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I'm pretty sure I posted a while back whining that I'm too shit to complete a project or that games never work out for me, but finally I have a partially complete (but fully functional as yet!) game project. It's here (You need XNA Redist. and also the file is listed as a text file because they won't let me keep .rar files on there, so just rename to "tds.rar" it when it's done). I would really appreciate it if someone could give me a nudge (maybe a story idea or something) because at the moment it sits as a demo, and I can't think of how to move forward. Yes, the A* is pretty pathetic, but I'm trashing that anyway. AI is my next piece, I think, although without a concrete goal, I don't think I'll know exactly what the enemy will need to be able to do. It's planned on being single-player and multi-player co-op (peer-to-peer) using the same campaign, probably. It's not meant to be the next Doom, it's just for me to complete a project, but have a half-decent game and reasonably-well written campaign. Any input is appreciated, guys. If anyone wants the source-code (doubt it!) you can have that too, just pm me or something.

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I don't have XNA (?), but I can approximate your gameplay and project pretty well from the description and screenshot. It looks nearly identical to my first game development project.

I was ridiculously obsessed with cyberpunk back then, and I was trying to design a game in the image of the Shadowrun console top-down and isometric shooter games. Well, nothing has changed. I'm still writing it.

Anyway, if you're looking for ideas for gameplay features, I can name hundreds. For stories, I can only name one or two. But if you are going for something cyberpunk-like, I would avoid any type of world saving goal. If you save the world, you'll end up removing the depression, and you need the depression for the dystopia, and the dystopia for the cyberpunk. You don't wanna lose that - even at the end of a single player game.

As for programming, I would recommend not getting very serious with AI until you're almost positive that most of the combat and gameplay features are done. If you implement it now and add grenades or destructable walls later, your AI will need seriously upgraded. And that type of thing won't end until you've made up your mind to stop adding features (expanding the engine) and start building the actual game (creating content).

Here's my recommended order of operation:
1) Get most of the general gameplay elements ready, like maps and items.
2) Get a decent scripting engine set up. You'll most definitely need one with a game like this. Start by using it for complex or dynamic map elements like doors.
3) Finish the character, combat, and weapon engines. Every feature.
4) Start and complete the combat AI.
5) Get all NPC interaction and dialog systems finished, if there is any. Try to rely on scripting for most of it.
6) Completely finish the wanderer/explorer engine - if there is one. Again, rely on scripting as much as possible and don't hardcode everything.
7) Come up with a story.
8) Start designing actual people, gangs, corps, special items, and locations.
9) Build and create content for everything from 7 and 8.

If only it were as easy as typing them into a list.

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Thankyou very much! That is an awesome set of guidelines; almost exactly what I was looking for! So you reckon leave story until last, hey? OK. It makes sense now that I think about it, a game is exactly the same underneath if you just change the names and the graphics, I suppose.

Any other suggestions?

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I disagree with leaving the story last. But only partially. The story depending on how crutial you want it to the game, can give you gameplay feature ideas.

However if your story is nothing but a mcguffin (a reason to have the action) then yes leave it to last.

If its a bit more integral, then you may want to outline the story so that you can get an idea of what you want and if its going to call for anything in the gameplay. You don't need to really flesh it out, just outline it.

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Original post by robert4818
I disagree with leaving the story last. But only partially. The story depending on how crutial you want it to the game, can give you gameplay feature ideas.

I can understand how the atmosphere or setting can give you gameplay feature ideas, but how is the story going to influence it?

Game engines are far too complex to hinge the programming code and engine functionality on part of a specific story or plot. That's what scripting is for. Gameplay should be the only influence on the engine. And sometimes even a major part of the gameplay can be handled with scripting. The less written in stone, the better.

Still, I didn't mean for the steps in my list to be completed in absolute order. But each step in the list won't be required by any of the steps before it. It won't hurt too much to finish steps 7 and 8 before starting 1. 7 and 8 can pretty much slide anywhere in the list.

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I can understand how the atmosphere or setting can give you gameplay feature ideas, but how is the story going to influence it?


It depends on how critical the story is to the game as I said earlier.

You said atmosphere could influence your game engine. Game story is the same way.

