Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Game Design

Game design isn't something I’ve really thought about…or realised I should think about. As a game art student it’s a completely relevant thing to think about and I guess I do think about it to a certain extent but just haven’t realised. Game design to me is the creation of the story, environment and game play of the game. Basically all aspects planned and thought out by a group of people looking to make an awesome game about an awesome person. Most of the time it works…most of the time it doesn’t! I think about game design a lot more when playing fantasy games just because I feel there has to be a lot of attention to the environment you’re in, a whole world created out of a few people’s minds. Then you the armour and characters to design, all the weapons and all the cool spell effects. I never really thought about it for most games like first person shooters too. Granted you don’t really have to pay attention to the character you’re playing as but the environment and the weapon designs are a major part in them. You need to be accurate in the clothes they wear and you have to bring something new to the game play to pull it away from the un-ending pile of generic. It really isn’t something I thought about but now, it’s something I better get used to thinking about a lot!

The definition of game design as said by our favourite internet source in life, Wikipedia:
‘Game design, a subset of game development, is the process of designing the content and rules of a game in the pre-production stage and design of gameplay, environment, storyline, and characters during production stage. The term is also used to describe both the game design embodied in a game as well as documentation that describes such a design.  Game design requires artistic and technical competence as well as writing skills.’

I chose to review Gamasutra’s Game Design: Theory & Practice Second Edition: 'Not All Game Design Documents Are Created Equal' an excerpt created by Richard Rouse III. It covers a big range of all the things you need to know about how not to game design as well as the documentation you do as well.

It starts off with an attack of documentation that’s too thin. Short documentation that doesn’t explain much of anything or references other games it’s based upon without any further detail as to what exactly it’s like. You don’t get any help from that and it’s not the best idea to fill in the blanks with your own theories because they could be terribly wrong.  Most thin documentation has too much back story and not enough information. It describes what it’s based on but not what it’ll be like.

This leads into the second part he goes over. This game design document has solely been written for the purpose of discussing the back story to the game. When I read the first line of this paragraph I immediately picked up on the fact he changed from describing a writer to the writer being a woman…like women are the only people that can waffle on for 400 pages of back story. Nice.

ANYWAY, he describes that these writers spend too much time on the stories and not enough time formatting the document. It has no clear reference points or system for you to refer to so you can just skip parts that you don’t need to sit and read. He also describes how it’s unnecessary to have so many pages on back story as you wouldn’t include all of that in a game you were developing.

The next section leads comfortably on to the overkill. Describing every last detail about everything you intend to do. Some things are more important to describe than others and these kinds of documents just keep going about something trivial. For example how an AI would move, sleep talk in great detail which really wouldn’t be necessary.

The last two he describes are related in a way. A grand scale and boundless document for a concept that has no limit or constraint what so ever, that has a completely unrealistic expectation. The last is more of a summary of them all, what happens to a poor design document. It becomes shelved, put to the side, slid under the carpet, locked in a closet never to be seen again. In other words they become a fossilized document.

When you read about these documents and how they are flawed you can see why. It needs to be concise and explanatory but limited in areas that are less important and each section gets the same amount of attention as the next. I’ve heard this said before which he mentioned, documents are measured by their weight. When I did work experience in a small game studio I received a game document for that game they were making at the time. I had never seen so many pages tied together describing the same topic.

It was an interesting article to read. It was more of an obvious statement of what you already knew but didn’t think about because it’s not something that bothered you before. Well for me at least that’s how I saw it. It’s a nice guide and warning signs for things not to do in your own documentation. Hopefully I can follow these and maybe not be boring about it.

Who are the leading lights in game design? Gabe Newell and Gabe Newell. Ok there are more like Peter Molyneux, Will Wright and Shigeru Miyamoto. They’ve created games that have been so successful everyone has heard of them, knows someone who’s played and has seen countless of pictures of their games on the internet. Gabe Newell to me is the best game designer and to be quite frank, best fucking guy in games development right now. This guy has games like half life and portal under his belt. He created valve, my absolute dream to be working in. If there is any man or woman to follow in the games industry now it’s him. He’s such a genuine guy and really thinks about his player base as much as his games. That’s something I think a lot of games designers don’t think about and they lose sight of the aim of the game they are developing.

Game design is the staple in creating a successful game. If you don’t have a solid design it’s not going to be a solid game. I find that the best games that are developed are not created by one person alone. It has the input of the entire team. In Kojima productions, they developed a great way to develop a game. A piece of paper was given to each member of the team and at the end of the day at least one idea would be on this paper. This proved to be successful as a lot of the ideas on these papers were put in the Metal Gear Solid game they were developing at the time. You don’t just get a great and creative game from one mind alone. It needs several minds involved to bounce of ideas, to tell which ideas are shit and which ideas would benefit.
I think designing a game is essentially the same for any genre of game. It all has to have the same basic points explained and developed. There may be small differences that need to be added or not used in others but they all conform to the same standard of document produced by each game made.

When I play a game I want something that’s stimulating. I play a lot of fighting games and I enjoy them because I have to work at a combo, learning each part separately before putting it all together to make one sick move. It’s the same with fantasy games. You work your way through areas, you level and develop your characters and then ultimately you use it all at the end for one final battle. The process of learning and developing in a game and then using it at the end is satisfying to me. It’s probably why I don’t play shooting games that much…I know there are upgrades you can get and the more you play the better you get but when you play the levels you never feel like you’ve achieved something. It’s an endless learning curve which I don’t like. I hate things that drag out and never end. 

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