Jason Rohrer, designer of weird little artistic diversions Passage and Gravitation, has a new column over at The Escapist focusing on prototyping and game design; each month will have a new discussion of a (playable) prototype. I love prototyping discussions, and it's so much the better when the things are playable; I just think it's a nice way to illustrate points about game design. This month, he introduces a little (simple) game called Perfectionism:
The trap of perfectionism is particularly treacherous for computer programmers, since we're saddled atop of Turing-complete programming languages that are capable of doing almost anything. Every bug is fixable. Every behavioral rough spot can be smoothed over with just a bit more coding, a smidgen of extra special-case logic. Programming isn't like carving something out of marble, where if your sculpture's nose is too small, you must either live with it or start over with a fresh block of marble. Our code bases can be massaged indefinitely.
In designing a game to explore this issue, I thought about players tweaking some set of game objects toward a goal, but forcing them to decide how far toward the goal they needed to go. If we give the players multiple sets of game objects and goals, and force them to divide their limited time among these "subprojects," they will need to make interesting decisions about which projects to polish, which to leave flawed, in which to skip completely. This is quite different from traditional level-based game designs, where players must finish a given level before moving on to a subsequent level.
It's an interesting read and it's nice to actually be able to play a prototype of exactly what's being discussed in the article.
Game Design Sketchbook: Perfectionism [The Escapist]