We can design a game from theory first: start with a premise, decide on major goals, and then design systems and mechancis that will function, while meeting all the goals, and still adhering to the premise.
For a game to be about a certain idea or topic, it must focus on that idea. Focus can be created in a few ways. One is through detail: with charts, tables, die-types, modifiers, etcetera, you can cause more time and thought to be centered on one aspect of the game. (It is easy to unintentionally focus to much on the wrong things, by adding too much detail to them.)
Consider, if you are very bored, what you would name a reptillian strategy for making subordinates write shorter emails to you. Wait. First imagine you're a "thought leader" in the dungeons of The Management Center. Would you have picked "One-Handed Emails?" Ever in a thousand years of bad ideas? No, I bet you wouldn't have.
In tactical fantasy RPGs, characters can be sorted into major roles like tank, healer, etcetera. Most of these specialize in one tactical pursuit during combat, like ranged damage; a few blend more than one pursuit, such as the off-tank support role; and in particular, magic users often employ several tactically-distinct types of magic -- mixing up those types will be the focus of this piece.
Computer generated terrain usually begins with a base of random noise, or perhaps a fractal. These look nice in small sections, but are unconvincing for a continent: noise has none of the major features it should, like mountain ranges, and fractals are nothing but feature -- they're too regular. Here's a method for generating continent-level trerrain using distortion fields.
I'm reading Fred Brook's The Design of Design. (Brooks is the author of the more famous The Mythical Man-Month.) It tackles the commonalities of all design processes, though he is focused on fairly technical ones. I am reading it both as a sometimes-progammer and as a graphic designer. Brooks addresses work in teams, and this is something I've been thinking about in my professional life. One thing has struck me so far. Brooks views design as a fundamentally iterative process, which agrees with my thoughts and experience -- but I had not seen iteration in the same places.
Elaborations have indeed produced better results. Simply having water flow over a surface was not terribly hard to implement, but each sophistication -- even within the limits of a cell-based, time-step-based system -- have paid off. Initially, I tried having water flow according to the landscape alone, without recomputing where water was pooling; adding it in allowed much longer rivers to develop, as well as lakes (the lakes were all I expected to gain). Adding even a very crude momentum mechanism -- to prevent immediate back-flow when water is evening out over an area -- eliminated a strange checkerboard artifact.
The right way to punctuate a sentence is to use our common stock of marks to their fullest, intentionally selecting them for the meaning that's intdended.
To many, the most perfect shape is the circle -- emblematic of unity -- or the square -- for combining with itself in a tile. But in the city Pherasa, the people have long held the spiral above all other forms. For them it is the basis of all aesthetics, and used in architecture, art, religion and war.