Rational game design application guide, understand the operation mechanism and influence of “atomic parameters”!

This article first published Tencent Game Academy GWB
Author: Finding (Tencent Interactive Entertainment Game Planning)

Do you know the core theory of rational game design (RCP)? How to apply this theory in game design? First of all, you need to understand the very important “atomic parameters” in this theory, as well as the operating mechanism and influence of atomic parameters, in order to truly understand rational game design. In this article, I will talk about “atomic parameters” with you.

This article will introduce in the core design theory of rational games, how to select the decisive “atomic parameters” among the many parameters that make up an element according to specific criteria, as well as the operating mechanism and influence of atomic parameters, and use this as a basis to adjust the mechanism and Experience method.

1. What are atomic parameters

1.1 About RCD

RCD = Rational Core Design, is RCP = Rational Creative Process, the core part of the rational game design framework. It includes goals, mechanisms, challenges, skills, inputs, atomic parameters, configurations, dynamics, and examples.

1.2 Definition of atomic parameters

Atomic Parameters are those parameters and variables that define the “elements” and “components” that constitute the mechanism, and have the most intuitive influence and decisive influence on the dynamics and results of the game.

Usually a set of atomic parameters defines an element/component together. On the contrary, the increase or decrease of atomic parameters can easily change the basic properties of the element.

These elements and parts form a playable mechanism, which forms the dynamics in the game and becomes the content experienced by the players.

Atomic parameters are a broad concept of parameters. Depending on the game type, complexity and volume, they can be a single variable, or they can be formed by a set of parameters.

There are also some atomic parameters that are not simply numerical, but are more similar to the definition of an I/O property.

1.3 The working principle of atomic parameters

The elements form the mechanism, the mechanism is intertwined into dynamics, and provides content for the experience (but it does not directly determine the experience).

2. How to select atomic parameters

2.1 Decisive

It has decisive and quantifiable significance for defining the key characteristics of an element. And thus affect the challenges, results, and skills application in the relevant mechanisms.

2.2 Intuitiveness

It can directly influence the player’s judgment, choice and action (input) through the form that the player can perceive (audiovisual prompts and feedback, etc.).

2.3 Systematic

It is part of the common parameters in the core system, and usually shares, correlates, and depends on the atomic parameters of other elements.

Some supplementary notes:

However, it should be noted that the selection criteria for atomic parameters should still be relatively flexible and target mechanisms that need to be adjusted, which means that there is no universally applicable list of atomic parameters. The key atomic parameters for some elements may not be the case for other elements, and they need to be treated case by case.

In addition, one of the original purposes of separating atomic parameters is to try to delineate the characteristics of an element with the most concise and critical set of parameters, so try not to have too many atomic parameters as a practical principle worth recommending.

3. Example analysis

3.1 Typical elements: weapon cases

3.1.1 Decisive



【Atomic Parameters】

Single shot damage DPB = 115 (not considering armor penetration rate)


If you hit the upper part of the waist, you will die.

This value is of decisive significance for challenges and results, and player application scenarios.

[Examples of non-deterministic parameters]

The number of magazines is 30 rounds.

It is envisaged that the adjustment to 20 or 40 rounds will not bring about the same level of decisive impact as the single-shot damage.

3.1.2 Intuitiveness

In use, you can directly visually observe the actual hit and kill effects: feedback is directly generated for each interaction.

Players can thus understand this decisive attribute of AWP.

Players will therefore choose AWP from the tactical needs.

[Examples of non-intuitive parameters]

Accurate range = 69m

Although it is also an important parameter, it is almost impossible for players to directly experience its effect through observation and perception, so it is not suitable to choose as an atomic parameter (unless it is visualized).

3.1.3 Systematic

The single-shot damage value is obviously a high commonality and core parameter in the game damage calculation subsystem.

This means that it allows us to make direct comparisons between different weapons, as a fulcrum for adjusting the balance between the individual and the module/larger whole.

At the same time, it interacts with other atomic parameters including rate of fire, reloading speed, armor-piercing ability, etc., interrelated and checks and balances, and together define an effective paradigm.

3.2 Typical Elements: Role Cases

3.2.1 Decisive


Brawl Stars-El Primo

【Atomic Parameters】

Range = close (about 1.5 positions)


It must be close to the body to hurt the enemy.

This value is the key feature that defines this character. For his dynamic challenges and results, the player application scenario is of decisive significance (if a qualitative change level is adjusted, he will become a completely different character).

