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chervenkoff

Requirements prioritization and preserving the creative/core vision

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Dear game designers and creative minds,

My name is Alex Chervenkoff and I am a master student at Utrecht University, The Netherlands, doing my thesis project on Requirements Prioritization for the gaming industry.

This post is a continuation of my search for expert opinion (meaning your opinion) on the topic of prioritizing game requirements – “How it’s done today?”, “How can it be improved?”, and generally, “How can the core/creative vision of a game project be preserved during the pre-productionand production stages of game development?”

To illustrate the problem I’m focusing on, think of agame such as SPORE, where a perfectly brilliant game idea was smothered by the studio’s inability to [b]prioritize and focus on the requirements/ideas that make-or-break the game[/b] – ultimately resulting in a disappointment proportionate only to the initial hype SPORE created.

In software development, requirements prioritization generally evaluates the cost of implementation (time, money, people etc.) andrisks of implementation (e.g. new and untested technologies, dependencies between requirements etc.). However, as sunandshadow put it on a related topic:

[quote name='sunandshadow' timestamp='1313625918'post='4850543']
So let's say you are the lead designer or producer ofa game, whatever title but the point is that it's your job to decide prioritization. The game design you bought says "we need either feature A or feature B here". Feature A and feature B would cost about the same amount to implement. You don't have a personal preference between the two. How do you decide? You have to decide because otherwise it's a stumbling block for your own personal work efficiency and the whole project. I think you need to have some overall strategy or rule of thumb for making this kind of decision.
[/quote]
Of course, this is an oversimplification of the problem, but it illustrates the logic quite well. To try and summarize my intentions with my thesis: I am trying to develop a method for requirements prioritization for game development where the dimensions of cost and risk are supplemented with another dimension – [b]the degree to which the core/creative vision of a game project is dependent on aspecific requirement/idea. [/b]In simpler words, how important is a specific requirement to the core idea of the game.

In order to be able to do this, I need your help in understanding the process of prioritizing features in the game industry today.

The developers I have talked to generally take little or no interest in the prioritization process or in the notion of preserving the core/creative vision of a game idea. In my opinion, this has to do with the fact that developers get blocks of already prioritized requirements (think agile development, SCRUM etc.) and all they need to do is code, code, code.

On the other hand, the few designers I’ve talked to had a greater interest in having a clear definition of the core/creative vision of their "child". This is why I end up here, asking for help in answering the following questions:

[b]How do you decide if feature A or B is more important to your game design? (regardless of their cost or risk of implementation)

Do you think it is important to preserve the core/creative vision throughout the development?

How do you do that?

Do you think it is a good idea to prioritize requirements not only based on their cost and implementation risks involved, but also according to their importance to the core/creative vision of the game design? How would you do it?[/b] (P.S. The product of my thesis revolves around this question and it’s answer.)

I will highly appreciate help answering any of these questions! Moreover, if anyone is interested in closer collaboration on developing a method for requirements prioritization for game development, I will be extremely happy – just PM me! The final thesis and any product will be publicly available, and will hopefully provide novice designers and developers a good practice for requirements prioritization and preserving the core/creative vision of a game development project.

If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them. If there is any need for clarification, just say so, and I will try my best to explain. Also, since there is a similar topic based on the same research, but from the developer's point of view, you can check out the [url="http://www.gamedev.net/topic/608428-how-can-i-measure-the-creativeentertainment-value-of-video-game-requirements/page__st__40__p__4852014#entry4852014"]detailed explanation of the reasoning behind my research[/url] there.

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[quote name='DarklyDreaming' timestamp='1318263291' post='4871107']
Woah. [url="http://www.gamedev.net/topic/608428-how-can-i-measure-the-creativeentertainment-value-of-video-game-requirements/page__p__4848614#entry4848614"]Haven't you already made a very similar topic?[/url]
[/quote]

True, however I am interested in the designer's perspective, and after speaking to one of the moderators here, I was advised to make this one.