It really depends on your philosophy and the game experience you want the player to have. There are probably many more engines designed before the story than vice versa. So it works. But if you have a story in your head before the engine has a line of code its also going to affect the way the engine is built.

Say your making a cyberpunk game. You've made most of the game, and then you work on your story. While writing the story one plot device contains stand alone portals that move people from one side of the city to another. If this was not something you originally put into your engine, then it may be something you want to add.

As said before I'm not advocating writing the entire story, but an outline could help on features not thought of before.

And again it depends on how integral it is to the overall game. In a Zelda game, its probably more important than say contra.

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Original post by robert4818
You said atmosphere could influence your game engine. Game story is the same way.

The atmosphere and setting define the type of terrain, the type of items, weapons, clothing styles, etc. A story is nothing more than a scenario that takes place in that setting. It shouldn't have much of an effect on the engine.

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Say your making a cyberpunk game. You've made most of the game, and then you work on your story. While writing the story one plot device contains stand alone portals that move people from one side of the city to another. If this was not something you originally put into your engine, then it may be something you want to add.

I think that example fails. Any decent game engine will already have a method intended to move characters without relying on velocity and physics, even if the engine was built for a medieval setting. Anything other than the actual teleport, like the specific special effects and particles, would not need to be coded into the engine.

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As said before I'm not advocating writing the entire story, but an outline could help on features not thought of before.

I'm not disagreeing, but I can't think of anything significant myself.

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And again it depends on how integral it is to the overall game. In a Zelda game, its probably more important than say contra.

There was nothing that happened in a Zelda game that couldn't have been handled with scripting that was written into the game engine long before the story was conceived.

I can't imagine anything bad happening because a story was fleshed out before the engine was started. But if we measure by difficulty, it would be much, much easier to change a story to suit an engine than to change an engine to suit a story. Game engines take years and years to complete. Then years more to test and debug. Stories can be imagined and detialed within a week or a month.

If you write the story before the engine, what will you do for the sequel?

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Your right. There was nothing in zelda that couldn't have been done without the story. A story is not essential to an engine. Like I said, your story may give you ideas about features you want in your engine. Its a designer question on how your making your game.

Idealy they might be created at the same time, both adapting to advances in the other.

However I suggest we move this discussion to another thread and let this one get back on track.

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No, it's helpful.

The engine is entirely separate from the game and was completed months ago. The game is being built over the top of the engine, although I don't think that the story could possibly influence the gameplay in such a way that things would need to be re-coded, but it could possibly give ideas for additional elements.

Let's take counter-strike for example. The functionality to 'win' games, kill things and detect if things had been moved to a certain location were all probably in the game engine already, however, their use in the game would not be apparent until the story or setting was created. Why would the game need to be able to check if hostages had arrived safely at their destination if it was a ten-pin bowling game? Conversely, a bowling game might use the same functionality to see if the bowling ball went into the gutters. Another example: Counter-Strike needs explosions, whereas our nondescript bowling game doesn't. However, the bowling game may display fireworks when a high score is achieved which uses the same particle engine that the explosions do, etc.

Story may not influence the game engine, but it definitely influences the use of the game engine.

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If the story is important, then it's quite clear that the story may place requirements upon both the rendering and the gameplay. That in turn can place requirements upon the engine. To think otherwise is mad.

If my story dictates that I fly between planets and fight off enemy spaceships along the way, then that places significantly different demands on the implementation than if the story dictates that I sneak through deserted catacombs under a city. If the story indicates that I do a lot of negotiating and diplomacy, then the engine will need to support more advanced dialogue. And if all I do is shoot aliens, the engine may not need it at all.

It's no good to say that it can all be done in scripting. Script is just an easier interface to the code. Functionality still needs to be supported by the engine, as there are things you just can't do in script alone.

This isn't to say that the story in this case could, would, or should influence the engine. But generally speaking, the game requirements dictate the technology requirements. Taking a bit of technology and wedging a game in there is limiting the scope of what you can do.

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Original post by Kylotan
If the story is important, then it's quite clear that the story may place requirements upon both the rendering and the gameplay. That in turn can place requirements upon the engine. To think otherwise is mad.

Games that revolve around a central type of gameplay don't need a story to completely flesh that gameplay out. That doesn't mean the story is unimportant.

