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SinisterPride

Design:Development Ratio - What's your orientation?

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To continue the discussion in my first thread (hopefully more productively this time) I'd like to get your opinions/methods for starting and following through with a project seeing as they're are plenty of ways which lead to the same outcome. Some methods have advantages over others but when given the right circumstances, all realistic and proper routes lead to the same goal. Creating a game and finishing/entirely developing it.

 

My question is: How much do YOU design/plan when you set out to develop something?

 

There comes a point where we reach the extent of what the human mind can process accurately with only theory and design. However, not everyone has the same marker/limitation for that extent. My acute spatial and detail centered memory (I've been tested, Its borderline savantism) has allowed me to reach a level of design in my mind that not all can process or comprehend unless explained in detail through diagram/prototypes and demos. 

 

I am a one man team. Being so I don't have a deadline/time constraint. Not having a deadline nor feeling the need to rush into a pure development sense has allowed me to reach that inevitable point in almost each concept, mechanic and general design where theorizing just won't cut it. If I were to become a part of a team where I am now expecting people to put in their own time, then yes I would consider time restraints and how to most effectively manage their time. 

 

When I reach that point where theorizing just wont cut it, I consider my design 75% complete. The other 25% is only attainable through means of testing and developing. I consider my design(s) (not the entire project or mechanic/feature even) to be near its end basically when I'm prepared to test and develop. At this point, I would only consider a mechanic/feature to be 15-20% complete at MOST. The design process isn't complete in my mind until the project or mechanic/feature is itself atleast 50% complete and has a working model that proves its theory and functionality/feasibility.

 

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I find I am most successful in creative projects when I can get a complete concept in a very short space of time (if a concept develops over a week, for me it ends up being less cohesive and more disjointed). Either mentally or on paper.

After that I design and develop at the same time. Mainly because game development is relatively new to me, so I am not aware of all the technical limitations of software and the limitations of my own skills.

So if I design a monster in my mind or on paper, and then I am unable to achieve the look I want in photoshop or other digital medium, I have to go back a step and redesign, which creates double work (which irritates me because I love efficiency). So for my skill level it makes sense to design at the same time as developing, because I am learning so much all the time which effects everything I do as I am doing it.

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I find I am most successful in creative projects when I can get a complete concept in a very short space of time Either mentally or on paper.

game development is relatively new to me, so I am not aware if all the technical limitations of software and the limitations of my own skills.

So for my skill level it makes sense to design at the same time as developing, because I am learning so much all the time which effects everything I do as I am doing it.

 

Great/Valid points and angles/perspectives. Thank you for being the first to post smile.png 

Edited by SinisterPride

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My approach is one of a hobbyist who works in software (but not for the gaming industry). I play a lot of games, read and watch a lot of game reviews with a bent on game design (Angry Joe, Total Biscuit, Errant Signal and Spoony Experiment are especially good, the list goes on.) I do everything I can to keep up on the topic of game development because it fascinates me. I am designing a game currently. Here's my path of attack:

 

First, the dream: what kind of game do I want to make? What are the core elements of game play? What sets this game apart from others like it?

 

Next, I figure out the requirement set as completely as I can: what does the software need to do? Each requirement needs to be clearly defined. If, for instance, I want my game to feature turn-based tactical combat (e.g. XCOM, Fallout, Final Fantasy Tactics) then my game will need a system devoted to that: a map system (the "game board"), what kinds of effects the actors can have on one another (inflict damage, status effects, etc), etc. Naturally, each of these things requires a great deal more meat. For status effects to have meaning, each actor could have a suite of statistics that have real effects on game mechanics; for instance, a Speed trait that delineates how often an actor can act in a turn.

 

Next, I have a lot of reading to do. I've played a lot of games like this, but I want to have a really firm grasp on why certain decisions are made in games like this. Why, for instance, did Fallout 1 use a hex grid for the game board while the more modern game XCOM chose to use squares? Was the decision arbitrary? Technical constraints? Was it more fun? (I can see XCOM's cover/flanking mechanics being very hard to implement convincingly and teach to players on a hex grid; by contrast, very intuitive with squares.) The 'why' is very important, and helpful if the answer can be found. Sites like gamedev, Gamasutra, etc. might get me some answers. Google and Youtube help. (Fortunately I enjoy watching interviews with Jake Solomon and Sid Meier.)

 

Once I have a rough idea for mechanics that I think might be interesting, maybe I can play with the game on paper: actually throw down a mat with hexes or squares on a grid, get out some minis and some dice, and play my game. Is it fun? I'll get some friends to play it with me; we all play a lot of games like Warhammer, DnD, Warmachine, etc. So there's a lot of experience to tap there.