As for the other topic, I'll make sure I get back to it soon... Had a busy month :)

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[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1318265086' post='4871122']
What "[b]core/creative vision of the game design[/b]" is?[b]
[/b]
[/quote]

The main idea, the backbone of the game, the concept... The core vision, the most important and simplest representation of the game design.

It is a very good question, as I would like to hear the definition of this term by designers - what do you think is the core/creative vision? How would you define it?

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[b]How do you decide if feature A or B is more important to your game design? (regardless of their cost or risk of implementation)[/b]

Whichever is the most important in creating the experience I wanted for the player. Not a hard and fast rule but the closest thing I can come up with.

[b]Do you think it is important to preserve the core/creative vision throughout the development?[/b]

It depends. In the initial stages? No since the idea is still being developed. Later on yes I think it's important to preserve the core idea as much as possible, there are countless games that have watered themselves down later on in their developed. Funnily enough I'm not sure spore is one of them. In fact I would say it's hard to tell if that indeed happens, what we (as outsiders) perceive as a change in the core idea could just be the developers poorly explaining or downright lying about the type of game they are creating.

[b]How do you do that?[/b]

The two main ways i can think of are to have a single person in charge of keeping a game in line with the core vision of the project and some form of communal information hub (like a wiki). You can find a more in depth look at that idea in the MMORPG section (by Seamster and Danuser) in the book "[i]Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG[/i]". They relate it to the story of the game but the ideas are perfect for other areas of design as well.

[b]Do you think it is a good idea to prioritize requirements not only based on their cost and implementation risks involved, but also according to their importance to the core/creative vision of the game design? How would you do it?[/b]

I think it is a good idea, if you can possibly do it. Outlining what you (and the team) think are core concepts to the game idea and regularly making sure the game is still sticking to those where possible. Using someone outside of the project (who can look at the bigger picture) would probably be best.

[b]What do you think is the core/creative vision? How would you define it?[/b]

Depends from project to project. I would put as to elements that if you were to make a pitch of the game would be included. A very basic example would be "I wish to make a console based RTS with focus on large armies and RPG style character progression". The core concepts of this game are:

[list][*]It being an RTS[*]Is using large armies[*]It having some form of RPG like character progression[*]It being console based[/list]

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[b]How do you decide if feature A or B is more important to your game design? (regardless of their cost or risk of implementation)

[/b]Whichever supplements the theme better and/or generates a better experience. Most of the time, it will evolve and develop with time -- in the beginning, you may think A is the most suitable feature -- as time and development progresses, B might turn out to be more appealing, be it due to cost(both time and money) or just fitting better.

[b]Do you think it is important to preserve the core/creative vision throughout the development?

[/b]Depends what you define as a core. To some, the core of the vision is using a new graphics engine. To some, it is the story or art style. Most games tend to focus on a few key aspects and build a game around that. Yeah, it is important -- it is this core/creative vision that you pitch towards the men with the money (or men with skills if we are talking hobby games). Changing the core is changing the expectations of your client, which is neither fair nor wise.

[b]How do you do that?

[/b]By any means possible I guess? A creative mind won't have problems with finding workarounds for problems. And an overblown vision will crash and burn any way, so only the strong will survive.

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Neat ideas here Bigdeadbug! Thanks! :)

[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1318272850' post='4871153']
[b]How do you decide if feature A or B is more important to your game design? (regardless of their cost or risk of implementation)[/b]

Whichever is the most important in creating the experience I wanted for the player. Not a hard and fast rule but the closest thing I can come up with.
[/quote]

I think what you are proposing is quite logical. I see you say "the experience I wanted for the player", but what happens when you are working in a larger project, with more people who assume the role of defining the importance/priority of a requirement/idea, how do you communicate the desired experience with the rest of the people involved. How do you make sure everyone knows what that player experience is? I'm curious.

[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1318272850' post='4871153']
[b]Do you think it is important to preserve the core/creative vision throughout the development?[/b]

It depends. In the initial stages? No since the idea is still being developed. Later on yes I think it's important to preserve the core idea as much as possible, there are countless games that have watered themselves down later on in their developed. Funnily enough I'm not sure spore is one of them. In fact I would say it's hard to tell if that indeed happens, what we (as outsiders) perceive as a change in the core idea could just be the developers poorly explaining or downright lying about the type of game they are creating.
[/quote]

That's interesting, why do you think SPORE failed then? And you bring up an interesting issue here - the communication problem between designers and developers - what would you say is the reason(s) for this poor communication of ideas?