However, I can imagine Final Fantasy type games not really possessing a central type of gameplay, and needing an ever changing gameplay engine. In my experience, "enthralling" doesn't describe the gameplay for these games. And I would wager it's because most of the scenarios were written on the spot for the story.

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If my story dictates that I fly between planets and fight off enemy spaceships along the way, then that places significantly different demands on the implementation than if the story dictates that I sneak through deserted catacombs under a city.

That still sounds like part of the setting and gameplay style, rather than being related to a specific story. I mean unless you can only travel once or twice, and the gameplay while traveling is extremely generic.

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If the story indicates that I do a lot of negotiating and diplomacy, then the engine will need to support more advanced dialogue. And if all I do is shoot aliens, the engine may not need it at all.

None of this is related to a specific story. It's all gameplay style. No one is going to build a circuit racing game and write a story about a desert salesman.

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It's no good to say that it can all be done in scripting. Script is just an easier interface to the code. Functionality still needs to be supported by the engine, as there are things you just can't do in script alone.

There's no doubt that you'll have to go back and make changes because of things you never thought you would need. Especially on your first go at it. But this happens regardless of a story. Beyound this one limitation, scripting can be used to do anything.

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Yes, these things are aspects of the gameplay style, but that gameplay style may in turn have flowed from the story.

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None of this is related to a specific story. It's all gameplay style. No one is going to build a circuit racing game and write a story about a desert salesman.


The whole point is that not everybody builds a game and then adds the story second.

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Original post by Kylotan
Yes, these things are aspects of the gameplay style, but that gameplay style may in turn have flowed from the story.

And some story elements and plot twists could be inspired or shaped by the game engine, if it was finished first. If you end up with segmented quest missions in your gameplay, it may cut your on-going dramatic story into pieces and ruin the feel of it.

You need a general idea of what you want out of both before you get serious with either. I just have more of a story revolves around gameplay preference. A good story is ever changing, and I don't like gameplay to be ever changing. That usually just adds up to a collection of generic mini-games.

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A well-designed engine should be able to handle any type of game in its genre (if it's just a rendering engine then it should be able to handle any type of game) regardless of story or setting. Setting is defined by content and story. I doubt that if your engine was designed properly that you would ever need to add something that the story had in it, unless it's a new style of play. In this case, as Kest states, your game ends up becoming Mario Party.

Engines and games are two separate things, however, and the latter may have to compensate for the lack of a required feature in the former.

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Original post by NickHighIQ
A well-designed engine should be able to handle any type of game in its genre (if it's just a rendering engine then it should be able to handle any type of game) regardless of story or setting.


This is limiting yourself by putting genre first, then technology, and then finally fitting story and setting into that. You can do it that way if you like. But sometimes we don't want to work within existing genres, and may come up with a story that requires a different method of presentation, which in turn may require a new engine or significant engine changes. You can't always find an existing system that fits for any arbitrary story.

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I doubt that if your engine was designed properly that you would ever need to add something that the story had in it, unless it's a new style of play. In this case, as Kest states, your game ends up becoming Mario Party.


If you honestly believe that "new style of play" necessarily means "Mario Party" then you're quite narrow-minded on game design. I'm glad other people haven't historically dismissed the idea of doing anything new because it didn't fit into some predefined genre.

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Engines and games are two separate things, however, and the latter may have to compensate for the lack of a required feature in the former.


No, the game builds on the engine. If the engine can't provide the feature, and doesn't provide building blocks that the feature can be constructed from, then it can't be done. Therefore the game must occasionally shape the engine.

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Original post by Kylotan
This is limiting yourself by putting genre first, then technology, and then finally fitting story and setting into that. You can do it that way if you like. But sometimes we don't want to work within existing genres, and may come up with a story that requires a different method of presentation, which in turn may require a new engine or significant engine changes. You can't always find an existing system that fits for any arbitrary story.


Give me an example of a story element that would require an addition or change in the engine.

Quote:
Original post by Kylotan
If you honestly believe that "new style of play" necessarily means "Mario Party" then you're quite narrow-minded on game design. I'm glad other people haven't historically dismissed the idea of doing anything new because it didn't fit into some predefined genre.


I meant adding new styles of play on top of each other in the one game. I'm all for new genres; my favourite site at the moment is the Experimental Gameplay Project.