[Examples of non-deterministic parameters]

Super skill damage = 1080

The effectiveness of super skills is a combination of the effects of several parameters, and is not so decisive in defining the role.

3.2.2 Intuition

In actual combat, you can directly visually detect the distance and range that the character can hit when attacking, and there is clear feedback on air swings and hits.

Players can thus understand this key feature (weakness) of El Primo.

Players will therefore choose El Primo from the tactical needs (scenarios that are conducive to close combat, etc.).

[Examples of non-intuitive parameters]

Moving speed = fast

Although it is also an important parameter, it is difficult for players to directly and quantitatively recognize. In another sense, even if all the characters in the BS move at the same speed, the gameplay is basically true, so the moving speed is relatively unsuitable to be considered as an atomic parameter.

3.2.3 Systematic

Range, as a core atomic parameter, is a necessary variable to define the main characteristics of all BS roles, and can provide a benchmark for single and multi-dimensional horizontal comparisons in system balance.

At the same time, it interacts with other atomic parameters including health, growth rate, reload speed and other atomic parameters, interrelated and checks and balances, and together define a specific paradigm.

In a larger system, the range is independent as a decisive parameter, and in coordination with other related parameters, it affects the balance of advantages and disadvantages under different modes and rules, and provides a fulcrum for defining differences in experience.

3.3 Typical Elements: Ability Cases

3.3.1 Decisive


Overwatch – Bastion

【Atomic Parameters】

Unmovable in Sentry mode


Once transformed into sentry, it cannot move at all.

This feature determines the available scenarios and dynamic limitations of sentry to the greatest extent, and is one of the most important considerations for players to use or not.

3.3.2 Intuitiveness

In use, the player can directly observe that Bastion cannot move after being transformed into sentry (through form, animation, feedback).

The player can thus understand the specific limitations of Bastion’s ability; this will indirectly deepen the player’s understanding of the overall cons and pros of the character.

Players will therefore choose under what circumstances to use this ability from the tactical needs.

[Examples of non-intuitive parameters]

Sentry damage 7.5-15 (compared to 10-20 in recon state) is obviously aimed at the overall balance of the character, but it is difficult for players to have an intuitive experience in the actual combat stack.

3.3.3 Systematic

The atomic parameter of Mobility/mobility can be placed in the character system for overall observation and comparison:

Genji’s special mobility on flat ground and walls.

The flash of Tracer-the ability to move in a short distance.

Reinhardt’s rush-high-speed long-distance movement ability additional damage.

It is also its value to examine and adjust the similarities and differences of atomic parameters in a comparable and relatively broad category of mobility.

Four, backtracking GMT

From the perspective of GMT (Goal goal-Means approach-Tools tool design method), it is particularly important to note that if the adjustment of atomic parameters brings qualitative changes to the elements, it may directly change the player’s method (no longer support the original method), and then affect The player achieves the goal.

In the collection module in Valheim, the upper limit of the load can be considered as an atomic parameter.

Imagine that if this parameter does not exist or is configured too high, it will cause the important player method of “building additional storage” to be greatly balanced or even invalid, which will affect the player’s completion of construction and other related goals.

Atomic parameters (tools) = weight of props

Player means = add additional storage elements

GMT (Goal goal-Means approach-Tools tool design method) related knowledge review (click the text below to view the full text):

Distinguish goals and means!The logical approach that game designers need today

Five, planning application

Global: Through debugging examples, discover and determine interesting and effective atomic parameters, so as to establish the atomic parameter set and lay the foundation for the establishment of the element pool.

Part of the monster parameter set of “Dragon Quest”

Partial/individual: adjustments to existing paradigms, usually with the purpose of enhancing/changing features. Due to the determinism of atomic parameters, such adjustments often mean major changes in element positioning and basic attributes.

At the same time, it will also bring new ideas and opportunities in sensory/packaging design.

Establish a relationship with player skills. That is, through atomic parameters to carry the specific skills required by the player, whether it is operational skills or mental skills. This will be directly related to the product’s target user positioning.

An important change from FF6 to FF7 comes from the introduction of the concept of “time” in the ATB system. The time given to the player to make judgments and input in each round can be regarded as an important atomic parameter. It passes the challenge of time limitation and puts forward new requirements for the player’s “quick decision” skills.

Source: Tencent Game Academy GWB


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