[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1318272850' post='4871153']
[b]How do you do that?[/b]

The two main ways i can think of are to have a single person in charge of keeping a game in line with the core vision of the project and some form of communal information hub (like a wiki). You can find a more in depth look at that idea in the MMORPG section (by Seamster and Danuser) in the book "[i]Writing for Video Game Genres: From FPS to RPG[/i]". They relate it to the story of the game but the ideas are perfect for other areas of design as well.
[/quote]
Great! Thanks for the literature, that will be quite useful for the research :)

I think your ideas are pretty interesting. About the first one - a single person in charge of keeping a game in line with the core vision - who do you think should be in charge - the designer? Or the person who came up with the idea for the game? Or maybe someone else?

About your second idea, the wiki - as an information science student, I have come across too many cases of companies (... true, business companies) that have trouble using a shared repository (such as the wiki you propose). What would make/motivate the people involved in the project use this wiki? And how do you think this wiki should be laid out - how would you structure the information in it? Would you put everything in there (i.e. the whole game design document content) or would you select only what is important to be shared with the rest of the team. In the case of the latter, what would you say is important and needs to be made clear across all involved in the project.

[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1318272850' post='4871153']
[b]Do you think it is a good idea to prioritize requirements not only based on their cost and implementation risks involved, but also according to their importance to the core/creative vision of the game design? How would you do it?[/b]

I think it is a good idea, if you can possibly do it. Outlining what you (and the team) think are core concepts to the game idea and regularly making sure the game is still sticking to those where possible. Using someone outside of the project (who can look at the bigger picture) would probably be best.
[/quote]

That's my general hypothesis as well, but here comes the hard part :) How do you outline the core concepts? How do you check if an idea "sticks to those concepts"? You suggest an outsider, someone involved in neither the design, nor the development. Seems like an important role. Who do you think can be entrusted with such an important task? I understand you think it shouldn't be a designer or a developer, what is your logic behind it?

[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1318272850' post='4871153']
[b]What do you think is the core/creative vision? How would you define it?[/b]

Depends from project to project. I would put as to elements that if you were to make a pitch of the game would be included.
[/quote]

I think that is spot on! And also shows how important requirements/idea prioritization is when selling/pitching the idea. I always thought that if there is a guideline/method for prioritizing game requirements, it should be available and applied before pitching the game idea, which means that it's game designers that should be using it. This is exactly why I'm here, talking to designers. It became quite clear that it's not the job of developers, even thought I think it might be quite important that developers at least understand the reasoning behind the prioritization.


I'd love to hear more on those issues.

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[quote name='chervenkoff' timestamp='1318348482' post='4871479']
Neat ideas here Bigdeadbug! Thanks! :)

[/quote]

No problem :) .


[quote name='chervenkoff' timestamp='1318348482' post='4871479']
I think what you are proposing is quite logical. I see you say "the experience I wanted for the player", but what happens when you are working in a larger project, with more people who assume the role of defining the importance/priority of a requirement/idea, how do you communicate the desired experience with the rest of the people involved. How do you make sure everyone knows what that player experience is? I'm curious.
[/quote]

Well I think there should always be someone "at the top" who governs the creative direction of the game (ideally the person who came up with the basic idea). Now yes others will have input but if the project is well thought out then the core should remain intact. As for how to communicate the ideas? Meetings of people involved in the project would be the best way to go about it and making sure from the word go that the core of the game is explained to everyone in person (or conference call). So long as you communicate all the time (or as often as physically possible) it should minimize any issues. As far as I know that's one of the reasons people use the SCRUM method.

[quote name='chervenkoff' timestamp='1318348482' post='4871479']
That's interesting, why do you think SPORE failed then? And you bring up an interesting issue here - the communication problem between designers and developers - what would you say is the reason(s) for this poor communication of ideas?
[/quote]

Sorry what I meant was a communication between the developer and those that will buy the end product (i.e. the players).

