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Should I post my Game Design Document

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Ok. So Ive finished the 6th draft of my GDD. I have a team of around 15-25 people (depending on involvement)and we are working. Our website isnt ready yet, but I read some of the comments here and I really want to talk about my ideas...without losing ownership of course. So should I post a synopsis or a link to my GDD? Thanks

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Link is probably a good idea, because then if we make suggestions for improvements you can update it without having to repost the synopsis.

It''s difficult to protect a game design, but take heart: most of the time it''s not worth it to steal one, as most of the people here either are involved in active projects already, or would rather work from their own game ideas. You might want a copyright notice on it somewhere, just because that''s easy to do (i.e. a ''(c)2003 whoeveryouare'' line at the bottom).

Richard "Superpig" Fine
- saving pigs from untimely fates, and when he''s not doing that, runs The Binary Refinery.
Enginuity1 | Enginuity2 | Enginuity3 | Enginuity4 | Enginuity5
ry. .ibu cy. .y''ybu. .abu ry. dy. "sy. .ubu py. .ebu ry. py. .ibu gy." fy. .ibu ny. .ebu
"Don''t document your code; code your documentation." -me
"I''m not a complete idiot; parts of me are missing." -}}i{{

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I would be interested in seeing your design document. I will be writing one soon, like tonite...and I am interested in seeing a real one or a good one, to make sure I have included all I need to include in mine.

<- Digital Explosions ->
"Discipline is my sword, faith is my shield
do not dive into uncertainty, and you may live to reap the rewards" - (Unreal Championship)

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If you post your idea then others can take it and use it. The only way to protect an idea is to keep it secret (ideas are not protected by copyright or trademarks). However as Superpig said it isn''t really likely that someone will steal it especially if all you are posting is a synopsis.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions (www.obscure.co.uk)
Game Development & Design consultant

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6th draft & 15-25 people already involved.

You already have probably beat the horse dead on the concept level.
Just focus on keeping the project moving.


John Thrower
GAMEDOGMA.COM
Project Management Consultant

[edited by - MojoHammer on November 29, 2003 10:29:47 PM]

[edited by - MojoHammer on November 29, 2003 10:30:06 PM]

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Well I keep going back and forth.

Part of me wants to post it for feedback and to make our claim to our unique ideas.

The other part of me is still a bit afraid to put it out there. Ideas in writing ARE copyright protected, however, whether I have the money and time to hunt down those that violate the copyright is another thing. I mean I dont want to sound like I think that we''re the only one that has great ideas. Who knows it could be mediocre...but we all are protective of our ideas.

I guess its not brain surgery. Ill decide over the next few days.

Thanks.

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I look at it this way there are so many ideas out there, that chances are other people have had similar ideas to yours. You don't have to post your complete design document, just enough to explain your game in some detail. Most likely no one will steal your ideas, and even if they do what they create will never be the same as what you are working on.

Worst case scenario someone reads your idea and makes a game exactly likly it before your team manages to finish your version of it, and makes millions of dollars. But honestly how likely does that sound?

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I'm a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document



[edited by - TechnoGoth on November 30, 2003 2:24:35 AM]

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quote:
Original post by Vanquish
Part of me wants to post it for feedback and to make our claim to our unique ideas.

The other part of me is still a bit afraid to put it out there. Ideas in writing ARE copyright protected, however, whether I have the money and time to hunt down those that violate the copyright is another thing.

Wrong. IDEAS are not protected by copyright. The DOCUMENT is protected by copyright but the ideas it describes are not. Listing them in a public forum puts them into the public domain and anyone can copy the idea to make a game of their own.



Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions (www.obscure.co.uk)
Game Development & Design consultant

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No Im not wrong.

Having been to law school I take issue with what you are saying.

If by "idea" you mean a general concept for a process, depending on the specific nature of the concept "ideas" can and cant be copyrighted.

If the copied idea is specific enough, and if the copied work is "derivative" enough, yes there is an infraction.

Go do a search on the net for copyright law. I think the one that would help you in particular would be to search for "Myths of Copyright Law" on Google.

Merely posting something DOES NOT put it into the public domain.
Thats one of the myths people believe.

Check it out. Maybe you could help your clients more armed with that knowledge.

