiles you get a new board status SO THAT you can decide which tiles to swipe next.

Finally, there are the metagame (or economy) loops, which represent the construction of the economy on top of the actions. A good economy makes you think about the game when you are not playing.

  • the example above represent (a simplification of) a possible metagame for an RPG
  • every rectangle represents a game feature, mechanic, or concept
  • arrows indicate that a system adds or subtracts elements from the next rectangle. For instance, speaking to an NPC will increment the number of quests that the Player has. Collecting loot will remove inventory space.


There is not a single way of looking at loops, what is important as a designer is to have your voice. Oftentimes clients show me their “core loops” and in my definition, those are “game loops” instead. And there is no problem, the client is always right and I can adopt their jargon easily. The important is to keep my base strong to drive meaningful discussions.

Loops are useful to express concepts and drive discussions, they don’t have to be perfect. They are a medium for a concrete purpose: clarity. I saw very complicated loops, for instance, that do not add clarity. In that case is better to break it down into different feature loops (which are game loops that describe a single feature, when it’s too big).

Finally, the loops should be meaningful. Good loops have a long-term goal associated with them. You decide to repeat the loop over and over to reach that goal. So ask yourself what is the goal for every loop you identify.

One game per year

We live around 75 years. We have 75 summers, around 80 travels (in my personal economical condition of course). The people we will meet are relatively few, the projects we can tackle too.

Imagine you start to work at 25 years, because you are born in the lucky side of the World. You have 40 years working. If a game takes 3-5 years, you can make around 8-14 games in your life. Game for companies, that may be successful or not.

Or you can go indie, maybe solo dev, going alone and try to publish one game per year. Small game, of course. In that case you can leave 20-30 good games (the first will surely be a disaster). That can be your legacy as a game designer.

The future of games

This weekend I was scrolling the infinite feed of LinkedIn and reading updates from many experts. I have to say that lately from one side there are lots of challenges. Many layoffs across the whole IT sector and people looking desperate. From the other, lots of experts are sharing their knowledge online. This is absolutely a good thing.

One of the main topic is about the future of games. Right now, it seems that everyone can make and publish a PC game very easily. But the cost of AAA games production is rising and the value perceived by the players is going down.

There is a demand/offer problem, too many games and it’s hard that the people notices you. To me, the solution should come by adopting a different perspective. Unless you have a strong IP, like Call of Duty, you cannot just make a game and sell it. You cannot afford to assume that people will come buy it. Nowadays, you should first get in touch with people, make them notice you. Then the people will eventually buy your things.

There is a trend among content creators, especially tech ones. They use Patreon to arrive to their audience. They build little by little. Play-to-earn crypto games were scam, but they were making something good: making contact with people super early. Of course, the focus there was money which is never something good to relate with entertainment. Still, I liked this very fact.

The key to me is in being able to create a strategy to go towards the people, the Players. Not the other way around. If you are making a game and then you will invest your money in marketing to spread the word, it’s very possible you join the rest of noise. It’s better to start build your player base right now, instead.

The Player is YOU

There is something I love in tabletop games rulebooks: they refers to YOU, not to the Players in general.

I think that documentation should adapt a similar method in order to the readers to empathize with the Players. You introduce who are the Players and their traits, behaviors and needs. And then you invite the reader to be one of them.

Using you instead than third persons can really improve with simplicity the effectiveness of your docs.

Be a professional

There was a time when companies decided if you were apt to join the games industry or not. That time is well gone.

I see a lot of messages on social networks, especially LinkedIn, by people looking for the next gig in a company. Someone is looking for the first job. Which is normal and good, LinkedIn was created exactly for that reason.

But, you cannot permit to stay at the border of the river waiting for your opportunity to pass. You have to be what you want to be first. Don’t just look for a job, do the job.

Many years ago it was impossible or very hard to do something without working for a company. Companies acted like a filter, they decided somehow you were worth or not. That is not the case anymore. You have all the material to do what you like to do. In case you have to pay the bills, there are nowadays alternatives to do that.

Be a professional first, then companies will look for you! It’s not the other way around anymore.

How to design for 1M people

Every gaming business founder wants to reach that milestone. 1M players and counting. So, how do you design for 1M?

You simply don’t. You design for 3-7 people instead. Be prepared for the growth, of course. But good design is a personal thing. Is for someone!

