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Brandon Hawkinson

How Do You Go About Your Game Design?

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I've noticed there is a lot of discussion about designer's end results and how it effects their current game-play. It's great, however I feel we are missing out on some very important discussions about game design as a whole. The process of how you get there is just as important as your final decisions on design. I myself have my own style of going about things, but It leads to roughly the same outcomes. Sometimes even a change in the way you go about designing and the thought processes behind it can lead to things you never knew you could come up with. So, what is your design process like?

 

Here are some questions to help get the ball rolling:

 

  • What setting do you try and put yourself in? (listen to Music? Watch Movies? TV? etc?)
  • What do you physically do while you're designing? (Are you in front of the computer typing? Draw something? Write?)
  • How do you go about thinking when designing a game? (Game mechanics can be different than your storyline)
  • When you have a solid game mechanic or design aspect in mind, whats your steps to improving upon them?
  • How often do you go back to the drawing board after laying our a certain tree of mechanics and design aspects?

Game design is dynamic and every individual has their own style of getting from point A to point B. So don't limit yourself to the questions(you could even ignore them), include anything you deem is important to YOUR process. I'll be awaiting your answers :)

 

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Here are some questions to help get the ball rolling:


How about telling us how you answer those? (To get the ball rolling faster.)

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Here are some questions to help get the ball rolling:


How about telling us how you answer those? (To get the ball rolling faster.)

 

 

Much better idea  :)

 

Disclaimer: I'm a 21 year old Computer Science major with a minor in physics at a university in southern California. The extent of my game development experience is limited to 2 games that I designed and made in C# - a text adventure and a block breaker style game. This was about 9 months ago before i had to focus on C++ application - i did not stop designing however.

 

My process is day in and day out - whether i'm at work, school or at home my mind is always running on what I can do and how can I do it better this time. I have a notebook i use exclusively for all of my game concepts - story ideas - game mechanics. I'm not much of a drawer so I leave that until its time to hit the computer. I will typically watch movies or listen to a type of music that aligns with the general mood and idea that i'm after. For example, i'm working on a concept for a sci-fi rpg - i'll listen to the martian soundtrack, or eve-online -etc. When i think about game design i always have one thought in mind: go big or go home (i know, i need to work out of this). It leads to a lot of crazy ideas that are always out of reach for me in all reality. I'm not very good myself at going about improving a game mechanic from the design standpoint - I don't feel very innovative. I'm hoping some of your answers will be able to help me with that. But typically i go about it via a tree, i have the mechanic in the middle and I try to break down every aspect of that mechanic, then put subsequent ideas about improving the aspects of the mechanic versus the mechanic itself. I like to go to the core of whats going on and look there. I've definitely worked on something for 12 hours and scrapped it all because i didn't like the direction it was taking. I think this is a big aspect of my design process that holds me back a bit, but also allows me to improve upon the design. Although, if you're always scraping and improving and never finishing a final product, whats the point, right?  :cool:

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Two weeks ago, I had a dream about a game. It lasted like... 10 seconds. I got really hyped.

I wrote a quick GDD to organize my ideas and... programmed 5k lines of code in 10 days (2k in the first two days).

I created my own procedural map generation algorithm and started doing some pixel art (I never ever worked with art before).

In the end, my subconscious mind was not very good at game design. My game developer friend told me it was not fun to play. I took his opinion as the only opinion in the world and stopped doing it.

I do not recommend this game design approach. xD

 

Oh, it was a Tiled-Biomes-RPG-RogueLike-Survival game. Here's a picture.

 

[spoiler][attachment=32685:Game.png][/spoiler]

Edited by estevan95

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For me, most of my "game design" goes on in my head, typically while I'm just going about my day (I tend to be relatively busy). If I think of something particularly useful, I jot it down in the Notes app on my iPhone. When I do get a chance to just work on it, I whip out my laptop, throw up Vim (my preferred note-taking software), and start fleshing out my ideas. I'll generally listen to music as I go (either electric/instrumental or in a foreign language, anything so long as I can't understand any lyrics that would distract me). Frequently, as I type things out, I'll reach a brief stopping point where I need to actually flesh out an idea rather than jot it down. At this point, I'll get up out of my seat and start pacing. And I'll pace and pace until I've fully and completely fleshed out the idea. Or until I'm interrupted. And this can potentially go on for hours. Sometimes I run out of time and have to postpone my thinking until later, so I'll jot down a quick summary of how far I got and write down the things left that I still needed to consider.

 

Generally this all goes on for several weeks / months before I feel that I've got enough material to start working on a project "for real".Then I go to town in Unreal 4, programming something. Granted, I myself am only 23 and graduated college back in May, so I only have 1 "real" game that I worked on for 4 months consecutively with a team (everything else was school projects or game jams of 2 weeks or less, pure prototypes). But I've had about 5 games that I've come up with over the years that I feel are of sufficient enough quality to devote any actual time to and the first of those constitutes my current project, codenamed Spectral. You can look it up on cartrdge.

