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Paper prototypes?

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I saw a game design for cheap at the local used bookstore this weekend so I grabbed it. The book is _The Game Design Workshop_ by Fullerton, Swain, and Hoffman. One thing in particular surprised me about this book - its heavy emphasis on creating paper prototypes and playtesting them before you start programming. Unfortunately it didn't give any suggestions on exactly how you create a paper prototype for a computer game. It seems counterintuitive to me - the whole point of making games out of programming is because this medium allows automating and instant interactivity that boardgames don't. How do you use paper to simulate arcade-style combat or jumping over holes and dodging divebombing enemies? [Edited by - sunandshadow on March 6, 2006 12:22:56 AM]

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Cards?

I've seen a card game simulate Street Fighter 2 style combat. I'll grant you it was far from perfect, and was more a luck game than a skill game, but it still demanded some forethought and strategy. If your system is sound, then making it paper, sand or program will not change the game mechanics. Therefore, what you gain from paper prototyping is time spent in paying your programmers, if it is not you.

I am a game designer. I mean by that term that I have been designing game ever since I've PLAYED games. Which doesn't come close to being the same as PROGRAMMING games. I've created, I don't know, something like a dozen different systems for roleplaying games, all PnP, and my players always found them perfectly fast-paced and efficient for their purpose, but that was because a lot of play-testing went into them. Most of my ideas were good, but they seldom, if ever, were perfectly emplemented from the start. The advantage of paper prototype is that if something doesn't work in your game mechanics, then you'll know before spending time programming it. Game mechanics should always be refined before programming them.

I understand perfectly well your concern of making use of the computer to make calculation faster, and automatizing things, and so on. But after all, when you played your PnP RPGs, you did the same. Hell, I can even paper-prototype a platform game.

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I can imagine the topdown view of the FPS level in paper form and the designer
can use a small item like a button, for example to "run" through the level and see good places to put spawn points/items. paper has the added advantage of being able to scribble notes

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Fournicolas - actually I only ever played about 2 sessions of PnP RPGs - I much prefer diceless roleplaying if I can't have the computer do all the math for me. [lol] But seriously, don't you think the play experience from the card version of SFII was totally different than the play experience of the actual game? Wouldn't that make your playtesting results of dubious accuracy?

kaze - copyright date is 2004

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Quote:
Original post by yapposai
I can imagine the topdown view of the FPS level in paper form and the designer
can use a small item like a button, for example to "run" through the level and see good places to put spawn points/items. paper has the added advantage of being able to scribble notes


That's a common technique for level-designers indeed. Abstracting the level to it's core gameplay elements like 'combat area's' and 'connections', 'cover', 'items'...
Comparing the times I started a layout on paper to the times I just started somewhere, or even with a layout in an editor, the former has gained me far better playing maps so far.

I assume that for game-design, some form of abstraction can be used as well. When used for level-design, it becomes easier to spot useless routes or to see when a level becomes too unvaried (too many puzzle parts in a row, no exploring in between the combat, and so on).
I'm not sure how to put this to use for game-design though, so far all I've done is sketching some rough layouts of interfaces and game maps, but even that made me think about the games design.

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Quote:
Original post by yapposai
I can imagine the topdown view of the FPS level in paper form and the designer
can use a small item like a button, for example to "run" through the level and see good places to put spawn points/items. paper has the added advantage of being able to scribble notes


At the studio I was at in the summer this was how the level designers did the map concepts, although on a whiteboard which is nearly the same.

Paper prototypes are useful in application development, I even had to make one for my college project. Combo boxes are folded up pieces of apper stuck on that you can pull down etc.

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Hell yeah you need a paper proto....

I can tell you right now from my experience that I lost a full year on a project (my first one) because I neglected to make a through paper version of it first. What you'll find is that you need very specific details like 'number of citizens' or 'amount of land' or 'troop strength', etc etc, and without a good proto, you'll end up plugging in random numbers and the whole thing goes to hell. The very first step you need to take is decide what you want the user to do each time they play the game. If its turn based... think about how many actions you want the user to take per turn. How many upgrade points do you want them to use per day. How often do you want them to log in. And go from there. Make it as detailed as possible. Then you can frame out all your gui's, etc.

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Quote:
Original post by sunandshadow
I saw a game design for cheap at the local used bookstore this weekend so I grabbed it. The book is _The Game Design Workshop_ by Fullerton, Swain, and Hoffman. One thing in particular surprised me about this book - its heavy emphasis on creating paper prototypes and playtesting them before you start programming. Unfortunately it didn't give any suggestions on exactly how you create a paper prototype for a computer game. It seems counterintuitive to me - the whole point of making games out of programming is because this medium allows automating and instant interactivity that boardgames don't. How do you use paper to simulate arcade-style combat or jumping over holes and dodging divebombing enemies?


Maybe you're taking the situation too literally... a game system should be planned out on "paper" (preferably some electronic medium so it can be easily shared) in order to figure out game-balance and number-system-balance. For example, a Street Fighter game might plan out the different attacks, damages, and hit values in a spreadsheet table, in order so that they can tweak the numbers to balance the game. A roleplaying game would definitely need to be planned as such, to balance inventory, money, combat, spells, and game physics!

Doing this in code would be a virtual exercise in futility if the game was by any means complex.

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