Ingredients For A Great Game
Set the player in focus
The player wants to be in focus in the game, he or she wants to feel that he can control the outcome of the game. It doesn't have to be easy, or it shouldn't. The harder the game is the better the player will feel when he has completed the game and won.
For example in Sid Meiers Civilization the player is set in focus and can affect the outcome of the game. She knows that it's up to her if she wins or loose. This concept is seen in virtually all best sellers, Doom, Civilization, The Sims, Sim City, Warcraft, Command&Conquer to name a few.
This can also be done in games that are heavily built on a story. For example in several adventure games by Lucas Arts the concept of that the player can control his or her destiny is used frequently. Developers should look out for basing the game too much on what the computer does or other factors.
Here the design of the menus and the interface comes in. Avoid having strange controls, like the firing button on F for example. If you were making a 3rd person shooter you would want to use the same set of controls as other games in the sector do.
The menus should be easy to understand, I have reviewed a lot of games were the menus are made out of symbols without any text. This is not recommended since the interpretation of a symbol is highly subjective; try to mix symbols with text.
With action I don't necessarily mean violence. There should however be something happening in the game, and when it happens the player should really notice it. For example killing an enemy in a 3rd person shooter should generate blood, building a police station in Sim City should reduce crime, killing the last enemy in Warcraft should generate victory, ok I guess you got the picture. Perhaps this seems quite basic, and it is, but still some developers don't think in these terms.
Never ever underestimate a game story. If you read any gaming magazine today you notice that there is an awful lot of focus on the graphics. The graphics are important but they mean nothing if the background story sucks. Of course this isn't true if a game is ground breaking. Doom didn't have a very well developed story but still it was ground breaking because people had never seen nothing like it before.
But generally the story is important, sometimes a player wants to feel part of something bigger.
To name a few examples we could start with virtually all role playing games. However don't do the mistake of writing the story too complicated. A simple story or shorter story should work fine as long as the story is good.
Yes well I have to mention it. Graphics serve one purpose as I see it; they enhance the game play and all the other factors I have mentioned. They are important in the sense that they communicate the game to the player. They don't have to be stunning but they should serve a purpose.
A recent example of this is Command&Conquer Generals, the graphics are good, they serve a purpose and they enhance the gaming experience. However the game in question was not that long-lived for various other reasons.
There are several games with bad graphics that are still fun to play for example Warcraft 2 or Sid Meiers old classic, Pirates.
Things that people can relate to
Say that a person just saw a science fiction movie and thinks "I really want to fly a space ship like in that movie", so the person in question starts a search for such a game. This is also one of the reasons the Warcraft series become very popular, the Orcs and other characters in the game people remember from reading Tolkien's book.
Developing a game about solving equations will probably not be a hit since far too few people relate to it. These are the main factors that create a good game, if these factors are followed you will probably have a pretty good game. There are of course other elements that make a difference; marketing is one of them that will be more important as the gaming scene grows.