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Original post by Kylotan
Therefore the game must occasionally shape the engine.


Agreed.

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Original post by NickHighIQ
Give me an example of a story element that would require an addition or change in the engine.


It's not just about a story element 'changing' the engine, it's about the story dictating the engine. For example, for such a game to be effective, a story about someone who commands an army would require a different engine to a story about someone who fights alone against a handful of opponents. If your story sees the main character in an RPG suddenly command an army in the final battle, then either you change the engine to cope with that, or you change the story to fit the engine.

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I meant adding new styles of play on top of each other in the one game.


There is a whole range of things you may want to add before it gets to mini-game status. One example is that you can often drive vehicles in shooter games. Once upon a time, the engines just didn't allow that, and now many of them do. If your story involves driving a tank through a wall to rescue some people, and your engine doesn't support player-controlled vehicles, you're out of luck. Another example is how Oblivion supports sneaking in a similar way to that pioneered in Thief and Splinter Cell. This is crucial if your story allows or requires you to be a stealth-based character. Yet without the engine support for concepts like sound propagation, the level of background noise, fuzzy degrees of visibility, different movement speeds, and so on, you're not going to be able to pull it off.

All the time, we add new styles of play, or adapt styles from other games. Sometimes, those ideas will come from a certain story or setting that we're trying to depict. No engine, no matter how well-coded, can possibly anticipate every future gameplay idea, and no scripting interface attached to that, no matter how versatile, can expose enough functionality to do absolutely everything you might want.

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Original post by Kylotan
For example, for such a game to be effective, a story about someone who commands an army would require a different engine to a story about someone who fights alone against a handful of opponents. If your story sees the main character in an RPG suddenly command an army in the final battle, then either you change the engine to cope with that, or you change the story to fit the engine.


That's genre. As for the last suggestion, your engine is separate from your game. The game should handle this so as that the engine is reusable as the name 'engine' describes.

Quote:
Original post by Kylotan
One example is that you can often drive vehicles in shooter games. Once upon a time, the engines just didn't allow that, and now many of them do. If your story involves driving a tank through a wall to rescue some people, and your engine doesn't support player-controlled vehicles, you're out of luck.


Once again, this is genre related. Because most shooter games allow vehicles, vehicle support is part of most shooter engines now. However, if you wanted said vehicles and didn't have the support in the engine, it must be built into the game. The engine, unless poorly designed, will allow for this.

Quote:
Original post by Kylotan
Another example is how Oblivion supports sneaking in a similar way to that pioneered in Thief and Splinter Cell. This is crucial if your story allows or requires you to be a stealth-based character. Yet without the engine support for concepts like sound propagation, the level of background noise, fuzzy degrees of visibility, different movement speeds, and so on, you're not going to be able to pull it off.


Again, these should be built into the game, not the engine, unless you want these features in all the games this engine is used for. Bethesda, however, probably built it into the engine themselves, but this is not necessary in most situations.

Quote:
Original post by Kylotan
All the time, we add new styles of play, or adapt styles from other games. Sometimes, those ideas will come from a certain story or setting that we're trying to depict. No engine, no matter how well-coded, can possibly anticipate every future gameplay idea, and no scripting interface attached to that, no matter how versatile, can expose enough functionality to do absolutely everything you might want.


Which is why the engine must be generic and the game specific.

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Original post by NickHighIQ
Which is why the engine must be generic and the game specific.


Developing a completely generic engine is extremely difficult and less useful than you might think. It's almost guaranteed that by the time you've produced the first game using your amazing generic engine, some new technology will come along that will demand you to rewrite big chunks of it anyway.

Most engines are designed for a specific game or genre of game, and they will support the features required of that game, and perhaps some additional support for some degree of modding, but trying to go much beyond that when developing your engine is crazy.

The two main factors that should determine your approach would be: a)how important your story is and b)how much you enjoy refactoring your engine to support some feature required by the storyline that you didn't plan for at the start of day.

If your story isn't that important, or you're happy to work it around the limitations of the engine, then engine first, story later. If you absolutely must tell the story in a particular way and you don't want to do more work on the engine than you have to, then do the story first so you have a good idea of the feature set required before starting the engine.

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