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Online Game Design

Learn about the steps in online game design and how to become a game designer.

Online game design involves more than just a good idea. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Online game design involves more than just a good idea.

Online game design is the art of creating video games for online play. Games such as "World of Warcraft" and "RuneScape" are just two examples that have drawn a cult-like following of dedicated gamers into their innovative and addictive graphics and layouts. Online game design involves more than just coming up with a good idea: Designers can spend years honing the art of game design before creating a game that appeals to the masses.

The Steps in Online Game Design

The first step after figuring out the goal of the game is research and preparation, which involves creating lists of ideas for the game's premise, researching the time period or genre appropriate to the story-line and generating an outline of how the game will play out.

Next is the design phase, where the designer outlines the structure of the game. The three basic structures are I/O structure, game structure and program structure.

I/O structure is the communication between the player and the computer, including sound and graphics. This includes the game designer choosing how a player will input information and interact with the game (i.e. keyboard, mouse, joystick or a combination of input devices). The graphics are an important part of I/O structure, because graphics guide players' understanding and feel for the game, making an impression on them.

Game structure refers to the key elements of the game and how players interact with each other during game play.This helps develop the fantasy and allows the player to experience it to the fullest. Most important to grasping the essence of game structure are the key elements, which include shooting in an army game and human interaction in a virtual reality game. Designers must choose the top key elements and avoid meshing too many into one game.

Program structure is the most technical of the three structures. The designer must allocate how much memory different aspects of the game require. This is also where a designer checks how the game functions with all three structures. Once this phase is complete, the last steps are writing the program code for the game and performingtesting sessions to check the playability and functionality of the game.

Game Designer Qualifications and Education

Successful game designers must attain advanced qualifications. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, game designers must have technical skills, such as computer programming and software design. Many designers receive college degrees in English, arts or computer science. The rest of a designer's experience usually comes form hands-on training as a programmer or game tester.

There are colleges and training institutes that offer educational programs in online game design. Students can take an online course, such as the one created by the International Webmasters Association. This course teaches prospective designers about the concepts of game design, creating characters and developing levels.

Students can also opt to earn a degree in game design or game art from a college or university. The game art degree from Westwood College teaches students all aspects of game design, including 2-D and 3-D artistry, texture mapping, digital color, game analysis, advanced drawing and game development.

Once a person has some form of online game design training, they can start creating basic games, building up experience toward creating rich, complex games on a mass-scale.

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