I’m Still Alive

Have been tied down with work in office, so now am trying to get back momentum in developing my next game. Before that, something to share…

Ideas and Designs

Game ideas is easy to come up with. Almost anyone would have some kind of game idea, but coming up with an idea is different from actually designing a game. When you have an idea, it’s just that…an idea. “A card battle game with fantasy characters”, “A sports game with crazy special skills”, “A bullethell shoot’em up featuring only boss fights”. These are just very brief descriptions of some games, also can be thought of as being “ideas”.

“The characters will fight each other in ordered turns.”, “There will be a questing system, pvp system and you can change equipments”, “We will have 4 bosses, each one will have different firing patterns, each one being harder than the last.”, these, to me are also just brief descriptions of game features, or also “ideas”. All these are not GAME DESIGNS, not to me, at least.

It starts with ideas, a rough description of what the game should be and should have. Then to truly design it, the game designer will have to truly go in depth with each feature. Give a thorough explanation of the game and its features. Flowcharts, diagrams, UI sketches, should be used. What screens will the player see? How does the screens connects to one another? What is this screen about? How does a feature work? How does a player work that feature procedurally? What kind of attributes will any of the game object have? How does those attributes affect gameplay? What formulae will be used for calculating damage? The game designer needs to be clear of his own designs. He must be able to visualize the final product. He must be able to communicate with his team what his design is about, and why it is designed that way.

One does not simply fills up a spreadsheet of game items’ data, and calls it designing a game.

Themes and Genres

We have heard about people who loved playing fighting game and how they have an idea or two for a fighting game of their own. RTS lovers commenting how they’d made things different if it was up to them to design the game. Or simply hear a gamer says “wished I get a chance to create a game like this”. When choosing a theme and genre to design a game for, a game designer would (in my opinion) probably choose to the theme or genre he is familiar with. Unless he is trying to come up with a game that is “totally innovative and original”, otherwise his best bet is to pick a theme and genre that he is familiar with, or at least had been in contact with (played before). I had read about tennis, sometimes i catch matches on tv, i played various tennis videogames, I recognized some of the famous players, so if i wanted to design a sports genre game, most probably I would choose tennis, as compared to .. let’s say, American Football, which I know nuts about. I could design a straight up tennis arcade game, or I could make it crazy and throw in manga styled special moves, heck I’ll even turn the game into a RPG genre if I want to. I could do all these with confident because I was sufficiently exposed to the subject matter, I’m no expertise in real life tennis, but i am sure I know enough to design an acceptable tennis game.

Let’s assume I don’t know Collectible Card Games (actually I do, I’m a MtG player, plus various online CCGs player, let’s just assume that I don’t know), and let’s assume CCGs is trending in the game industry now, particularly on the mobile platform. And let’s assume I had no experience designing games for the mobile platform, nor am I familiar with the mobile games’ market. So should I make a CCG for the mobile market? OF COURSE, DO IT. But you don’t just assume what these games are and jump right into designing one, RESEARCH. Play the games, read about them, read about the market, interview the people who plays these games. Learn about the genre and theme, and go crazy with the designs. Then, get feedbacks, from the people who are actually more familiar with the theme and genre than you are… which brings us to the next point.

Feedbacks and Criticisms

So you’ve just designed a game which you think is going to blow everyone away when they play it. It’s going to be loved by everyone and money will start flowing in like water into a tub, waiting for you to take a dip in. Uh-uh, no. Feedbacks, criticisms, suggestions will come in at any point of development and design, and they are going to change your game, and you are not going to like it. At design time, others on the team might make suggestions to how certain feature should be, or that we need to add or remove certain features. Before you shoot their ideas down, or even take their ideas in, THINK. Think about how gameplay will be affected with or without the feature, more importantly think about how would the player then play the game. Are there expertise in the room? Check with him the feasibility of the idea. That’s the guy giving the idea? Then think about if the change would alter your design so drastically that it changes the original goal of the game. Even if it does, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, maybe your original design already strays far from what’s acceptable for the genre or theme? Just think about all these possibilities. If an expert of the matter gives you a convincing reason for implementing or removing certain feature, he’s probably onto something.

The last thing you want is to reject these criticism and feedbacks, head into development, hit some roadblocks which require the game to be redesign with those suggestions to solve the problem; Wasting time and resources in the meanwhile, and we all know time and resources are money.

Back to with regards to my own project, I have yet a solid idea that I want to work on. Developing and releasing RotaPix was an amazing experience for me (though not financially) , I had learned more about what I should do during release and post release(marketing and stuffs), as well as how the market reacts to various version of the game (paid, ad-supported), also the value of the Chinese Market, and finally what I should aim for in my next game, game design-wise.

I’m actually looking at a “Classic A X Classic B” kind of game… any suggestions?