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sunandshadow

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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For 3D level design, legos also work well. They can give a pretty rough estimate as far as what areas might be visible from a certain vantage point, and which areas might be good for cutscenes (if your game has them). For a reasonably large level though, you might need a lot of legos.

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I think what it boils down to is that if you spend more than five minutes to look at the world of board games, PnP roleplaying games, and other non-computer games, you will discover an abundance of game concepts that have not been used by computer games.
It's a symptom of our modern approach to games that so little game concepts are being used.

Using paper prototypes, much like writing code in pseudo code, allows you to think outside the box, to take a different approach. It forces you to break out of your habits, to forget about the existing and overwhelming patterns.
A danger is to try and "translate" the computer experience to paper.

Someone mentioned "combo boxes were pieces of paper that could unfold"...
that's the sort of approach I believe should be avoided. Rather, try to use the medium and its own little quirks to do things differently.

Can you use what you do on paper and "translate" it to the computer?
I don't think that's the point. On the other hand, if you get a great idea on paper, imagine how much further you could push it with a computer...
(it's one of the sad things in cRPGs that with 30 years of evolution, all the computing world has managed to do is stick to Dungeon and Dragons :( Don't even get me started on that topic... :P )

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The RPG I'm working on was played with pen and paper for years. If you knew all the algorithms you could simulate, say, FF6 with paper.

If you're working on such a game I would say it is a brilliant idea because:

a) It forces you to finish all the design aspects before you get into a bunch of programming

b) It allows you to test and balance the gameplay easily without having to program anything

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it must then mean that you're much better at using that game maker than at using paper.

For most people, paper is just a simple way of doing things. If you can think of simpler ways of doing them, then go for them. I'll just stick to paper and cardboard, if it'sd all the same to you...

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Quote:
Original post by Fournicolas
it must then mean that you're much better at using that game maker than at using paper.

For most people, paper is just a simple way of doing things. If you can think of simpler ways of doing them, then go for them. I'll just stick to paper and cardboard, if it'sd all the same to you...


Real time concepts are kind of difficult to test on paper without so much increments that its more effective to use a simple piece of software.

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IN fact, no. Real-time concepts are the most interesting things, design-wise, to transfer to paper, or table-top, those being considered together for the purpose. They only demand some adaptation of the rules FOR THE PAPER DESIGN, not for the overall design. In order to make things go smoothly, of course, you may want t-o use your computer to make all the calculation, and such, but most of it will rely on SOUND design.

Just make it sound...

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Though an RTS could be effectively modeled using paper, I'm sure any tool a person can use efficiently to model their game is going to aid in testing the quality of its design. Isn't the point more about seeing how the numbers in the game end up affecting the whole experience? If so, I'm sure there's certain things a computer will be able to better than a paper model. Of course, if you can whip up a sample board and some paper game pieces in half an hour when it'd take a few days to write some code, then of course paper is the way to go. It's just a case of use the right tools for the right job. I can see how using a paper model wouldn't occure to a lot of people though.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by wildhalcyon
For 3D level design, legos also work well. They can give a pretty rough estimate as far as what areas might be visible from a certain vantage point, and which areas might be good for cutscenes (if your game has them). For a reasonably large level though, you might need a lot of legos.


Haha, very nice. I didn't know anyone else did this. Its quicker and sturdier then a paper test level, and can be quickly reconfiguired if a change needs to be made.
+1 to legos

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This thread just cost me $61.45 (USD) [smile]. I've mentally toyed with the idea of making a prototype for my 4x SF RTS project for a while now, so I suppose you guys just pushed me over the edge.

- Mike

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