Well I feel it was down to the developer and designer making a game aimed at children (or the family as Will Wright put it if i remember correctly) but that never being made clear to the people waiting for the game to come out. From my own personal experience people were expecting a SimCity style "serious" game with a cartoonist bent to it. In my opinion this was largely down to what the game actually was (a "multi-genre single-player god game" as wiki puts it). When these people in fact got a "family game" instead then all hell broke loose and it was deemed a failure. If you look at the game it's not really "bad" but it was (maybe inadvertently) marketed to the wrong people. It's then easy for people to assume that the designer betrayed their core ideals when in fact it was the game Will Wright wanted to along.


The reasons? I think lack of any quality communication. If it had been made clear from the start that it was a game for kids then people wouldn't have been expecting a huge complex sim game.

(Ok to thats all theory but from what I vaguely remember Will Wright saying afterwards it seems more probable.)

[quote name='chervenkoff' timestamp='1318348482' post='4871479']
Great! Thanks for the literature, that will be quite useful for the research :)

I think your ideas are pretty interesting. About the first one - a single person in charge of keeping a game in line with the core vision - who do you think should be in charge - the designer? Or the person who came up with the idea for the game? Or maybe someone else?
About your second idea, the wiki - as an information science student, I have come across too many cases of companies (... true, business companies) that have trouble using a shared repository (such as the wiki you propose). What would make/motivate the people involved in the project use this wiki? And how do you think this wiki should be laid out - how would you structure the information in it? Would you put everything in there (i.e. the whole game design document content) or would you select only what is important to be shared with the rest of the team. In the case of the latter, what would you say is important and needs to be made clear across all involved in the project.

[/quote]

The lead designer would be the most obvious candidate (and has been the person to traditionally do this as far as I know). Really they just need to have overall control of the project but also not be too involved in the micromanagement of the game's development so they can still judge the game as a whole. I assume this would be the person coming up with the original concept but it doesn't have to be (so long as they understand the original concept and can be trusted to stick to it).


I have also found (although in small projects) that people don't tend to use these sorts of tools. People never get into the habit of uploading their work so a lot of work doesn't get uploaded initially and then people don't bother checking it so then people don't bother to uploading etc. I think it's down to forcing people to use it from the start. Make people upload the relevant work as they do it, eventually it will become second nature. Maybe even make people go back and read work others have posted that has some bearing on theirs. I suppose you could do this partially during meetings. As for what to upload this could be down to the different leads to govern what should and should not make it onto the wiki.

Off the top of my head I would copy Wikipedia's layout since a huge number of people are familiar with it.

[quote name='chervenkoff' timestamp='1318348482' post='4871479']
That's my general hypothesis as well, but here comes the hard part :) How do you outline the core concepts? How do you check if an idea "sticks to those concepts"? You suggest an outsider, someone involved in neither the design, nor the development. Seems like an important role. Who do you think can be entrusted with such an important task? I understand you think it shouldn't be a designer or a developer, what is your logic behind it?[/quote]

Like I said the core concepts are probably those that you outlines in your original pitch (the selling points essentially). It would be up to whoever is in overall control of the project (e.g. lead developer) to judge if an idea sticks to the central concepts of the game. At some points you could then get someone else, maybe a developer on another project or some other "higher up" in the company, who has little to know involvement in the game but a fundamental understanding of its core concepts to then periodically go over and give their input. I just feel it's important to get constant input from other people outside who the designer/developer trusts. It's all too easy for the designer/developer, even if they try not to, to lose sight of their gaols. This is good for the project as a whole not just for the core concepts.

