Game Design: Theory & Practice- P1

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Game Design: Theory & Practice- P1: My earliest recollection of playing a computer game was when I stumbled upon a half-height Space Invaders at a tiny Mexican restaurant in my hometown. I was perhaps six, and Space Invaders was certainly the most marvelous thing I had ever seen, at least next to LegoLand.

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  1. Y FL AM TE Team-Fly®
  2. Game Design: Theory & Practice Richard Rouse III Illustrations by Steve Ogden Atomic Sam character designed by Richard Rouse III and Steve Ogden
  3. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Rouse, Richard. Game design: theory & practice / by Richard Rouse III ; illustrations by Steve Ogden. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-55622-735-3 (pbk.) 1. Computer games—Programming. I. Title. QA76.76.C672 R69 2000 794.8'1526—dc21 00-053436 CIP © 2001, Wordware Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved 2320 Los Rios Boulevard Plano, Texas 75074 No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from Wordware Publishing, Inc. Printed in the United States of America ISBN 1-55622-735-3 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0011 Product names mentioned are used for identification purposes only and may be trademarks of their respective companies. All inquiries for volume purchases of this book should be addressed to Wordware Publishing, Inc., at the above address. Telephone inquiries may be made by calling: (972) 423-0090 ii
  4. Copyright Notices Atomic Sam design document and images ™ and ©1999-2000 Richard Rouse III. Atomic Sam character designed by Richard Rouse III and Steve Ogden. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Portions of Chapter 18: Interview: Jordan Mechner originally appeared in Inside Mac Games magazine. Used with kind permission. Images from Duke Nukem 3D ® and © 2000 3D Realms Entertainment. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from the 3D version of Centipede ® and © 2000 Atari Interactive, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Though the game is referred to as “Centipede 3D” in this book in order to differentiate it from the older game, its proper name is simply “Centipede.” Images from Super Breakout, Asteroids, Centipede, Millipede, and Tempest® or ™ and © 2000 Atari Interactive, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from WarCraft, WarCraft II, StarCraft, and Diablo II ® or ™ and © 2000 Blizzard Enter- tainment. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Hodj ’n’ Podj and The Space Bar © 2000 Boffo Games. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Pathways into Darkness, Marathon, Marathon 2, Marathon Infinity, and Myth: The Fallen Lords ® or ™ and © 2000 Bungie Software Products Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Balance of Power, Trust and Betrayal: The Legacy of Siboot, Balance of Power II: The 1990 Edition, Guns & Butter, Balance of the Planet, and the Erasmatron ® or ™ and © 2000 Chris Crawford. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Myst ® and ©1993 Cyan, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider II, and Thief II ® or ™ and © 2000 Eidos Interactive. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Unreal and Unreal Tournament ® or ™ and © 2000 Epic Games. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Sid Meier’s Gettysburg! and Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri ™ and © 2000 Firaxis Games. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Doom, Doom II, Quake II, and Quake III Arena ® and © 2000 id Software. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Spellcasting 101 © 1990 Legend Entertainment Company, Spellcasting 201 © 1991 Legend Entertainment Company, and Superhero League of Hoboken © 1994 Legend Entertain- ment Company. All rights reserved. Used with the kind permission of Infogrames, Inc. iii
  5. Images from Maniac Mansion, Loom, and Grim Fandango ® or ™ and © 2000 LucasArts Enter- tainment Company, LLC. All rights reserved. Used with kind authorization. Images from SimCity, SimEarth, SimAnt, SimCity 2000, SimCopter, SimCity 3000, and The Sims ® and © 2000 Maxis, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Karateka, Prince of Persia, and The Last Express ® or ™ and © 2000 Jordan Mechner. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from F-15 Strike Fighter, Pirates!, F-19 Stealth Fighter, Covert Action, Railroad Tycoon, Civilization, and Civilization II ® or ™ and © 2000 Microprose, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Gauntlet®, Gauntlet II®, Xybots™, San Francisco Rush: The Rock - Alcatraz Edi- tion™, San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing®, San Francisco Rush 2049™, and Gauntlet Legends® © 2000 Midway Games West, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Defender®, Robotron: 2048®, Joust®, and Sinistar® © 2000 Midway Amusement Games, LLC. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time ® and © 2000 Nintendo of America. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Oddworld: Abe’s Oddyssee® and © 1995-2000 Oddworld Inhabitants, Inc. All Rights Reserved. ® designate trademarks of Oddworld Inhabitants. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Odyssey: The Legend of Nemesis™ and © 2000 Richard Rouse III. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from Damage Incorporated™ and © 2000 Richard Rouse III and MacSoft. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from the Riot Engine Level Editor © 2000 Surreal Software, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Images from The Next Tetris™ and © 1999 Elorg, sublicensed to Hasbro Interactive, Inc. by The Tetris Company. Tetris © 1987 Elorg. Original Concept & Design by Alexey Pajitnov. The Next Tetris™ licensed to The Tetris Company and sublicensed to Hasbro Interactive, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with kind permission. iv
  6. Dedication To my parents, Richard and Regina Rouse v
  7. Acknowledgments Thanks to Steve Ogden for bringing Atomic Sam to life and providing the bril- liant illustrations which enliven these pages. Thanks to James Hague, Ian Parberry, and Margaret Rogers for looking over my work and providing me with the invaluable feedback and support which have improved this book tremendously. Thanks to Chris Crawford, Ed Logg, Jordan Mechner, Sid Meier, Steve Meretzky, and Will Wright for graciously subjecting themselves to my endless questioning. To quote Mr. Wright, I’m “pretty thorough.” Thanks to Jim Hill, Wes Beckwith, Beth Kohler, Kellie Henderson, Martha McCuller, Alan McCuller, and everyone at Wordware for making this book become a reality. For their help with this book, thanks to Benson Russell, John Scott Lewinski, Ari Feldman, Laura J. Mixon-Gould, Jeff Buccelatto, Jayson Hill, Laura Pokrifka, Josh Moore, Lisa Sokulski, Dan Harnett, Steffan Levine, Susan Wooley, Chris Brandkamp, Kelley Gilmore, Lindsay Riehl, Patrick Buechner, Scott Miller, Greg Rizzer, Lori Mezoff, Jenna Mitchell, Ericka Shawcross, Maryanne Lataif, Bryce Baer, Bob Bates, James Conner, Lisa Tensfeldt, Paula Cook, Donald Knapp, and Diana Fuentes. Special thanks to Margaret Rogers, June Oshiro and Matt Bockol, Ben Young, Alain and Annalisa Roy, Gail Jabbour, Amy Schiller, Katie Young & Eric Pidkameny, Rafael Brown, Eloise Pasachoff, Mark Bullock and Jane Miller, Dave Rouse, Linda, Bob and Grayson Starner, Jamie Rouse, Alan Patmore and everyone at Surreal, the Leaping Lizard crew, Brian Rice, Lee Waggoner, Pat Alphonso, Clay Heaton, Alex Dunne, Gordon Cameron, Tuncer Deniz, Bart Farkas, Peter Tamte, Nate Birkholtz, Al Schilling, Cindy Swanson and everyone at MacSoft, Doug Zartman, Alex Seropian, Jason Jones, Jim McNally, Jeff O’Connor, Ira Harmon, Gordon Marsh, Chuck Schuldiner, Glenn Fabry, and Derek Riggs.