 

Part of my "process" is considering not just the gameplay potential of the game idea, but also the marketability of it. If I can't think of way that a game of "this sort" would have a concrete place in the marketplace, both in terms of an existing player base and the current trends in the industry, then I don't really see a reason to continue devoting time to working on its design, let alone programming anything with it.

 

Not sure what you mean about your "solid concept improvement" question. When I feel that an idea is lacking, I'll usually notice either during my original thought process or during the prototyping stage. In those cases, I can usually see what it is the player is wanting to be able to do (occasionally by getting random friends/relatives/associates to do a quick playtest), see HOW the current design is failing to properly achieve that, and then understand what things need to be fixed to achieve that. Then it's just a matter of brainstorming / prototyping different features to see if they are a good fit for creating the feeling in the player that I am seeking. A nice combination of intuitiveness, autonomy, and functionality.

 

I don't "go back to the drawing board" as often as some of the other students I've worked with before since I tend to spend a lot more time developing designs and code that emphasize robustness, so my stuff will generally "work" longer than my cohorts' before my team and I come to see the weaknesses in it. I'm actually currently on my 3rd iteration of a robust skill system (first on a project as a Junior, then again on a project as a Senior, and then now). Each time, I've come to recognize key problems in the previous versions and have begun making alterations to the design. It also helps that I've grown in general as a programmer with each year.

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I have material that I created in the past about various tropes, characters, gameplay elements, etc. that caught my interest in the past.  To start a new game design project I need a focus - some inspiration or a request from a collaborator.  When I have that focus it's kind of like building a mobile - the focus is the center-point, and I have to find balanced things to hang on it to make the whole thing spin interestingly and have harmonious colors.  So I brainstorm to see if that focus gives me any new ideas, and I also brows through my old material to see what seems compatible or like the two ideas might strike interesting sparks off each other.  I try to imagine playing the game (or reading the story, if I'm designing a story rather than a game).

 

I think design is a basically iterative process, so something like The Snowflake Method is a good starting point if anyone isn't familiar with iterative design yet.

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  • What setting do you try and put yourself in? (listen to Music? Watch Movies? TV? etc?)

I design in any setting that it occurs in, for example, if I'm stuck waiting somewhere, I start to refine Game Design ideas I already had to type or write later.

 

  • What do you physically do while you're designing? (Are you in front of the computer typing? Draw something? Write?)

I could be in front of the computer typing it out in a document or drawing out the ideas. 

 

  • How do you go about thinking when designing a game? (Game mechanics can be different than your storyline)

I go about thinking "How will I make this system work?" or to be more specific, I would think about how a game would translate specific mechanics, such how moves have different properties depending on the user or how to approach a concept and turn it into a functioning game mechanic that meshes well with other mechanics.

 

  • When you have a solid game mechanic or design aspect in mind, whats your steps to improving upon them?

Testing it out on paper or even in a prototype if there is time for it.  If the latter, repeatedly testing it to make sure it functions and behaves the way you envisioned it{or as close as possible to it}. Seeing a mechanic go from an envisioned thought to actual gameplay is very awesome. 

 

For example, because I was a novice to game engine/programming, I couldn't get a mechanic I envisioned to act the way it did, I gave up on it, came back to it a year later, and managed to get it to look exactly as I saw it in mind. You can see it being used in the first two seconds of this trailer from a game I worked on in my free time for 2 years. Even added a "rocket breaking the sound barrier" sound effect if you manage to hit a specific speed threshhold.

 

  • How often do you go back to the drawing board after laying our a certain tree of mechanics and design aspects?

There is a certain game I've been adding to and re-designing for the past 12 years, haven't made a prototype of it yet. I would rather tackle it with an actual team someday due to some aspects of it being too complex for a single person to tackle{my skills are divided between art and game engine skills, I would prefer an actual programmer or game engine master for this kind of game}. After laying a tree of mechanics, I find myself elaborating more on them until they make "sense" and synch really well within the game's design.

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I typically start with mundane technicalities like genre, if it's single player or cooperative, platform, how long the average game session will last, etc. Then I go for a central concept (like "no micromanagement", "you are the Emperor of the Galaxy", "asymmetric gameplay", "historical accuracy of medieval world") and a theme. Then I check if it makes sense market wise and if I can manage it promotion wise (where it will be sold, what the price wil be, what kind of player will play it).

 

A very important part is the decision what will be NOT in the game (like tactics vs strategy, never both). What will be sacrifaced to make the rest of the gameplay solid. Actually it's far more important than what will be in the game.

 

Next I try to post about it on some forums. Because I need to persuade people the game will be great I need to write certain things, what I wrote/promised adjusts the game and let me know what's needed to make this game appealing (for example in one game I added "saving princess and slaying dragons" because it sounded cool on the game's description :D). These improved the game.

 

 

Oh yes, and the most important thing, I set the deadline :) Without it nothing works :)

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Choose the game format (big, medium, small), delivery platform(web, downloadable, physical), think of game mechanics and theme of your game, think of the potential buyers i.e. target audience. Get your idea done in some basic form, get feedback, adjust. Iterate, till you get mainly positive feedback. Publish, sell, build community around it. Be happy. :-)

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