See what Darius Mason is doing up there? He's saying WOOOT! 'cause he's so darn happy for me!
The latest games that I was involved with here at THQ is Red Faction: Armageddon - if you like blowing everything up including horrible aliens, then this is the game for you!
What's even cooler, is if you Pre-Order RF:A at Amazon or GameStop, you get a free download of Red Factions: Battleground, a game I worked on. If you like blowing things up (including your friends) while driving around in vehicles, then this is the game for you!
If you Pre-Order RF:A at Wal-Mart, you get a FREE copy of the Red Faction Comic Book I WROTE! (with Paul DeMeo) If you like reading about guys who blow each other up, then this is the comic for you!!!
Let me repeat this... The comic book I wrote will be carried in 2,907 Wal-Marts! Very Nice!!
I've been working as a creative manager for a major video game publisher for several years and the one thing I still don't get is why development teams are so hesitant to put their designs on paper. It's not that I'm unsympathetic to their reluctance - there's been a silent war within the industry for years about the need for game design documents (GDD) - especially when the results are 300 page tomes that no one wants to read. But that doesn't mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Personally, I'm a fan of Mark Cerny's "Method" - which inspired many of my own views on game design documentation - Cerny promotes a "Macro Design" which is no more than five pages that covers the character and moveset, exotic mechanics, level structure, size and count, level contents and the games' overarching structure. In Level Up! I share my own version of the game overview that I call the "ten pager" which adds in the topics of story telling, AI and bonus/DLC materials.
I think I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to criticism and sometimes it still bothers me - it stems from the fact that no one likes to be wrong. I understand the feeling that when ideas are put down on paper, they become "real things" and therefore subject to criticism.
You get the feeling that the designs become locked in stone and can't be changed. Teams have often told me that they don't want to create paper designs because it takes away from time that could be spent putting the design into the game code.
But what I find ironic is, THIS IS THE FUN PART OF MAKING GAMES! Where the sky is the limit! You can come up with anything at this point as long as you can dream it. Sure, you'll eventually have to be grounded by reality but I find creating gameplay designs to be the least stressful part of the job.
Now I'm sympathetic to these concerns regarding time and scheduling but it in all honesty, it doesn't take that long to write down a design. If you spread the work out or work with others, it can go that much faster.
So here are seven reasons why you need to get your designs down on paper:
1. Paper designs allow you to get a picture of the entire game's scope. I was once shown the paper designs of Galaga and the entire game was all there on paper - before a single pixel had been drawn or a line of code written.
2. You can work out size, distance and proportation relationship before building a character or level. Plus it prevents you from having to resize models.
3. You can quickly find descrepancies in pacing, combat, rewards, economy and even story if you use tools like a beat chart.
4. You can spot where the player might be given too much information at once to help ease confusion or information overload
5. You can determine where you might need to add something new and help promote good flow in your game. 6. The human mind is a slippery thing and it's easy to forget good ideas. Get them down before they're gone forever!
7. You get cool artifacts as reminders of your thought process - plus if you don't use a design, you can always save it for another game!
Hopefully I'm convinced you (even a little bit?) to why you should document. Let's hear your reasons!
I love attending Wondercon - it's big comic book convention that's not as crazy as SDCC but still pulls in lots of great guests.
Every year I consider giving a talk and this year I decided to put my money where my mouth is. So with the help of a few friends, I present to you:
FRIDAY, APRIL 1
12:30-1:30 Room 104
Nerds! The Secret Origins of Game Designers
Comics. Movies. Games. Did you know that a life of fandom might be perfect training for a career as a video game designer? Learn the secret origins of industry veterans Haden Blackman (Star Wars: the Force Unleashed 1 & 2, Batwoman), Tim Longo (Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, Star Wars: Dark Forces), Jason Weesner (Tomb Raider: Legend, Vectorman), and Scott Rogers (God of War, Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design) as they share how their love for all things nerdy led to successful careers in video games...and how you can start your own career too!
Scott Rogers has been designing video games for over 20 years and is the author of Level Up! The Guide To Great Video Game Design and Swipe This! The Guide to Great Touchscreen Game Design. You may have played some of the games he designed including God of War, the Maximo series, Pac-man World, Drawn to Life series and Darksiders. He likes e-mail. Why not send him some at firstname.lastname@example.org