  8. About the Author Richard Rouse III is a computer game designer, programmer, and writer at Surreal Software (www.surreal.com). Rouse has been designing games professionally for over seven years and has played a lead design role in the development of games for the PC, Macintosh, Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation, and PlayStation 2. His credits include Centipede 3D, Odyssey: The Legend of Nemesis, and Damage Incor- porated. At Surreal he currently spends all his waking hours working on a secret PlayStation 2 action/adventure project, while also contributing where he can to Drakan for PlayStation 2. Rouse has written about game design for publications including Game Developer, SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics, Gamasutra, and Inside Mac Games. Your Feedback Your feedback to this book, including corrections, comments, or merely friendly ramblings, is encouraged. Please mail them to the author at rr3@paranoidproductions.com. You will also find the web page for this book, which will be used to track corrections, updates, and other items of interest, at www.paranoidproductions.com. See you there. About the Artist Steve Ogden has been an artist, illustrator, and cartoonist for almost 20 years, and miraculously, his right hand shows no sign of dropping off. Among his projects in the digital domain, he has worked on Bally’s Game Magic casino game as well as Centipede 3D, and has just finished a stint as Art Director and Production Lead on Cyan’s realMYST (while finishing the illustrations to this book during the few hours he was supposed to be sleeping). He is now gearing up for work on Cyan’s next game, if they can catch him and chain him to his desk again. To see more of his work, both of the 2D and 3D variety, stop by his web site: www.lunaenter- tainment.com. You can reach him at ogden@ lunaentertainment.com. He is now going to crawl to a beach very far away and sleep for a while. vii
  9. Contents Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xviii Chapter 1 What Players Want . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Why Do Players Play?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Players Want a Challenge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Players Want to Socialize . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Players Want a Dynamic Solitaire Experience. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Players Want Bragging Rights . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Players Want an Emotional Experience . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Players Want to Fantasize . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 What Do Players Expect? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Players Expect a Consistent World. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Players Expect to Understand the Game-World’s Bounds . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Players Expect Reasonable Solutions to Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Players Expect Direction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Players Expect to Accomplish a Task Incrementally. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Players Expect to Be Immersed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Players Expect to Fail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Players Expect a Fair Chance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Players Expect to Not Need to Repeat Themselves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Players Expect to Not Get Hopelessly Stuck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Players Expect to Do, Not to Watch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Players Do Not Know What They Want, But They Know It When They See It . 18 A Never-Ending List . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Chapter 2 Interview: Sid Meier . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Chapter 3 Brainstorming a Game Idea: Gameplay, Technology, and Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Starting Points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Starting with Gameplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Starting with Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Starting with Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Working with Limitations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Odyssey: The Legend of Nemesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 ix
  10. Contents Damage Incorporated. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Centipede 3D . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Embrace Your Limitations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Established Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 The Case of the Many Mushrooms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 The Time Allotted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 If You Choose Not to Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Chapter 4 Game Analysis: Centipede . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59 Classic Arcade Game Traits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Input . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 Interconnectedness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66 Y Escalating Tension . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 One Person, One Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 FL Chapter 5 Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73 Establishing Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74 AM An Example: Snow Carnage Derby . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77 The Function of the Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 Maintaining Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82 TE Fleshing Out the Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 Changing Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84 Sub-Focuses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88 Using Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 Chapter 6 Interview: Ed Logg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93 Chapter 7 The Elements of Gameplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121 Unique Solutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 Anticipatory versus Complex Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122 Emergence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 Non-Linearity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 Types of Non-Linearity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 Implementation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127 The Purpose of Non-Linearity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129 Modeling Reality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130 Teaching the Player . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 Rewards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134 Input/Output. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136 Controls and Input . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136 Output and Game-World Feedback . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141 Basic Elements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145 Chapter 8 Game Analysis: Tetris . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146 Puzzle Game or Action Game? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147 Tetris as a Classic Arcade Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149 x Team-Fly®
