Most games have a goal: some way of winning and, usually, seeing a "You Win!" message on the screen. Without a goal, a player doesn't know when they're done and they never have the fun of knowing they've beaten the game.
For example, in platform games (like Mario or Rayman) your goal is to reach the end of the stage. In other games your goal might be to collect the most points before time runs out, or before you lose all your health.
There are a few games with no clear built-in goals, like some versions of Minecraft. They instead offer a world where the player can explore and decide their own goals. These games are harder to build and harder to make fun for the player.
Start planning your game!
Have you decided on a game you want to make? Then take a piece of paper (or a file on your computer) and write down the answers to these questions:
- Does your game have a "You Win!" screen?
- How does a player reach that "You Win!" screen?
- Is the goal of the game easy for the player to learn and understand?
- Does the player know what they need to do to reach the goal?
Most games also have a "You Lose" screen, when the player loses all their health or fails to complete the goal. It might also be a "Game Over" or "Time’s up" screen depending on how you've decided your game works. Without a way of losing there is no risk for the player, no uncertainty in completing the goal.
Decide what resources, like health, magic power, tools or fuel, that the player can use to complete the goal. A very easy way to add a losing condition is by adding a time limit.
Other "You Lose" screens could be events: When the player's character falls down a pit, or when a customer in the player's restaurant loses her patience while waiting for her dish.
In most games, if you start the game and do nothing, you eventually lose. This pushes the player forward and encourages them to do something, adding excitement.
Also, you should decide how long a game will be. If a stage or level takes two hours to complete, it might be too long for a simple platform game. Be careful though: The player might not feel they've succeeded in anything if it only takes a couple of minutes to complete.
Update your plan!
Get your plan out again and note down the answers to these questions:
- What can cause the player to lose the game?
- What can the player do to avoid losing?
- What is the ideal game length, if the player plays well?