Who’s that someone? When you work for a company, that someone is first of all your manager. You don’t design for players, you design with players in mind. But your client is your manager.

You should first convince her!

Game design with mandinga

There is a Brazilian word I learned by practicing Capoeira: mandinga.

Like many words from Brazilian Portuguese, its origin goes up to Africa. The original “mandingueiros” were Muslim literates who compared to other enslaved people knew how to read and write. That’s why they were considered like magicians, almost.

“Mandinga é fazer com pouco, muito!”. Old Capoeira masters speak these words: mandinga is to make a lot with a few things.

This knowledge from the history of our World can be adapted to game design, too:

  • When you have budget 10, it’s better to design a game for budget 3. Your team will thank you later. Explain mandinga to the voices telling you you are not being ambitious enough.
  • When you don’t have access to all the best talents in the World, remember that games like Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and Candy Crush Saga were not created by people with huge tracks.
  • It’s better to do one-two things very well than five-seven average. Remember that the value is in the IPs you create, not in the features you add.

Put a little bit of mandinga in your game design!

Growing business and talent

If you want to create a sustainable games business you need to serve an audience.

But game ideas for new intellectual properties almost never come from that logic. A new idea comes while playing a good game, or connecting things belonging to our personal life. Often we need to leave that idea for a while to make it grow. This process can last months, and this time is unpredictable.

Every time I speak with the founders of some indie games company, they say the same. They are constantly working on new ideas while developing the current game. They need to pitch new concepts all the time to publishers. In this way, they can find the funding for the next project, hopefully before completing the current.

When you find your audience with a title, then, is better to focus your firepower. If you understand how to serve a concrete audience you have more chances of being successful again.

In the long term, though, this can become stressful for the creative people of your team. At the last fair, I met a designer of one of the most successful indie sagas of the last few years. And I felt his frustration, he felt like “it’s always the same”. Sometimes those people end up building their own company. Other times, they just leave for new ventures.

Striking a balance between serving an audience and allowing creative freedom is crucial in the games industry. Both are essential for long-term sustainability.

From one side, you have to grow your business, and serving the audience you found is the smartest move. On the other side, you don’t want to lose the members of your team who bring more value on the table. Let express themselves, maybe in smaller projects.

Tips for writing better documents

I joined a list of mentors in the games industry a while ago. I receive messages from all over the World that make me think a lot. Very grateful for receiving those energies from different cultures and people.

One of the most common requests I get is about how to write better design documents. The main issue with documents is the harsh reality that most people don’t want to read. Also if some of them have this duty, I have noticed that oftentimes they keep what you said in a presentation or chat. So, why boring to write a wall of text?

It’s important to write a lot on the game we are making, for ourselves. It is not important, instead, to write a lot for others to read. That is my point. I do like this.

  • I start by writing by hand on paper. Very important to create meaningful connections in my brain. I don’t get the same result when I write on a keyboard.
  • I continue by writing digitally a short resume of what I wrote on paper. Sometimes very short.
  • When something needs more words, I create an image instead. It can be a flowchart, a UX flow, a wireframe, or a sketch.
  • Then I read the document again in a loud voice. This makes me spot things that are hard to read. It has to be aloud. Don’t be shy, don’t be lazy. It doesn’t work if you read in your mind.
  • If I have time, I try to add something fun to spot in the most boring parts. That happens very few times, honestly.

When the boss gets in the middle

Every game designer has experienced at least once in their life the horrible feeling of being deprived of their ownership.

You design a new game mode, a mechanic, a progression, an economy. You spend your attention and energy on it, perhaps for weeks. And the person in charge of the project, a producer or product manager, changes everything without warning.

It’s hard, I’ve even left companies for things like this. But it happens. It’s a huge lack of respect disguised as “sorry, but the project needs this“, “the data speaks clearly!“, “I wasn’t convinced…“.

The reality is that there are very few true creative leaders and changing numbers on a spreadsheet or in-game setups requires no skill. The pressure that some people feel leads them to this disastrous behavior. So what to do?

Seeking an agreement and understanding the problem is the first step. Many people want to be successful, others want the team to be successful. Some think more broadly about the entire company. We need to understand what motivated the choice.

This is a wrong choice, in every sense. A serious mistake. But we do it too, let’s remember this. I therefore recommend staying calm to make the correct decision.

Making games is hard…