Creating A Game – Milestone 0 – Design Phase - or: “Writing a Design Document”
Discussion by Giniu with 4 Replies.
Last Update: February 20, 2009, 11:42 pm
or: “Writing a Design Document”.
or: “Why should I write Design Document?”
Almost everyone that play games, usually also wants to make one, they say “I'll make a game – better than anything else! But... what now?” and usually there it ends... To create game alone, you must have large knowledge about programing and graphics, so doing something “better than anything else” would be very hard if you are mortal. So what can you do? You have few options:
first – resign – I don't recommend it – it's your dream!
second – keep going alone – You have to cut your dreams – also I don't recommend it...
third – make a team, where every person knows something that would be needed – It is in my opinion best thing you can do...
Times when one person was able to create whole game has gone, and you must agree with that, games are now created by teams of about 50 people...
So you know what you have to obtain – gather a team... but imagine, that you are one of persons that would be in that team and someone came to you and said: “I want to make a game. Would you work with me?”. Your first question would be: “What game?”... If that person starts to mumble, you know that this wont work and simply saying: “another time”. So – to gather team you must have strict knowledge about what you want to do... OK... let's say you know what you want to be done by that person, went to another person, said the same thing, and one more time, and one more time... ohhhh my, it's so boring, you remember your words letter after letter, word after word, line after line – you was saying it hundred times. But lets say you now have team and you started work. No one knows that you want this horse you was talking about young and brown... they know they have to make a horse – modeler made horse – an old one and comics style – and man responsible for textures made real-looking silver horse... well that isn't what you wanted, right? But let's say that you made a game – besides it looks funny and strange, because many artistic souls were doing what they consider right (read.: what they want, not what you want), and you decided to publish it... You came to publisher and said: “I want to sell you that game”, giving them ready CD... oh no... they don't have time to play whole game... - first question? - “What game?”... so you know what you have to do – write some kind of documentation, and that is what I would discuss there, first part of “Creating a Game” tutorial, would be about...
Writing Design Document
or: “Let the game begin!”
Design Document is a documentation of your game, you would give it to publisher, that he would decide if game will see daylight (would be published other way than downloading from your own site... probably on CD), this would also be bible for whole development team, first of all it has to tell someone all small and large things about your game, like planed genre, platform, features and why this game is other than others. Lets begin:
One of most important is part 1:
Part 1 – Concept papers
This part would help readers have some idea about game without reading whole scenario. It should contain:
In introduction you have to write description of game, keep it as short as possible, just few lines would be enough.
Example: Game “Strange reality” is an role playing game designed to work on PC (Linux/Windows) and Macintosh (MAC OS X), it would take player to world of scary streets in near future, action is placed in the moon colony, what makes it even more interesting.
Make description of genre in way that would describe it to person that haven't earlier contact with that type of games, if it improves existing genres, write what makes it different. Make this section what it needs to be, but not more than 1/3 of site.
Example: “Strange reality” is action role playing game (action RPG), we joined classic action role playing game with first person shooter, this unique connection gives you large amount of freedom and makes both – RPG and FPS – fans happy. We decided to... (and so on)
Write on what platforms you want to get this title, and maybe there would be some additional platforms when you will finish? Don't write more than few lines.
Example: “Strange reality” would be released on PC with operating systems Linux and Windows, also on Macintosh with operating system MAC OS X, in future we plan also X-BOX and Play Station 2 version.
If you are using a hero or something that is registered trademark or just is owned by someone else, you must get permission from its author and make sure that all person that would read your document would know you got a permission. Also write how your game would be distributed (or how you want to be distributed) and all other legal things... use as much space as you need (from few lines to one site).
Example: Whole project is based upon our own ideas, engine would be created using Open Source tools and would stay Open Source, although there would be also commercial campaigns. Author of some piece of game (for example some models) is only one owner of it, and can do with it whatever he wants (implies only for commercial campaigns).
This is place for description what player would do in game, what would meet him, try talk (write) straight to player – as if you were playing game and describing it to him by phone. But he can't see it, avoid using things like “click” or “press button” but use rather “pick up” or “jump”. This is longest part, so I would leave it without example, that should be few sites long, i believe that you know what are you doing, so this wont be hard for you.
This is one of most important thing in first part – write in points: what makes your game better than others... divide them to one about game play, graphics, music and sound, networking, maybe also artificial intelligence? Try add very short description, don't write just: “great music” but write why you consider that music in your game would be great: “music composed by professional composer recorded with orchestra gives unmeasured pleasure of listening, sometimes you can almost forgot to play!”. This list should be “just as it should be” - too long means you aim to the moon, to short means this isn't worth spending time and money.
And now short about other parts:
Part 2 – Scenario
This is usually needed if you want to create game that contains some play, if you are creating puzzle game, you don't need scenario, but good, non-linear RPG scenario can take even few hundreds of pages in A4 or Letter paper! Just consider that it have to be readable and have all world and location descriptions, you probably would want to use colors – write dialogs in blue, in red things like “there are two apples you can pick up” - this will help scripting in world editor, when you would be making campaign, for description use black, and for conditions in dialogs and game play use pink... this will allow people to read only that what they want... while making locations, one person would read black text and don't care about other – this is large save of time. Also include description of character – write down their character (what they think, how they behave) and characteristic (how they looks like and how they act), later include concept arts for them (sketches – would be best if you would use pencil...). Try also write some separate world description that would be used as main guideline for artists.
