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How far do I go?

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I''m doing design and concept art right now. My question is, could I(should I) start writing down the variables, functions, header files while I''m still doing the design? I''m going to be doing the programming too. But if I do this while I''m in the design stage am I just going to end up hurting myself in the long run with major rewrites and revisions, or will could this allow me to get things on paper and organized before it gets lost deep in the design? This is a grey topic to be posting in Design Forum but I''m in the design stage so...

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Guest Anonymous Poster

I''m no expert, but I''d say if you can see how the code should be, then jot down some pseudo code to go along with the design. But don''t spend a lot of time grinding away at code since things will likely change.


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Think of it like this:

It couldn''t hurt.

You are capable of doing it.

You should do it.

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster... when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you..."~Friedrich Nietzsche

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I''m in the throws of creating my first original game right now and I have found that while jotting down design structure and doodling characters I have also been writing pseudocode down alongside the rest of the stuff.

I can''t take credit for this method though, one of my IT proffessors who used to do work on computer games advised me to have a file dedicated to the game and to relentlessly record all the ideas I had related to the game on blank pages and to keep them in this file. He then told me to take the file once every two weeks or so and sift through it from start to finish and start reducing all the divergent paths of the ideas into more coherent and concise re-writes. This should continue until I feel that the design has reached it''s peak.

He also told me that even though I would be tempted to to divide things into major categories, I should avoid doing so until I''ve finished the design completely, because it''s important that all the parts of the project are as one until I start the actual production (at which point I could separate it into Programming, Art, Sound, Script, etc.).

- God created the world in seven days? I think I can one-up him!

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My answer would actually be no. I''ve done this a few times. I get the best results by knowing everything about the game. What can the player do, what can the items do, what can the enemies do? What''s just about everythign going into the game? True, more will pop up, as the design progresses. But it''s a good guide.

Then, and only once you know what you''re going to do, start figuring out the different pieces of code. And break those down into smaller pieces. Grapichs, can be broken into loading, freeing, drawing, special effects, scrolling, etc.

The reason that I say this, is that once I started writing the code out, I was reluctant to change it. And when we had to make changes (sometimes extensive ones) to the code base, more bugs popped up.

This is a real conversation between myself and a friend when we were working on a game.
Me: "Ok, the items work correctly this time."
Him: "Cool, thanks."
Me: "But one thing. Don''t load a saved character. It''ll crash the game."

Nnow, if knowing the technicalities helps you, by all means, try it. But I''ve found that I get too attached to my code to do that.

Anyway, hope that helps.

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pseudo-code is definetly the way to go, since it is a great bridge between what you are writing for the design doc and what you will be coding for the game itself. Doing pseudo-code can also give you an idea of how a gameplay element might work or how hard it may be to implement. Just don''t go too too deep with real code, because that will definetly change a lot. Keep things as general as possible.

Drew Sikora
A.K.A. Gaiiden

ICQ #: 70449988
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Blade Edge Software
Public Relations, Game Institute
Staff Member, GDNet

Online column - Design Corner at Pixelate
3-time Contributing author, Game Design Methods , Charles River Media (coming GDC 2002)

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