Techno, you make an excellent point. There are surely similar ideas out there and the likelyhood of the worst case scenario is small. Im making a mountain out of a molehill.

Thanks


[edited by - Vanquish on November 30, 2003 12:12:13 PM]

[edited by - Vanquish on November 30, 2003 12:14:39 PM]

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Well then you better let the US copyright office know,

quote:
http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#wci
US WHAT IS NOT PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT?

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:

*Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)
*Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents
*IDEAS , procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration
.......



As well as the various game industry lawyers such as Thomas H. Buscaglia who regularly post on these issues http://www.gamedev.net/reference/articles/article1985.asp

quote:
Merely posting something DOES NOT put it into the public domain.
Thats one of the myths people believe.

Sorry but the article you speak of applies to the posting of copyrighted material in forums/usenet. Ideas aren''t protected by copyright so this doesn''t apply.

Yes of course there are always exceptions to everything and (as you put it) If the copied idea is specific enough, and if the copied work is "derivative" enough, yes there is an infraction. but we aren''t talking about the guy posting a specific, ultra detailed technical design, which someone copies to the letter. We are talking about him posting a game idea.

If as you claim these ideas are protected then please explain the existence of Warcraft (a copy of the Dune II/C&C game idea) or any of the FPS games that are copied from DOOM, or in fact almost any other game currently on the shelves.

There are in the region of 4,000 game published each year. How many cases can you quote where the situation you describe occurred over the last five years?

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions (www.obscure.co.uk)
Game Development & Design consultant

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Read your own post man...

"Works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression (for example, choreographic works that have not been notated or recorded, or improvisational speeches or performances that have not been written or recorded)

.....as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration"

What do you think the game design document is...oh yeah. A recording. Hmm funny how that happens like that.

Take my project for example. There are several post-apocalypyic mods that various groups are working on. Before those there were the games Wasteland, Fallout, and Fallout 2.

Ours however is a specific blend of FPS, RPG, MMO, and RTS. If you take a game with our method of gameplay and put it in a post-apocalyptic setting...Id venture to guess that the work we've done to date plus someones access to my GDD would hold up as proof in court that we were ripped off.

Your comment was patently (pardon the pun) broad. When you start to flame someone...try to take a little more care to be on point. Or at least listen to the original meaning of the person posting.

I was saying that although our very specific mix of genre, gameplay, and artwork could be ripped off from a reading of our GDD, unless I want to go to the time and expense of tracking the offender down and taking them to court...then im out of luck. But Ill be nice...maybe English isnt your first language.

Why dont you stop posting for awhile until you dont post here out of the need to puff yourself up as an expert.


[edited by - Vanquish on November 30, 2003 8:56:21 PM]

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Let''s not argue law here, fellas.

I imagine that a relatively small portion of this population has actually produced a piece of software that rivals yours in scope or quality. *Please, please do not respond with "I''m a head designer for Enix and I do this sort of thing in my sleep!" The statement was qualified with you few in mind.

I think we would all benefit from a good look at a polished, thought-out design doc. You''ve got two dozen guys on the project with a big head start; I doubt anyone will beat you to the publisher. We might, however, be able to give opinions or advice on your project, and posting to us will drum up at least a little support for your finished project. Heck, I''m interested in it already, and I don''t know squat about it.

So yeah, put it up. Or at least put up a few snippets for us to see. I''d be interested in a bona fide design document. The usual fare around here has things like "And this system will be just like in Final Fantasy, but with better graphics and real kung-fu moves."

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Guest Anonymous Poster
I tend to agree. Really, ideas are a dime a dozen and any hobo can have a great idea for a game. The fact you''ve got a team together and working on it already means you''re ahead. Actually turning the idea into something is the hard part and as others have said, I don''t think many people would want to take your idea and turn it into a game on their own - too much effort for ideas that aren''t theirs.

That''s not to say that people won''t take inspiration from your game idea, but that''s going to happen when the game comes out anyway. It''s a risk you have to weigh up against the benefits. If it makes you more comfortable, wait until you''re further down the track into actual development before posting anything. It would be nice to see another finished, polished design doc tho.

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Yeah. I knew I was making a mountain out of a molehill. No need to be a nervous nelly. I mean its not like I have the cure for cancer or the plans for an air-powered hovercraft lol.