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[font="Arial"][size="2"]Appreciate the comment Zethariel :)[/size] [/font]


[quote name='Zethariel' timestamp='1318316962' post='4871359']
[b]How do you decide if feature A or B is more important to your game design? (regardless of their cost or risk of implementation)

[/b]Whichever supplements the theme better and/or generates a better experience. Most of the time, it will evolve and develop with time -- in the beginning, you may think A is the most suitable feature -- as time and development progresses, B might turn out to be more appealing, be it due to cost(both time and money) or just fitting better.
[/quote]

[font="Arial"][size="2"]What you are saying is quite logical and I guess by theme and experience you refer to the same thing I call core/creative vision. What I am looking for is for a way to describe what this means in simple terms, hence an abstraction explaining [b]what the right amount and structure of information describing the vision/theme/experience of the future game is[/b]. As you pointed out, this artifact should facilitate change/evolution of the concept(s). Such an artifact could be used not only to communicate a common understanding of the project at hand, but could also be used to prioritize requirements that have similar cost/risk, by comparing if Req. A is in line with the vision.[/size][/font]

[font="Arial"][size="2"]This pretty much sums up what my research aims at, and if you could share any ideas on how can the vision/theme/etc. be formulated, and what would the right depth of detail be, you’d be helping me immensely.[/size][/font]

[quote name='Zethariel' timestamp='1318316962' post='4871359']
[b]Do you think it is important to preserve the core/creative vision throughout the development?

[/b]Depends what you define as a core. To some, the core of the vision is using a new graphics engine. To some, it is the story or art style. Most games tend to focus on a few key aspects and build a game around that. Yeah, it is important -- it is this core/creative vision that you pitch towards the men with the money (or men with skills if we are talking hobby games). Changing the core is changing the expectations of your client, which is neither fair nor wise.
[/quote]

[font="Arial"][size="2"]What you say here gives me the idea of classifying the vision in several levels: technology used, story, art style… maybe genre? Hmm… I guess classification of these levels might be a good start for describing the core/creative vision. If you care to comment on idea and maybe suggest what you think would be most appropriate as classifications, I’d be real grateful.[/size][/font]

[font="Arial"][size="2"]As for the pitch, I think what I’m looking for hides in the definition of “the best possible pitch”. Only question is, what would that be? :)[/size][/font]

[quote name='Zethariel' timestamp='1318316962' post='4871359']
[b]How do you do that?

[/b]By any means possible I guess? A creative mind won't have problems with finding workarounds for problems. And an overblown vision will crash and burn any way, so only the strong will survive.
[/quote]

[font="Arial"][size="2"]Darwinian logic :) Seems quite fair by natures laws, but my intentions are to help save some of “the endangered species” :P In other words, [b]develop some generic and easy to apply method or guideline to defining a clear (core/creative) vision and use that definition to communicate it between stakeholders, preserve it throughout the project life cycle, and also use it as an extra dimension for prioritizing requirements. Moreover, such a method should be helpful when defining the initial pitch.[/b][/size][/font]

[font="Arial"][size="2"]I hope you’ll agree this isn’t really that ambitious and would help me out with any suggestions that come to your mind, as you and everyone else here are the people with industry experience. I couldn’t possibly realize my research relying solely on academic literature.[/size][/font]

[font="Arial"][size="2"]Thanks again for the comment.[/size][/font]

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[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1318364467' post='4871589']
The reasons? I think lack of any quality communication. If it had been made clear from the start that it was a game for kids then people wouldn't have been expecting a huge complex sim game.
[/quote]

[color="#171E29"][font="Arial"][size="2"]That’s quite interesting. Do you think then, that setting the right user expectation is key to the success of a game? I know it’s what you’ve been saying, but I’m thinking of how marketing generally works, and I will draw a parallel between an industry I believe is quite similar in many aspects – the movie industry. When a film is marketed nowadays (and I hate how they do it), they practically get all the good moments of the movie and put them together to make sure they get the potential viewer’s expectation as high as possible. I never understood that. True, it would bring in more people on the opening weekend, but ultimately, the high expectations will (in most cases) yield disappointment when people realize they’ve already seen the good parts over and over again. I know I am generalizing, but I firmly believe it is the model-case of what happens. The following weekend, people will know (generally either from critics or friends) the movie is bad and won't go to see it.[/size][/font][/color]