  11. Contents The Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151 Artificial Intelligence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153 Escalating Tension . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154 Simplicity and Symmetry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155 Ten Years On, Who Would Publish Tetris? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157 Chapter 9 Artificial Intelligence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158 Goals of Game AI. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160 Challenge the Player . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161 Not Do Dumb Things . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163 Be Unpredictable . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164 Assist Storytelling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167 Create a Living World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169 The Sloped Playing Field . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 How Real is Too Real? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171 AI Agents and Their Environment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172 How Good is Good Enough? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 175 Scripting. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177 Artificial Stupidity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178 Chapter 10 Interview: Steve Meretzky . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179 Chapter 11 Storytelling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214 Designer’s Story Versus Player’s Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216 Places for Storytelling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218 Out-of-Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219 In-Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224 External Materials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227 Frustrated Linear Writers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 228 Game Stories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230 Non-Linearity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232 Working with the Gameplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233 The Dream . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234 Chapter 12 Game Analysis: Loom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236 Focused Game Mechanics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238 User Interface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 239 The Drafts System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241 Difficulty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243 Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 244 Loom as an Adventure Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 245 Chapter 13 Getting the Gameplay Working . . . . . . . . . . . 248 The Organic Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251 Too Much Too Soon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251 Keep It Simple . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253 xi
  12. Contents Building the Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 254 Core Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 254 Incremental Steps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255 A Fully Functional Area . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 256 Going Through Changes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 257 Programming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 259 When is It Fun? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 261 Chapter 14 Interview: Chris Crawford . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 263 Chapter 15 Game Development Documentation . . . . . . . . . 291 Document Your Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 293 Concept Document or Pitch Document or Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 293 Design Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 294 Flowcharts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 295 Story Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 295 Script . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 297 Art Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 300 Storyboards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 301 Technical Design Document. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 301 Schedules and Business/Marketing Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 302 No Standard Documentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 302 The Benefits of Documentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 303 Chapter 16 Game Analysis: Myth: The Fallen Lords . . . . . . . 304 Use of Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305 Game Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 308 Storytelling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310 Hard-Core Gaming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 311 Multi-Player. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 313 Overall . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 314 Chapter 17 The Design Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 316 The Writing Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 318 The Sections. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 321 Table of Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 321 Introduction/Overview or Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 322 Game Mechanics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323 Artificial Intelligence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 329 Game Elements: Characters, Items, and Objects/Mechanisms . . . . . . . . . . 331 Story Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 334 Game Progression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 335 System Menus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337 One Man’s Opinion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337 Inauspicious Design Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 338 xii
  13. Contents The Wafer-Thin or Ellipsis Special Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 338 The Back-Story Tome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 339 The Overkill Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 340 The Pie-in-the-Sky Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 341 The Fossilized Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 342 A Matter of Weight . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 343 Getting It Read . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 343 Documentation is Only the Beginning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 344 Chapter 18 Interview: Jordan Mechner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 346 Chapter 19 Designing Design Tools. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 378 Desired Functionality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 380 Visualizing the Level . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 380 The Big Picture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 382 Jumping into the Game . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 384 Editing the World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 386 Scripting Languages and Object Behaviors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 388 Us Versus Them. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 390 The Best of Intentions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 392 A Game Editor for All Seasons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 394 Chapter 20 Game Analysis: The Sims . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 395 Abdicating Authorship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 396 Familiar Subject Matter. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 398 Safe Experimentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 399 Depth and Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 400 Interface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401 Controlled Versus Autonomous Behavior . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 403 A Lesson to Be Learned . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404 Chapter 21 Level Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 406 Levels in Different Games . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 408 Level Separation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 409 Level Order . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 410 The Components of a Level . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 412 Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 413 Exploration. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 413 Puzzle Solving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 415 Storytelling. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 415 Aesthetics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 416 Balancing It All . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 418 Level Flow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 418 Elements of Good Levels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 421 Player Cannot Get Stuck. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 421 xiii
  14. Contents Sub-Goals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 422 Landmarks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 423 Critical Path . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 423 Limited Backtracking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 423 Success the First Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 424 Navigable Areas Clearly Marked . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 424 Choices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 424 A Personal List. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 425 The Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 425 step 1. Preliminary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 425 step 2. Conceptual and Sketched Outline . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 427 step 3. Base Architecture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 427 step 4. Refine Architecture Until It is Fun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 428 step 5. Base Gameplay. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 429 step 6. Refine Gameplay Until It is Fun. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430 step 7. Refine Aesthetics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430 step 8. Playtesting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 431 Process Variations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 431 Who Does Level Design?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 432 Collaboration . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 433 Chapter 22 Interview: Will Wright . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 434 Chapter 23 Playtesting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 472 Finding the Right Testers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 473 Who Should Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 474 Who Should Not Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 477 When to Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 479 How to Test . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 481 Guided and Unguided Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 482 Balancing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 483 Your Game is Too Hard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 485 The Artistic Vision . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 487 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 489 Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 489 The Medium. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 490 The Motive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 491 Appendix Sample Design Document: Atomic Sam . . . . . . . . 493 Atomic Sam: Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495 Atomic Sam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 496 Design Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 496 Table of Contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 496 I. Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 499 xiv
  15. Contents II. Game Mechanics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500 Camera . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 501 In-Game GUI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 502 Replaying and Saving . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 502 Control Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 503 General Movement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 503 Flying Movement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 504 Surfaces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 507 Picking Up Objects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 507 Throwing Projectiles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 508 Electric Piranha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 510 Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 510 Interactive Combat Environments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 512 Looking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 513 Friends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 513 Speaking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 514 Cut-Scenes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 515 Storytelling. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 515 Levels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 516 III. Artificial Intelligence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 518 Enemy AI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 519 Player Detection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 519 Motion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 519 Flying . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520 Pathfinding . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520 Taking Damage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520 Combat Attacks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520 Evading. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 521 Special Actions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 521 Trash Talking. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 522 Falling into Traps . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 522 Non-Combatant Agents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 523 Friends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 523 IV. Game Elements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 525 Items . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 525 Characters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 527 V. Story Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 536 VI. Game Progression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 538 Setting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 538 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 540 Gargantuopolis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 540 The Electric Priestess’ Bubble Home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 540 Benthos. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 541 xv