 

Next, I need to get a prototype up as fast as I can. This will both help me to further explore the "What's fun?" question and, equally importantly, it'll start revealing to me technical considerations I need to have in mind. Maybe "tearing huge hunks of the game board up and throwing it at enemies" would be super fun, but 1. what kind of in-game effects on balance and fun would it really have and 2. how big of a pain will it be to implement, troubleshoot, etc. I am a one man team. "Write games, not tools" is the mantra, but it can only go so far. I want my game to have an Interplay-style conversation system and the tools out there to accomplish that really don't do what I need and would take a lot of work to shoe-horn in...so at times I find myself doing lots of research and building tools to fill in the gaps. (Good thing that can be fun.) What kind of tools do I need for the job? That starts happening now.

 

All of this goes into the composition of the design document. When I finally have a design document for people to read, I'll start sharing it with friends and colleagues for feedback...and maybe see if I can generate interest in some help.

 

Pure design is only the first leg on a very long journey. Once I get into code and start really building things, I start to see what kinds of things work, what kinds of things are needed, and what kinds of things are time prohibitive, just not doable, or just not fun. There are most definitely going to be design level changes after implementation...it's so sure a thing that I don't want to tie myself up too deeply in pure design before taking it to the shop, as it were. XCOM: Enemy Unknown has a brilliant design (as it should, since it was scrapped and redone three or four times over it's dev cycle) but shipped with a tremendous number of game-breaking bugs (because they essentially had 30% of the time they planned for development to actually develop it)...and all of that was true while they were playing with prototypes and reusing code. The sooner you get an idea into a real, breathing machine, the better.

Edited by thade

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Thank you for posting such a detailed process of your approach Thade biggrin.png Vote ! I wanna get that poll as juicy as possible so I can hopefully show the opinions in peoples approaches lol

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I start writing code pretty much as soon as i get an idea and just document things as i go if it becomes necessary, all my serious designs are based around a single core mechanic and don't require much in terms of planning (Imo a solid core mechanic and lots of polish is all you need to make a great game, if the core mechanic requires a set of complex supporting mechanics to be fun then it will most likely be too timeconsuming/expensive to turn into a properly polished game)

That said though, i have tons of ideas for large complex games, but i don't bother fleshing them out and putting them on paper since i would have to win the lottery to be able to afford spending the time required to keep up with technology while developing the game. Edited by SimonForsman

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I like and agree with these statements/concepts:

 

all my serious designs are based around a single core mechanic

 

Imo a solid core mechanic and lots of polish is all you need to make a great game

 

I disagree with this however:

 

if the core mechanic requires a set of complex supporting mechanics to be fun then it will most likely be too timeconsuming/expensive to turn into a properly polished game

 
From whos perspective are we talking here? Yours? Lone deisgner/developer/indie crew? In general?
Edited by SinisterPride

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As i dont have much practical experience with c++ yet, i tend to:
1.Design system that is able to do everything required
2.Implement (or start to)
3.Fix design to make it simpler, cleaner and.more flexible
4.Reimplement/modify based on new fixed design

Though i dont make the details perfect (like optimization unless its relatively easy and i know exactly how to), just trying to get the overall design work.

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SinisterPride, on 28 Jan 2013 - 19:31, said:
From whos perspective are we talking here? Yours? Lone deisgner/developer/indie crew? In general?

its from my perspective. (The OP asked for our perspectives), Basically i'm a professional programmer (not in the games industry), on the game project i work with my boss and we don't really have that much time to spend on a project that isn't guaranteed to bring in enough money to make up for the time spent (So we do it in our spare time when we're not too tired).

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I think SimonForsman's thesis is an important one to keep in mind; complex mechanics are not what makes a game fun...game play is. The mechanics that support the game play should only be as complicated as the game play requires; this is especially true if the supporting mechanics are visible to the player.

 

As it has been lately, XCOM: Enemy Unknown will serve as my example. The game's shooting mechanics are based on true line-of-sight: if a model cannot see a target due to world geometry or fog-of-war blocking that sight line, the model cannot fire on the target. (Explosives are the exception, but let's eschew that for our purpose here.) In one of the early builds of game, the player could see everybody's fire arcs (showing specifically what they could see) in different colors, and the colors would merge together when the firing arcs overlapped. You could see enemy firing arcs as well. The idea was that it would help the player in planning out unit placement; the reality was that it made the playing field incredibly cluttered and tiring to look at. Less complex design made for more solid game play.

 

Additionally, simpler design lends to being intuitive for players to learn, which is a very desirable trait for your game to have.

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