Alisha Thayer

#250 Alisha Thayer Uses Exceptions in Design Systems

Design Axioms


Alisha Thayer, a designer who has worked on AAA video games like Red Dead Redemption and Rise of the Tomb Raider, joins Dirk and David to talk game systems. They discuss both the strengths and limitations of designing games that allow multiple systems to interact with each other and create novel experiences. By walking through the different games she’s worked on in her career, Alisha explains how she learned why exceptions to procedural game systems can enhance the player experience. 

Episode Outline

1:11 Defining some terms for the discussion. What are systems and exceptions?

4:37 How Alisha learned her design axiom: exceptions to a system or just as important as the system itself.

6:07 Working on Red Dead Redemption and how snakes disrupted the quest system.

7:45 Moving on to Rise of the Tomb Raider and specifically the Endurance expansion pack.

12:37 Helping other team members buy into the idea of exceptions to the procedural system

15:42 Where does the axiom hold true? Discussion turns to Max Payne 3 and how it differed from RDR.

19:12 Some thoughts on how online community affects game development decisions

21:28 Alisha talks about how Breath of the Wild and Detroit: Become Human contradict her axiom but remain great

23:40 Why the photo system in Final Fantasy 15 reinforces Alisha’s axiom

25:56 How Sea of Thieves initially disappointed Alisha, but improved after returning later to the game

29:20 The relationship between additional content and exceptions

36:00 How following the axiom would have helped puzzles in Rise of the Tomb Raider: Darkness Awakens

43:46 How could these lessons apply to tabletop game designers?

49:32 Final advice from Alisha for all designers, digital or tabletop

In this Episode

Alisha Thayer - @LightishRedhead
David V. Heron - @davidvheron
Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer

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