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The Critical Core Gameplay Loop

Design lessons learned from BioWare’s Anthem experience

Josh Bycer
Apr 20, 2019 · 8 min read

Core gameplay loop

In game design terms, the core gameplay loop (or CGL for this piece) is the primary game system or mechanic that defines your title. This is what you build your entire game around, and it’s often the qualifier that determines what genre your game belongs to.

Clockwork failure

You may or may not have heard of the studio Gaslamp Games. They were an indie developer who earned a lot of fans for their hit rogue-like Dungeons of Dredmor. Following the success, they went all-in with the game Clockwork Empires — a 3D dwarf fortress-like with steampunk and Lovecraftian elements.

How problems escalate

Video game creation is an iterative process, and no designer knows exactly how a game is going to turn out on day one. However, the CGL is your foundation and blueprint going forward when building a game, and when you don’t understand what that is, it can lead to massive problems.

When it goes right

As the perfect counterexample, I’m going to briefly touch on Prison Architect — the most successful game from Introversion Studios. Similar to Clockwork Empires, the game spent its entire development on early access, but with one big difference.

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Anthem’s core problem

From the Kotaku piece linked above, there were so many issues that appeared over the course of making Anthem: Leadership problems, team management, publisher interference, and more that we just don’t have the space to delve into here.

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No silver bullet

Many games have had either underdog stories of succeeding, or horror stories of everything failing, but at the end of the day there is one absolute truth of game development: there is no amount of clout, money, or talent that will fix a game that has no CGL or horrible gameplay.

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SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

Josh Bycer

Written by

Josh Bycer is the owner of Game-Wisdom and specializes in examining the art and science of games. He has over seven years of experience discussing game design.

SUPERJUMP

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

Josh Bycer

Written by

Josh Bycer is the owner of Game-Wisdom and specializes in examining the art and science of games. He has over seven years of experience discussing game design.

SUPERJUMP

SUPERJUMP

Celebrating video games and their creators

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