Part 3 – System
Again, if you are creating something more complex than puzzle game, you should include system mechanics, write down whole rules that are obligatory in game – this is what makes RPG game unique – very good system... example can be AD&D. Just write everything you can come in mind.
Part 4 – Game Play elements
This is play to describe what player can do and how... use terminology like buttons, another window pops-up, but also shot, run, jump... you can write controls once and then use key bindings to describe action – this makes updates easier... at the beginning write – “you can run while pressing shift, but you very fast you are getting tired”, then you can use just “if you run into someone, he would fall and he would consider you mannerless”. Also describe user interface, and everything that player would see.
Part 5 – Financial
If you are making game and have some money to spend on it, write down at what you want spend your money, it will help you organize your project, and this is place for this, since if you request money from publisher, he likes to know if you already spend some, how you did that and what you bought. And remember – don't cheat – it would come out shortly – publishers are analyzing this part very carefully!
Part 6 – Concept arts
Well that are sketches that would help artists imagine what they are supposed to do, include as many as you can with locations, characters, enemies, situations from cut-scenes and movies. Better if you would sit with drawing artist and tell him what you see and discuss with him your vision while he will sketch in his notebook...
That VERY SHORT description of writing design document is just scratch of earth, but if you want to earthquake, you should check those sites:
Thst'a all for milestone 0, if someone is interested I would write also about other milestones of creating a game... Hope this will help someone...
P.S You get a one UP reputation for this!!
I hear things like "50 people for 2 years" and "6 months to write a design document" and I just have to shake my head. I understand that there are lots of noobs who want to write a game. Advice like this is meant to give them a dose of reality. I certainly believe those numbers for A-list games. However, I doubt there are many game designers for A-list games that are reading this site looking for advice.
What I think is needed is advice for novice game developers on how they can accomplish their goals given their limited resources. As a professional software developer (not any games yet) all this smacks of "Big Design Up Front". I haven't seen many successful projects succeed with that strategy.
Instead, what I see succeeding more is to describe in rough outlines what you're trying to accomplish ad then pair it way down to decide "what's the minimum I can ship with and still be useful". I think on-line RPGs have the advantage that you can grow complexity. So while it might take you several years to "finish" your game you can still let people start playing much sooner. Then you can react to what you learn from your players.
I like this article because it highlights the types of things you need to think about when starting a game project. I don't like the advice I keep seeing to write a document that's several hundred pages long. I'd rather start small and produce working code than spend a lot of time that saps your enthusiasm writing a long document that nobody may ever read. Working code is more valuable than documentation.-reply by Doug
I see you liked it and I'm happy with it... but you said, you won't be able to get a team of 50 people and even with them finish in short time, so I would write there some facts that may make you change your mind...
When you have engine and design it's noted you can be done with large RPG with 20 people within 26 months (taken from Deus Ex - it got Game of the Year, i don't remember year... - you may think it's bad example, since it's old, but remember development techniques also went up...)
Also wirting GOOD design document should take something about 6 months for team of 6 people incuding 2 writers (one technic and second scenario writer) and 4 artists (mainly for concept arts...)
But right - when you have engine... in Neverwinter Night creation of engine took few years! But there is solution that is on top of technology - Open Source engine components, from witch you can build your engine like from LEGO with one programer within 6 months.
you need have the design done, before you would start making engine, so you have one year of preparing and two years of production (QA, beta and testing included!), it gives you 3 yers with 25 people, so, this is only 75 years of one-man work and if you would find 75 peoples (this is number of NWN developers) you would be able to finish in ONE YEAR...
first question: how to find those engines?
answer: just look around in the net for "free game engine" - or visit site www.devmaster.net/engines/index.php that provides an engine listing, also look atwww.cyberloonies.com - they also got their listings and also tutorials...
take a close look at those engines:
OGRE3D (Object-oriented Graphics Rendering Engine) http://www.ogre3d.com/
ODE (Open Dynamics Engine) http://ode.org/
FEAR (Flexible Embodied Animat aRchitecture) http://fear.sourceforge.net/
OpenAL (Open Audio Library) http://www.openal.org/
CAL3D (Character Animation Library) http://cal3d.sourceforge.net/
HawkNL (Hawk Network Library) http://hawksoft.com/hawknl/
When you combine them you can get engine on top of todays technology (like normal maps and pixel shader) and engine that works on (Win/Lin/Mac) so this is unusual even for large comercial engines!
second question: from where I can get people to join my team?
answer: just look around in the net for "game development forum" - or visit site [forums at www.gamedev.net] and ask for help - many Open Source/Free/Commercial projects do that and they are able to find help, so just try!
Someday I would probably write another part of this How-To... There would be hints for development process...
|Getting Entrepreneurial: Principles Of Startup Founding Principles of a Start-up (2)||(5) Irc - Asta Style|