David McDonough

#251 David McDonough Supports the Player’s Story

Design Axioms


Firaxis designer David McDonough joins the show to talk strategy game design with Dirk and David. Topics in their discussion include: player stories vs game stories, the spectrum between full sandbox games and historical simulations, and how immersion in player stories can be encouraged. Along the way many games are covered, including both the Civilization series and the XCOM series.

Episode Outline

1:11 What is a player story and how does it differ from the narrative elements of a game?

3:41 How this axiom is used company-wide at Firaxis

10:31 Sandbox strategy games vs historical simulation games, and how the axiom works along that spectrum

13:21 More details on what the process (of applying this axiom at Firaxis) looks like

19:20 When do you decide when to narrow the player decision space?

25:03 The issues with A.I. in Civilization and Civ-like games, and how that can affect immersion

29:16 How to nudge strategy-focused players toward buying into the storytelling aspects of a game

35:23 David talks about the strategy game Frostpunk: why he loves it even though it violates his axiom in some ways

38:47 How the XCOM series, also made by Firaxis, might execute on this axiom even better than the Civ series

47:03 Discussion on David’s tabletop war game Dawn’s Early Light, and how the axiom still applied with a new medium

51:59 How Civilization: Beyond Earth didn’t deliver on this axiom with its affinity mechanic

57:34 David’s final advice for designers—games are experiences and not just mechanics or art alone

In this Episode

David McDonough -
David V. Heron - @davidvheron
Dirk Knemeyer - @DKnemeyer

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