[color="#171E29"][font="Arial"][size="2"]I think this scenario isquite similar to what happens with games, except games seem to suffer even more as they generally rely on long-term sales and not on opening-weekend sales. The point I am trying to get across I guess is that marketing principles seem harm sales with overhyping (as you pointed out with SPORE), resulting in disappointment. So, making sure the customer knows what the core/creative vision is during development or keeping them fully in the dark look like the best options in my opinion. Maybe you don’t agree, in which case I’d love to hear why.[/size][/font][/color]

[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1318364467' post='4871589']
I have also found (although in small projects) that people don't tend to use these sorts of tools. People never get into the habit of uploading their work so a lot of work doesn't get uploaded initially and then people don't bother checking it so then people don't bother to uploading etc. I think it's down to forcing people to use it from the start. Make people upload the relevant work as they do it, eventually it will become second nature. Maybe even make people go back and read work others have posted that has some bearing on theirs. I suppose you could do this partially during meetings. As for what to upload this could be down to the different leads to govern what should and should not make it onto the wiki.

Off the top of my head I would copy Wikipedia's layout since a huge number of people are familiar with it.
[/quote]

[color="#171E29"][font="Arial"][size="2"]This is why I think, whatever the solution to formulating the core/creative vision is, it shouldn’t be introducing any significant overhead. A wiki seems like a good concept, until you realize you need to motivate people to use it, and that, atleast from what I have learned from my Knowledge Management course, is a close-to-impossible task, unless you somehow convince all users (of the repository) of the “return on investment”.[/size][/font][/color]

[color="#171E29"][font="Arial"][size="2"]I am thinking about an abstraction of the core vision, something that could be utilized fast to see if a particular requirement is in line with the vision; practically a “synonym” of the initial pitch, where the main requirements are semi-formally described and unambiguous. Should allow for evolution of the vision, but in a semi-formal, structured and modular way. Maybe, part of the definition should have some classifications [/size][size="2"](see [url="http://www.gamedev.net/topic/612396-requirements-prioritization-and-preserving-the-creativecore-vision/page__view__findpost__p__4871830"]my reply to Zethariel’s comment[/url]) that can help in quickly assembling a definition of the vision. [/size][/font][/color]

[color="#171E29"][font="Arial"][size="2"]Would love to hear your (and any other expert’s) ideas and comments on such an approach to defining thecore/creative vision. Any alternatives and criticisms are more then welcome as well :)[/size][/font][/color]

[quote name='Bigdeadbug' timestamp='1318364467' post='4871589']
Like I said the core concepts are probably those that you outline in your original pitch (the selling points essentially). It would be up to whoever is in overall control of the project (e.g. lead developer) to judge if an idea sticks to the central concepts of the game. At some points you could then get someone else, maybe a developer on another project or some other "higher up" in the company, who has little to know involvement in the game but a fundamental understanding of its core concepts to then periodically go over and give their input. I just feel it's important to get constant input from other people outside who the designer/developer trusts. It's all too easy for the designer/developer, even if they try not to, to lose sight of their goals. This is good for the project as a whole not just for the core concepts.
[/quote]

[font="Arial"][size="2"]As I said earlier, I think the answer to my search is probably hidden in the way of doing a good “pitch” and then sticking to what made the pitch get a “green light” – the point of excitement, the selling points.[/size][/font]

[font="Arial"][size="2"]Got any literature on pitching a game design? Or maybe even some pitch examples? If I get my hands on some pitchcases, I think I'll be able to understand the problem better.[/size][/font]

[font="Arial"][size="2"]As for the “higher up” person with understanding of the core concepts, that seems like a good idea, but again, how do you make sure he understands what [b]the core[/b] concepts – tacking the same problem here.[/size] [/font]


Thank's for the help again :)

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[quote name='chervenkoff' timestamp='1318265588' post='4871127']
[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1318265086' post='4871122']
What "[b]core/creative vision of the game design[/b]" is?[b]
[/b]
[/quote]

The main idea, the backbone of the game, the concept... The core vision, the most important and simplest representation of the game design.

