How to Design a New Game

This guide will help you design a new game. It is based off the process Ojiro Fumoto went through to create Downwell.

General Philosophy

  • Constraints are good and help you come up with ideas.

  • The goal is to find promising mechanics which serve multiple purposes.

  • Simplicity is best so try to build the game around one very promising mechanic. Consider removing features that don’t enhance that one mechanic.


  • Create a list of goals or constraints for the game you are making. For example:
    • Pick a genre
    • Pick a platform for it to be played on (mobile, console, web)
    • Pick features you want it to have like
      • Limited controls
      • Limited colors
      • Minimal UI and maximal game space
      • Random game elements
      • Replayability
      • Etc…
  • Build a basic version of the genre of game you are making. Nothing new or different needs to be built yet.

  • Think of ideas, features, or mechanics that work with the goals or constraints.
    • Maybe consider one goal or constraint at a time.
    • If you are having trouble coming up with an idea then try thinking of other goals or constraints that you can add to the list. Then try coming up with an idea for that new goal or constraint.
  • Prototype new features in your mind. If you don’t have any concerns, then prototype it in the game.

  • Keep features that feel promising. Promising features likely serve more than 1 purpose and fit with the goals or constraints of the game.

  • If a feature you add has a lot of potential, then consider basing the entire game around it.
    • Try to maximize rather than limit the use of the feature especially if it is the main action in the game.
    • You will likely want there to be some consequence to using the feature or it would become boring to spam. Look for a middle ground on the consequence that feels intuitive and creates a good tempo when playing.
    • Come up with fun or interesting scenarios for the feature. Design levels with an emphasis on these scenarios.
    • If you find yourself playing a certain way with the feature, then consider turning that style of play into another feature to incentivize it (like adding a combo system).

Inspiration and Reference