GameTek - The Math and Science of Gaming

By Geoff Engelstein

Math, science, news, and insight into the world of gaming.

Math, science, news, and insight into the world of gaming.

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GameTek #19 - Design Lessons of Marvel Snap

Marvel Snap is a new online card battler that was launched in October, and I’ve had a great time playing it. There are several game design choices the developers made, that I think are instructive to examine.For those of you unfamiliar with the game, we'll st…


GameTek - The Floor is Lava - Issue #18

The 2020 Netflix series Floor is Lava was an unexpected success - at least in our household. It is an oversized obstacle course that a team of three players attempt to navigate, trying to reach the exit as quickly as possible. If someone falls into the omnipr…


GameTek #17: Mathematical Balancing

In the last newsletter I talked about balance - the types of balance, and general considerations. This time I'd like to dive into the numeric side of balancing game objects. "How do I balance my cards / abilities / items" is one of the more common questions a…


GameTek #16: Balancing Act

The new design from David Thompson and myself is now live on the GMT Games P500. Zheng He is a solitaire simulation of the voyages of Zheng He and the Chinese Treasure Fleet in the early 1400's. It's a fascinating part of history, and we were excited to be ab…


GameTek #15: How do you define...?

What is a 'Game'?In the very first Ludology episode, Ryan and I spent an hour trying to determine the definition of a 'game'. This ritual was repeated with each new cohost of Ludology, with Mike and later with Gil.So that's at least three hours I've spent dis…


GameTek #14: Small Chances, Big Problems

A few weeks ago I announced a new game design that David Thompson and I have been working on: Zheng He: Voyages of the Ming Treasure Fleet. Details were posted in this twitter thread. But to recap, it allows you to step into the shoes of Zheng He, who in the …


GameTek #13: Phase Transitions

Every day we face lots of different boundaries – the transition between waking and sleeping, work and vacation, wanting and having. These boundaries shape and influence our lives, sometimes dramatically, but the affects are often subtle. Games are similar, an…


GameTek #12: Generation P

As video games become larger and more expansive, the effort to create content increases as well. New levels for your platformer, new lands to explore, new planets to land on - all need to be created.To offer variety while also reducing design time, software d…


GameTek - The Vonnegut Files

I had a different topic planned for this issue, but the passing of musical theater genius Stephen Sondheim has set me off in a different direction.Let's take a journey together.Sondheim was a fan of all types of games. As noted in Slate:As a child he had litt…


GameTek #10: A Royal Pain

Recently the designers and publishers of Three Kingdoms Redux and Race for the Chinese Zodiac posted about an issue they're having with Berserk Games, the publishers of the online gaming platform Tabletop Simulator. The full thread goes into the details, but …


GameTek #9: The Game Design of Squid Game

The South Korean drama Squid Game is currently one of the most watched shows on Netflix in the United States. It is centered around a series of games for the contestants, and their design, while simple, illuminates several principles of game design.There is a…


GameTek #8: What If?

I have been enjoying the new Marvel series What If, even though it's been a bit uneven. The last episode - "What If... Thor Were an Only Child?" was a particular favorite.Saturday Night Live used to have a running bit called "What If" that considered such que…


GameTek #7: Staggered Goal Engagement Theory

As you may know, I am fascinated by player psychology, and tools that designers can leverage to tailor the experience for the players. So fascinated, in fact, that I wrote a book about it: Achievement Relocked. In the process of developing that book I came up…


GameTek #6 - When Bad Things Happen to Good Castaways

In 2013 Ignacy Trzewiczek of Portal Games asked me to contribute an essay to his upcoming book Board Games that Tell Stories, and I was more than happy to agree. I think there are so many smart and clever design decisions in Robinson Crusoe and I wanted to hi…


GameTek #5 - The 7th Dimension

The main article this issue is pretty long, so I wanted to put this information up top. Recently I was invited to be a guest on the youtube show If Data Could Talk. Part 1 of our conversation just posted, and I invite you to check it out!


GameTek #4: All About That Ace

In 1980 I stumbled across a game called Aces of Aces, a game of World War 1 dogfighting, designed by Al Leonardi. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was simply two books, one for the German player, and one for the Allies.


GameTek #3: Your Friend the Hypergeometric Distribution

There’s a tool that all game designers should be aware of, which helps you determine the probability of certain things happening.Let’s say I’ve got a deck that has two key cards that are needed for a combo, and there’s one copy of each in my deck of 60 cards.…


GameTek - Issue #2: Game Budgets

When my students show me their early game prototypes, one of the most common issues I see is that they are too long - by a lot. Unfortunately the duration is often baked into their design choices. There are just too many turns, or too many phases, and substan…


GameTek Issue #1: Power Laws

In this week's episode of The Dice Tower I talked about Power Laws. For this first issue let's dive into it in a bit more depth than I was able to in the show.First, a quick primer on Power Laws for those of you that did not get a chance to listen to the segm…