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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Game Design!

Starting from scratch, where on earth do games come from? To most people, they just seem to pop out of no where and land on shop shelves. They don’t realise that originally this game was a thought, a small inspirational idea, or some scribbled notes on some paper.

Games start somewhere, but not all from the same place. Also, their design process, from the initial ideas, all through the production to the completed sale ready game, can be different as well between games. Sometimes it can be just one persons idea or dream. They may write out all the fundamentals of the game, how it works, the story (if there is one), how they want it to look etc. And then depending on the person and their game, they may make it themselves. But of course, they may also be in a group, or in collaboration with others to make this game. There’s small teams from only 2 to 5 people, and then larger ones from anything above 30 and anything in between. It all depends on the company and their success so far.

When I think of “game design”, I immediately think of the look of the game and the story. Of course, not all games have stories, which goes to show that the designing of a game has to be pretty different depending on the type and genre. And yet, it has to have some similarities. The process is heading for the same goal, to produce a playable game. But now, there are the other goals too, such as achieving a specific look to the game, to match the vision the main developer and or including the art director has for the game.

A design document it a good idea, once the initial idea for the game has been pitched. This is a summary of the process of making the game. Setting out the goals, what must be done, what must be achieved, and how.

Last week when we discussed how games are designed, we talked about how the initial ideas come about. Someone mentioned about the game project they are doing in collaboration with programmers, and one of the first points for the game was for it to be “not Spyro”! This is an interesting approach to deciding what the game should be, rather than saying “lets create a game that’s like this” “it can look similar to how this game works…” Instead, saying “we don’t want it to look like this and that game”, rules things out. I immediately crosses off the themes and elements that are not desirable in the game to be produced. By comparing it to other games, and crossing off what you don’t approve of, it helps to focus down to where the game is heading.
Then after that its making specifications and also refining so that its simple. That way, there isn’t countless ideas that each person has, and then a pile of wasted work that wont go into the game. Setting goals, deadlines, etc will keep everything focused.

Gameplay: This refers to the player’s experience of everything in the game. From the basic way you control the game, to the way you progress or achieve goals, and also the visuals and story, and how they affect the player’s overall experience. It refers to the look of the game, its genre and play style. When I play a game, I think the setting of the story and world is quite important. Also the goals and reasons for achieving things is a key element. If the story, characters, and environments drag you in to the game, its generally a great experience overall.

Is games like FEAR any different to PacMan?  With the general idea of running around, collecting items, being chased by baddies and killing them? Well yes, it is different. While some of those basic key aspects may be in most games, there are differences that make games nowadays more unique. Like the environment for instance. Environments are much more diverse, and intriguing. You can explore more, and also relate to more things. The capabilities of graphics are pretty stunning, and therefore its easier to set a mood for the gaming experience. Also, storylines are important, especially if they make you sympathetic to the character you play. If you can relate to them, you are more emotionally in tuned with the game. Another thing in games recently is the vast amount of freedom of choice that the player has. You can now play how you want to play, you can do anything moral or unmoral, and experience different outcomes and consequences of your decisions. And also, the very length of games are also important. A lot of games range in their total play time from about 6 hours even to 20.

So therefore, the design process for games does vary a little between different games. But it also has to have constraints so that the game is created how it should be, efficiently and in good time.

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