What is “World Design”?

I’m teaching a college course, “Advanced Seminar in Game Design: World Design” for Champlain College’s 2021 Fall semester. It’s a class for seniors to propose and execute on a single solo project for their portfolio, loosely based on the course theme. This document was my definition of “World Design”, with many examples.


The theme of this class is “World Design”, a subset of Game Design. The goal of this document is to explain what that means!

“World Design” is nebulously defined. Some companies have “World Designer” as a job title, but they don’t necessarily describe the same job. I’ve seen it used to describe traditional mission or level design work, designing vast non-linear spaces in open world games, and even the design of systems or UI related to the game world. So we will use a very broad definition in this class.

If Game Design is…

… The act of making choices about how players perceive or interact with a game, with the goal of creating a specific experience for the player(s).

Then World Design is…

…The act of making choices about how players will perceive, interact with, or experience the world of a game, with a particular focus on navigation, traversal, pacing, and narrative.


Tyson’s Law

Tyson Green is an experienced designer at Bungie. I rarely work with him myself, but other designers who have will often quote this rule of his: Always solve two problems with every design. Implied here is the idea that most designs can solve multiple problems, and by following this rule design elements Read more…

Clay’s Law

Chris Clay was a senior designer I worked with at Turbine. Sometimes we would spend a lot of time in the weeds, talking about a design tweak in a meeting. When we did that, he would sometimes end the meeting by invoking his rule, that the rest of us dubbed Clay’s Read more…

Lay Off Post-Mortem

This is the story of my first lay off, what I learned from it, and how I recovered. I recently received a job offer; this story now has an ending, so the time has come to tell it!

Exeunt Max

In the summer of 2014 we were deeply entrenched in a new F2P service game that had gone into open beta a few months prior. The game was in a precarious position, a topic that our project leadership was very open with us about. We resolved to turn it around that summer, and set some very ambitious goals. And we succeeded! We built an excellent game: tightly balanced, responsive, polished, and great looking.

In the middle of this process, we learned that there were going to be some publisher-wide layoffs hitting our parent company and its devs at about the same time we were wrapping up this summer push. We knew layoffs were coming, and we knew that our project was at risk. We even knew the date that they were going to happen. The team handled it well, and we still built a great game: we were proud of it and wanted it to succeed, with or without us. But the weeks leading up to the layoffs were still tense with worry: we didn’t know who or how many were on the chopping block. (more…)