  16. Contents Harmony . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 542 New Boston . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 543 The Electric Priestess’ Bubble Home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 544 The Ikairus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 545 VII. Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 545 Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 546 Selected Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 562 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 565 xvi
  17. Introduction My earliest recollection of playing a computer game was when I stumbled upon a half-height Space Invaders at a tiny Mexican restaurant in my hometown. I was per- haps six, and Space Invaders was certainly the most marvelous thing I had ever seen, at least next to LegoLand. I had heard of arcade games, but this was the first one I could actually play. Space Invaders, I knew, was better than television, because I could control the little ship at the bottom of the screen using the joystick and shoot the aliens myself instead of watching someone else do it. I was in love. The irony of this story is that, at the time, I failed to comprehend that I had to stick quarters into the game to make it work. The game was running in “attract” mode as arcade games do, and my young mind thought I was controlling the game with the joystick when I was actually not controlling anything. But the idea was still mind-blowing. This book is about developing original computer games that will hopefully have the same mind-blowing effect on players that Space Invaders had on my young brain. This book deals with that development process from the point of view of the game designer. Many books have been written about the programming of computer games, but I can remember my frustration in being unable to find a book such as this one when I was an aspiring game designer. In some ways, I have writ- ten this book for myself, for the person I was a decade ago. I hope that other people interested in designing games will find this book informative. In my humble opin- ion, it is the game designer who has the most interesting role in the creation of a computer game. It is the game’s design that dictates the form and shape of the game’s gameplay, and this is the factor which differentiates our artistic medium from all others. xvii
  18. Introduction What is Gameplay? I hear you asking, “But what is gameplay?” Many people think they know what gameplay is, and indeed there are many different reasonable definitions for it. But I have one definition that covers every use of the term you will find in this book. The gameplay is the component of computer games which is found in no other art form: interactivity. A game’s gameplay is the degree and nature of the interactivity that the game includes, i.e., how the player is able to interact with the game-world and how that game-world reacts to the choices the player makes. In an action game such as Centipede, the gameplay is moving the shooter ship around the lower quadrant of the screen and shooting the enemies that attack relentlessly. In SimCity, the gameplay is laying out a city and observing the citizens that start to inhabit it. In Doom, the gameplay is running around a 3D world at high speed and shooting its extremely hostile inhabitants, gathering some keys along the way. In San Francisco Rush, the gameplay is steering a car down implausible tracks while jockeying for position with other racers. In StarCraft, the gameplay is maneuvering units around a map, finding resources and exploiting them, building up forces, and finally going head to head in combat with a similarly equipped foe. And in Civilization, the gameplay is exploring the world, building a society from the ground up, discovering new technologies, and interacting with the other inhabitants of the world. Though some might disagree with me, the gameplay does not include how the game-world is represented graphically or what game engine is used to render that world. Nor does it include the setting or story line of that game-world. These aes- thetic and content considerations are elements computer games may share with other media; they are certainly not what differentiates games from those other media. Gameplay, remember, is what makes our art form unique. What is Game Design? What, then, is game design? Having defined what exactly I mean when I refer to gameplay, the notion of game design is quite easily explained: the game design is what determines the form of the gameplay. The game design determines what choices the player will be able to make in the game-world and what ramifications those choices will have on the rest of the game. The game design determines what win or loss criteria the game may include, how the user will be able to control the game, and what information the game will communicate to him, and it establishes how hard the game will be. In short, the game design determines every detail of how the gameplay will function. xviii
  19. Introduction Who is a Game Designer? By this point it should be obvious what a game designer does: she determines what the nature of the gameplay is by creating the game’s design. The terms “game designer” and “game design” have been used in such a wide variety of contexts for so long that their meaning has become dilute and hard to pin down. Some seem to refer to game design as being synonymous with game development. These people refer to anyone working on a computer game, be they artist, programmer, or pro- ducer, as a game designer. I prefer a more specific definition, as I have outlined above: the game designer is the person who designs the game, who thereby estab- lishes the shape and nature of the gameplay. It is important to note some tasks in which the game designer may be involved. The game designer may do some concept sketches or create some of the art assets that are used in the game, but he does not have to do so. A game designer may write the script containing all of the dialog spoken by the characters in the game, but he does not have to do so. A game designer may contribute to the programming of the game or even be the lead programmer, but he does not have to do so. The game designer may design some or all of the game-world itself, building the levels of the game (if the project in question has levels to be built), but he does not have to do so. The game designer might be taking care of the project from a management and production standpoint, keeping a careful watch on the members of the team to see that they are all performing their tasks effectively and efficiently, but he does not have to do so. All someone needs to do in order to justifiably be called the game’s designer is to establish the form of the game’s gameplay. Indeed, many game designers perform a wide variety of tasks on a project, but their central con- cern should always be the game design and the gameplay. What is in This Book? This book contains a breadth of information about game design, covering as many aspects as possible. Of course, no single book can be the definitive work on a partic- ular art form. What this book certainly is not is a book about programming computer games. There are a wealth of books available to teach the reader how to program, and as I discuss later in this book, knowing how to program can be a great asset to game design. However, it is not a necessary component of designing a game; many fine designers do not know how to program at all. The chapters in this book are divided into three categories. First are the twelve core chapters which discuss various aspects of the development of a computer game, from establishing the game’s focus, to documenting the game’s design, to establishing the game’s mode of storytelling, to playtesting the near-final product. xix
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