So here it is:
http://members.shaw.ca/dcosborn/extern/omega/docs/CO_Bible-1.pdf

Hopefully it will be an interesting read, and spark comment, critique, and help a few people who are even more clueless than I am. lol

Have fun.

[edited by - Vanquish on December 1, 2003 1:57:28 AM]

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I like the fact that you can have a big impact on the world. I don't like the complexity of the game. You could skip all the detailed leveling of your character. I would keep the possibility to team up and to build and destroy. Anyway the grandness of the design afraids me. It has the impression of being too big of a design with too much 'wants' into it and as such will never be finished. I want to see a more pure design.

This game design has lots of additions now it's time to do the substractions! Ask yourself, what experience do I really want to give to the player? What is absolutely necesary to incorporate to get this experience? Dumb all the rest.

This in order to ever finish the product and have a really good game design.

[edited by - MarcDM on December 1, 2003 5:06:31 AM]

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Very well said. Thanks for the input.

The scope is big, I agree - and there is a lot to be done to make all of what is in that document come true. Your warning is duly noted, but I just couldnt (although it is prudent) pare down the game merely because our team might not be able to finish it all.

As for the complexity of the skills, I felt like a) this was the normal way things are done in most mmorpgs (EQ, Shadowbane) and b) thats part of what separates it from merely a FPS like Doom or HalfLife. Again, you may very well be right that the gameplay would be much better keeping the build and destroy qualities and losing the leveling xp grind. Let''s face it, no one likes that xp grind. We will definitely test it both ways.

Keep the comments rollin in!

Alfred Norris, VoodooFusion Studios
alfredn@conflictomega.com

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Looks nice. I like the ability to get a RTS GUI up while you are in the officer''s section of your guild.

How are you going to keep the guilds balanced? If they aren''t balanced then there''s no real strategy in the biggest guild always winning.

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Ah the question of balance. Getting good feedback here.

The team has had more than one discussion about that. We came up with 3 scenarios:

a) use beta and advertisement period to make the player-base as deep/numerous as possible. Shadowbane did have problems with the largest guilds "owning" servers...until they restarted recently and all the best guilds from various servers came to play together on the new one. Hopefully the server wipe from various stages of beta, along with the attraction of new players can serve the same purpose. Good point though. Large guilds could definitely dominate...makes ya wanna be a rebellious faction though doesnt it?

b) offer perks, weapons, etc for clan leaders who make their own independent clans

c) use our own dev team clan, with all the best weapons and equipment, along with the possible use of NPCs to attack large clans until they split apart and break off.

[edited by - Vanquish on December 1, 2003 11:20:50 AM]

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quote:
Original post by Vanquish
As for the complexity of the skills, I felt like a) this was the normal way things are done in most mmorpgs (EQ, Shadowbane) and b) thats part of what separates it from merely a FPS like Doom or HalfLife. Again, you may very well be right that the gameplay would be much better keeping the build and destroy qualities and losing the leveling xp grind. Let''s face it, no one likes that xp grind. We will definitely test it both ways.



As intelligent as you are you must see yourself that "because others do it, I do it too" is a poor argument. Certainly for a designer who wants to be innovative.

Why do most mmorpg''s use these complex leveling systems? Because they are necesary to the game? Or because one designer took over the concept from another branche (Dungeons & Dragons peper game), it proved to be succesful and the others copied it? Will you be the one who proves that complex leveling systems are not only unnecesary but even a burden to a grand virtual world?

True, people who play mmorpg''s need a way to invest in their character and/or the world. Since the impact on the world is almost zero all the investment has to go to your character in todays mmorpgs. But then still the question remains. Do you need a complex leveling systems in order to be able to invest in your character?

Simple to understand and easy to read character investment could be for instance. You grow from eating. You start young and little and grow big from eating. You die, you lose your character you have to start from a young boy or girl again. The bigger you are, the stronger you are. No complex system here, not one visual track bar spoiling the interface but you have character investment. And everybody ingame can easily read how far you are evolved with your character.

So it''s not because todays mmorpg''s use those never ending, very demanding leveling systems that you should waste the time of your players with this too.

Tell me, why do you want these varied leveling systems in the game?



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Point well taken.

