Game design... I used to think it was a dark art, almost magic... The one "wizard" with the most delicate solutions won...
That still applies, a game designer has to be able to create very complex and advaced systems if need be, but he also need to ask himself; who is my customer?
If you are into game design as an art form, this may very well not apply, but if you want as many people as possible to play and enjoy your game, this is it.
Who is your customer?
The best designer is indeed he (or she) that can provide what people want. The most painful example of this is Halo 2 and 3. Halo 1 was just brilliant in many ways and deserves all credit and success... but what about Halo 2 and 3?
Halo 3 got 10/10 in EDGE... I mean edge is tough and they usually demand sequels to be extremely good to give a high score.
The thing with Halo is; they provide what the customer’s desire and the skill to do this is almost unfathomable. It is the real design magic. Ask a halo player why he/she enjoys halo and you will not get the answers you need to replicate the success, the only ones who know, are the fellas at bungie.
This is something I am just beginning to learn, when I worked at Lockpick we did ask the question, the problem was, we only fabricated some bullcrap answer that worked well with what we wanted to do. (This I can only say is certain for myself, the others might have actually tried their best)
The question is as blatantly simple as the answer and there is no escape. Who is your customer?
It's often taught that you need to specify your target audience, well this is true in a way, the more you specify the easier it will be for you to get away with stupid things.
My audience is NASA scientists with 2 brains = Ok, go ahead and do the game uber advanced
My audience are players that like Civ 3 and Warcraft 3 and some web games like Utopia and... = Well go ahead and make a fantastic game but don't expect many to play
Try this instead; My audience is every PC gamer. Period. Done.
Now you have your customer and your work cut out and you will also find yourself operating at the master level of game design. High Sales. Like Bungie the true wizards of design.