Sunday, 16 October 2011

FADT? (Formal Abstract Design Tools)

Formal Abstract Design Tools is an article and framework, by Doug Church, to create a vocabulary and process of designing a game. The design vocabulary can be used to dissect a game in to its components so that game designers can understand them and "realize our own game vision" (p. 1).

Church observes and dissects Mario 64 to notify the reader of the "tools" used in the game. (
p. 4)

Intention: Making an implementable plan of one's own creation in response to the current situation in the game world and one's understanding of the game play options.
Applying this to Mario 64, Church found that Mario's world made players feel connected to it by their actions and the simplicity of the game.

Perceivable Consequence: A clear reaction from the game world to the action of the player.

Church states that, in Mario 64, "any action you undertake results in direct, visible feedback"; this tool can be applied in modern games hence players can interact and get a result from a said game.
He adds to this by saying "Because of X, Y has happened". (p. 5)

Some games, like RPGs, - as Church highlights - are less direct about some consequences, making the game unfair to the player by creating unpredictable results when a player is presented with a choice or action. Game designers must seek to balance fairness with perceivable consequence, if a game is too predictable it can be too easy for the player.

Story: The narrative thread, whether designer-driven or player-driven, that binds events together and drivers the player forward toward completion of the game.
(p. 5)

Story can apply to any game, whether it be the experience of creating a copy of a Kirby statue in Minecraft or the linear story of FFXIII. In most cases stories do end and some stories are built by experiences by the player, ending when the player wants it to.

Why have FADT?

FADT enables game designers to critcally analyse games, not from their opinion on whether they like the game or not,  but on what makes the game work to the client, to the customer or target audience; basically what makes a game fun and compatible for the intended player.(p.1-3) These tools are also not all of them, there are many more as Church states, "
We will have to invest a lot of time if we're to generate a full list of tools we've used (or should use) in our work".
My thoughts on the article

I found the tools useful for game design, although the introduction I thought was too long, his profile says to skip to page 3 if the introduction was slow reading, then to go back and read it. I do recommend reading the introduction even if you find the wall of text intimidating, his point of creating a framework and vocabulary for game designers to use when describing games is very important else we would not be able to accurately pinpoint the mechanics that work in games. I think if we have a good understanding of the tools used in games then we will try to emulate the balance of merging these tools to make a game work properly for the player - using the design tools: intention, perceivable consequence and story - and to create better or just as good games to that standard. 

Church, as did Greg Costikyan, in turn, paved the foundations for a game design vocabulary by insisting and creating their own frameworks for others to use, modify and grow. As games advance in complexity, in my opinion, game designers must understand and build on these foundations, by forming their own views, and changing or using the vocabulary; if they want to delve in to the modern era of game design and to simply discuss games from a game designer's perspective, not as a game player.


Church, D. (1999) FADT. Internet: Gamasutra.


  1. This is a competent entry on the work of Church. You might want to comment at the end about the usefulness of the article and if it got you thinking about aspects of games that you are familiar with. That way you take more ownership of the information.


  2. I think I kind of zoned out on this one when writing it from my notes and referring it to the website. I'll add my thoughts on the article at the end now.

  3. I really like this a lot, especially that you started using the Harvard system (which I still find impossible to comprehend, but hopefully after next week it'll be easier) and that you put your own thoughts on it at the end. I think a good step forward would be to actually add a bibliography at the end of each post. Nice post!


  4. Hi

    It is really good to add your thoughts at the end, it draws the main threads of the work, as you see them, together. good stuff.

  5. From my side, I still find impossible to comprehend, but hopefully after next week it'll be easier and that you put your own thoughts on it at the end.Thanks for sharing.
    Game Design