I suppose my saying "others have it too" was more of a shorthand defense than a reason.


Why a leveling system:

First, I think differing levels of skill adds to the fun of the game. Having one character with a sniper skill of 25% and another character with a sniper skill of 125% makes the characters different and "real." If im going to hire one over the other to assassinate a guild leader, Im definitely going to take the guy with the 124%.

Now theres an argument on the other side of that which would go something like "but its an FPS game too. If they both have equal skills, then its the player who actually makes the difference not the gameskill restrictions." To that I would say, true - but a decision has to be made as to whether is this a twich game or a min/max game. Im trying to find a balance between the two. Perhaps it could come in the form of a highly balanced skill tree that wouldnt force players to choose certain skills at the expense of other skills so that no one player was too uber.

Second, I dont want everyone to have every skill right from the start. I personally feel that it feels like more of an achievement to spend time to get skills through playing, than to simply have the skills right off the bat. Hey, I totally understand that leveling can suck, and that perhaps there should be another way. I will do some soul searching..as well as pose the question to the team in our internal forum boards.

Perhaps there is a finite number of skill points that players could get all at the beginning say 1500, and they could configure them all at the start of play. This would make the game a lot more PvP oriented, but it would reduce the need for RPG/NPC combat. I mean who would play vs the NPCs when you have real people with more realistic reactions and methods?

I suppose there would still be weapon drops and item quests, as well as something to do when you arent PvPing.

Great discussion...We definitely DO want to be that group of which you speak...the ones on the bleeding edge, breaking out of the pre-existing molds...and proving what should be done to progress the genre.

I love being challenged! Keep this up.



[edited by - Vanquish on December 1, 2003 12:08:26 PM]

[edited by - Vanquish on December 1, 2003 12:10:45 PM]

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I like the document in general.

Communication hacking is an awesome idea! Most excellent...

One thought: does the build/repair skill extend to combat at all? I would think that knowledge of armour and computers might aid one when attacking cyborgs, just as knowledge of medicine might help when attacking humans. Just a thought...

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Okay I''ll leave the level issue aside for now and throw in some other things that botter me at this design. Take note that I might sound rude but do not take it personal. I attack ideas not people.

- Storyline. Just like a good fps doesn''t need a storyline at all, a good virtual world shouldn''t eather. Certainly not a static storyline. When you enter the world, depending on your situation, the situation of the world (which changes over time), the situation of your clan, the welcome story should be different. I would as gamedesigner not tell the story to the players but would make the world as interesting and challenging as possible so that the players tell the interesting stories to one another!! Fuck static storylines, they do not fit online worlds! The players should have the future of the world in their hand, not the storyline.

- Storyline, compared to other games with storylines, is not original. We''ve heard plenty of stories about the earth being collapsed and you are the survivor.

- Setting not original. Next to the tolkien fantasy, the future is the most used setting. The moment you enter the market you will have difficulty being noticed.

- Quest, Why quest in a multiplayer world? You have to put focus on pvp, meaning, the environment is not the goal but a means to an end. And the end are the other players.

Quests are a stupid way to try to incorporate adventure in a multiplayer world. Because quests are static. Once done it''s consumed. Since the players think they will get adventure from it and since they need it to level up they will all do it meaning you have to create LOTS of quests. Besides Quests are mostly dumb, actions clearly triggered by things you do, like crossing a line, and therefore break the suspention of disbelieve.

the same counts for:
-npc''s. Why would you want these? They are even more stupid then your dog or cat. They look human but aren''t human at all but robotic with whom you even can''t conversate. They are also very predictable in their behaviour. + they consume time to develop.


I think you should create your world as such that players can have a big impact on the world and the other players. Like building stuff but also being able to destroy stuff from others. Automaticaly you will get players who group together to help protect eachother. Give them the option to copulate for instance and have children who are new players. Give them the need to eat food otherwise they starve or child doens''t grow very well. etc etc.

As a gamedesigner of virtual worlds you should not lose your time and spoil your design with the creation of missions, quests or npc''s but with making sure that the players can make something of that world. That players and maybe the environment are a real challenge. The game has to be believable, challenging and social!

If you can sell it to a non-video gamer like your mom, you did a good job. What can your mom do in this game? Will she like it?

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