It is a very good question, as I would like to hear the definition of this term by designers - what do you think is the core/creative vision? How would you define it?
[/quote]I'm not sure if this is the same you had in mind, but I call it core design choices. A few sentences (usually 3) that describe the most important "premises" behind the game. In addition I almost always use one/more/all of these sentences during marketing (and I think that's an extremaly important part, this way from the very beginning the thing that will strongly appeal to the player is included as the foundation of the design process).

No, I basicly never change it. And if I do, I tread it as a complete rewrite of the game, like if the old one was scrapped and a new one was created (even if most of the code/gfx assetes do not change).

SPORE is a failure? I googled and there is Spore 3 :D If 2 sequels is not a totally overwhelming success then I don't know what is :)

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[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1318436384' post='4871893']
I'm not sure if this is the same you had in mind, but I call it core design choices. A few sentences (usually 3) that describe the most important "premises" behind the game. In addition I almost always use one/more/all of these sentences during marketing (and I think that's an extremaly important part, this way from the very beginning the thing that will strongly appeal to the player is included as the foundation of the design process).

No, I basicly never change it. And if I do, I tread it as a complete rewrite of the game, like if the old one was scrapped and a new one was created (even if most of the code/gfx assetes do not change).

SPORE is a failure? I googled and there is Spore 3 :D If 2 sequels is not a totally overwhelming success then I don't know what is :)
[/quote]


I didn't call it failure, but a disappointment, for most of us... maybe not the young kids demographic.

But that aside, it really depends on how you define failure. They failed at satisfying (and in return monetizing) a large audience. Maybe they weren't really aiming at this audience. Even if this was the case, I am sure the overwhelming bad reviews resulting from the disappointment did not help sales. It is a curious case :)

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[quote] Do you think then, that setting the right user expectation is key to the success of a game? [/quote]

Maybe not its initial success, first week sales will be governed largely by marketing much like the movies, but for the overall success of the game yes I think it is. The reason movies do what you said is that if they didn't use such marketing it would be a flop, without that huge surge of people going to see it that first weekend they would have little to no chance of getting their money back from the project. It seems almost odd to say but the guys behind marketing a movie do relies if something is just plain sh*t and will adjust their strategies accordingly.

Games, at least the single player centred ones; do rely on the first week or two after release to make the majority of their sales so there is a similar drive behind their marketing at times to what you see with movies. In the case of Spore they may have never been planning a sequel, the project was a lengthy one meaning the people involved needed a front-end injection of cash (so playing the long term sales game wasn't really valid) add to that the fact they had a lot of interest in it from outside the target demographic (that target being something like 12 year olds probably) and it makes some sense to do what they did. Judging by their sales figures it does seem to have paid off and may have been the best option for the game. Marketing didn't necessarily harm the sales of the game just its image in the gaming community.

Should it be either/or when telling players to core concepts of the game? Well again Spore seems to suggest no. Spore made only part of its core concepts clear, i.e. its 4x style concept was made clear but not (again this is from personal experience) the concept that it would be for "families" and it seems to have done well because of that.

The point of using a wiki is that it is very cheap compared to say making a custom database of have it all printed out in booklets for people, especially when you consider bonuses like people being able to access from anywhere that has an Internet connection. I don't see it being impossible to make people use such a system, especially in a professional environment with a decent producer and lead staff. Really in this specific case the wiki is only being used as a place where the core ideas of the game can be laid out and allowing people on the project an easily accessed system where they can see these core ideas. The reason I would advocate a wiki over most other things is the fact that it also provides a place where people on the project can share their work and jump off other people's ideas (essentially it's an online games design document).

(I hope I understood this next idea right)

From what I gather you are essentially wanting to make a modular list of core concepts that can be put together easily to create the core vision for the project. Although good maybe as a starting off point I doubt their effectiveness as hard and fast rules. The size of a games pitch and those parts of it seen as core ideas varies wildly in number and type from project to project. A simple flash game could have 1 concept but an MMORPG could have something like 12 while an FPS could have 5 none of which ever cross over. Not to mention a games pitch is very tailored to that game, there is a risk in using anything predefined that you don't get across what you truly mean.

