Teaching myself game design from the ground up.

Month: February, 2013

Game Design Document

Okay, so the first step to really really making a game other than thinking of a cool idea, is making a Game Design Document.  I’ve been really good at skipping this step, but for the sake of my current project (which, like everything in my head, doesn’t have a name yet), I’m going to really research what a game design document is all about and whether there is a good universal one to use or specific ones for particular platforms/genres.

First, off, Gamasutra has a great article about the purpose and structure of a game design doc.  One of the biggest points is about how it is a guide for everyone on the team.  However, I’m doing this project solo for the time being, so the purpose of a game design doc for me is to really plan out what the heck I’m doing in a way that I can present to others.  Right now all my game notes are in fifty different places, half story boarded on paper or on my computer in text and image files, scribbled on my whiteboard or in one of my three notebooks.  I’m all over the place, and a game design document will put the bones in one place so everything else has something to connect back to.  It also makes scheduling/making deadlines easier to manage and see.  On one of my random scraps of papers, I think it’s the back of a receipt, I wrote down:

Storyboard – 1 week
Script – 1 week
Art first draft – a month?
Coding – ???
Script – 1 week

This is terrible and hard to follow and non specific.  I’ve been reading wayyy too much about how to be productive in an attempt to distract myself from working.  One of the things I’ve read over and over again is to split up bigger tasks into smaller ones.  So Storyboard becomes cut down by storyboarding each day in the game or each event.  Script gets broken down by how many scripts I need.  Art I need to look at character design, animations, items, cut scenes, a bazillion other things each unique to the event in game.  Divide and conquer.

However, Gamasutra has another interesting article about how some game design documents suck and who knows what you’re gonna get.  I think it’s good practice to make a thorough document, mainly because that’s the opposite of what I do (I mean, I have all the info in my head, but that isn’t a reliable place to keep things).

I also have a deck of game design cards that I’m going to use to apply to my game design document as I go along.

Okay, enough blogging, I’m going to go flesh out my game design document and post my feelings about it after I’m done.

Games I’ve Been Playing and Misc Thoughts

Playing games is vital to learning how to make games!  But it’s different when you want to make games, you can’t play Call of Duty a million hours a day and expect to know how to make a balanced game.  My current project is a point and click adventure game, so this blog’s focus is going to be on the development of one of those.  To research, I’ve been replaying The Longest Journey and taking notes.  Taking notes while playing games is invaluable.  I’m trying to organize how I want to handle inventory and using a mouse int he game.  My initial reaction was to do old-school style like Kings Quest where you scroll over the top/bottom of the screen and you get a couple of icons to pick from:

But with Longest Journey, you click on an object and you can either look, talk, or touch (the available options will be highlighted).  It also shows when a combo of items works because they selected item will glow.  I can’t decide if I’m into that or if it makes things too easy.  My other problem is I’m sooo ADD when it comes to anything on a computer (I do eight things at once) and it’s hard to play an adventure game with no attention span for story unless the story is super captivating (sometimes Longest Journey talks too much for me, but I was totally into Walking Dead so I think dialoge driven games are possible for short attention spans).  Anyways, I’ll upload my sketches for inventory plans next post I think and start focusing on the journey to making a single game rather than all this research that leads to more research.

I have a few other games lined up next, Grim Fandango and one of the Leisure Suit Larrys.

What I was playing before I took up Longest Journey (my main games for the past 4 months):

Beat Dishonored in three days.

Walking Dead Game. (I ❤ Telltale Games, they did Monkey Island and Sam and Max).

Civilization IV? I lost count.


Time Management

It’s amazing how much happens between each post, I went through all of the old posts and fixed them up a little bit.  I gotta work on structure in a way so you can better see what I’m doing with my time and so I can share the resources I’m using.

First off, time management is a real challenge.  I work from home, take classes, balance an overly active social life for a nerd, apply to graduate schools (still), and I have my side projects.  I’ve been really struggling with how to manage everything, each task takes a few days minimum of full concentration to complete.  Once I start a task, I’m golden, but it is hard to prioritize.  I have two white boards in my apartment packed with to do lists, plus three notebooks of the same.  I’ve dabbled in organizing apps, and am now trying Mind42 which is all about spider maps, or concept maps, I don’t know what they’re called but it works visually really well with my brain.  Then again, I tend to pick a program up and drop it just as quick, so I’ll post back in a few days with whether I’m still using it.  I’m tempted to try a tracking program to see how long I’m on what sites, because I know I kill time much better than I spend it and seeing the statistics might help motivate me.

In other news I am very comfortable using GameMaker and I hate it.  It has taken me a long time to really understand the program and the limitations of it.  Really, it helped me understand coding better and game design, and it is great for just getting started.  But every time I wanted to do something, such as publish my Mac-made game to a PC, or make an HTML5 game, it would cost more money.  I already owe a good chunk to student loans, so my interests lie in learning and producing quality DiY games without chipping hundreds of dollars just to see my practice games on a site.  I want to explore Construct 2 next because it is free to make HTML5 games.  I would rather make web-compatible games because they’re more accessible.

I have a new, bigger project I’m dying to work on.  I did some storyboarding, but have a lot more to do.  However, in the interests of learning, I’m trying to complete my other projects first.  One project is that dancing game (now called Queertastrophe), it is almost done but a certain bug kept me from working on it for over a month.  I know how to fix the bug now, but  also have a temporary license to use GameMaker HTML5, so I’m slowly trying to convert/remake the game in the newer version of GameMaker so it can be online.  This is way more time consuming than I want it to be, but I’m forcing myself to finish this before really diving into the next project.  I also half-finished a version of snake where the apple is a pbr can and the snake is a head who’s mullet grows (another game maker experiment).

On Coding

So I’m into my second C++ class (CS163 Computer Science II).  It uses the same book which is nice, and is consistent with the last class, and for the second time my coding teacher is female which is awesome. However, coding takes so much concentration, especially as someone who’s easily distracted/likes to doodle/tries to organize everything in my head.  I am so close to being able to just move into Object Oriented Coding, which is what seems valuable for game design.  That means there’s a code for each object, i.e. the code file for the door tells the door that it’s closed and solid but press space and it will open and be walkthroughable.  Right now all I can do is code programs that store and regurgitate information, which will be helpful, but fundamentals are the hardest to learn.  But looking at what I can do now versus four months ago is insane, code was pure gibberish and now it’s legible.