[s]I can try and find some example but there not something I often come across. If you think about it why would a company save their pitch after they have got the money? [/s]Scratch that found some stuff:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1715/the_10_minutes_game_sales_.php

http://makeitbigingames.com/2007/09/how-to-pitch-your-game/

http://citystate.co.uk/archives/channel-4-mobile-games-pitch/

http://gamecareerguide.com/features/603/documents_of_newly_published_xbox_.php?cid=GCG_MARK_092508 <<< that has links to PDFs in the text.

Some word docs I found and put onto Google Docs:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1zSD6aByPMMZ1yFNgzIF0EOzJs-W-npQK3vyDeVZr5HY/edit?hl=en_GB

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZiIWVfeuLHLz8jnF_kdgIs1knCFzN7ZybS5SItmV2mc/edit?hl=en_GB

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1bwjR2HeMJLNGEamYWTA2I2pxtF0oo1j6p9uGeGNj4zY/edit?hl=en_GB

[If theres a reason that these shouldn't be shared let me know and I'll take them down.]

Anyway not sure if any of those will help you specifically but its all I can come up with in the short time I spent searching.




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Disclaimer: I am not speaking from professional experience. If that leads you to discount my opinion, that's alright.

I think this might be more similar to basic management and leadership than you're implying.

It is important that whatever the end product is, that it is a cohesive product. Whether or not it represents the "core vision" that the development process began with is less important because the player is generally unaware of such things. That means that everything going into the project needs to be heading towards the same goal, which obviously becomes a struggle when you've got a number of people working on the same project-- especially creative projects. What this means is that a leader (director), calls shots and prioritizes. Of course, some people put in this decision will do poorly. They will fall in love with ideas and lose sight of practicality, and fail to prioritize with an end goal in mind. Creativity is a slippery devil of a creature that can go all over the place, and it takes discipline and experience to know when to let ideas go.


Similarly, independent of the team of developers, an executive might come in with a business decision that overrides everything else, that compromises the project in some way. ie: "(in the interest of mass appeal) this character needs a more heroic voice" and you end up with a cartoony sounding main character in a game that has a gritty/realistic setting or tone. I am not under the impression that the creative head of a project really has any control over these sorts of issues.


I could be very wrong, but I have come to assume that the video game industry is simply too young and changes for too quickly for *most* people to develop any legitimate level of expertise. Chances are that the people that get the jobs are going to be the ones that can show that they'll get it done. Not necessarily the ones that have potential or talent. I'm sure we've all seen it with AAA titles where the story is both written and directed by someone who obviously has no experience with writing or cinematic storytelling, and you end up with utterly mediocre content. There's something to be said for the fact that expecting a story to even make sense or be well told in a current gen video games is still a luxury.


Anyway, I seem to have gotten slightly off track. I think what it comes down to is good decisions from leadership. Is the progression of development focused, or is a haphazard collection of disjointed ideas? If the leadership does have a focused vision, are they even good enough with management to pull off the project from a practical standpoint? Do they keep tabs on progress and diagnose problems before resources are wasted and entire subsections need to be scrapped?

It's an incredibly similar situation to most office workspaces. Managers usually dont get to where they are because they are good at management.

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Im game director for the indie game company a group of my friends put together in order to create a game based off of my idea. I kept my idea very simple but clean, not ifs ands or buts, and it has worked very well. If the initial game design is set up right, there will be no A or B to prioritize. I think people creating initial game designs come up with a basic idea, and then dont really think it all the way through before they start creating it. I came up with an entire design plan, and production has been running smoothly since.

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[quote name='meh.team' timestamp='1319849739' post='4878067']
I kept my idea very simple but clean, not ifs ands or buts, and it has worked very well. If the initial game design is set up right, there will be no A or B to prioritize.
[/quote]I completely agree. Among my projects the ones with a simple idea I could explain in up to 3 sentenced worked out usually well. The others usually failed.

As for the proritization, I just check the my first 3 sentences and try to choose the option that fit with these initial sentences the best :) At least in theory, in practice I usually overcomplicate things and the project goes downhill :D

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