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Article - 'The Spices of Life' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on May 25, 2004

Blurb

Game design tips, good things that can easily be missed when making your game.

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Today I was faced with a perilous decision: complete my essay for advanced English, or do something else that LOOKS like an essay, to fool my parents.

I think this article is proof enough of my work habits. Anyway. This article is mostly about small spices that can be added to anyone’s game to make it that much more impressive. Generally, these things can be done within mere seconds, but most people do not include them, or, more likely, do not include them well. I’m not trying to put anyone down or anything, I’m just tryin’ to help out, I guess.

First up, sound effects should be used a lot more often in games. Sound effects are not hard to find, or are they hard to implement into a game. If you look around you right now, I’m fairly certain you’ll hear some sort of sound. Perhaps it’s a cat, or a dog, or you clicking the little X on this article on the top right of the screen. If you made it this far, you’ll have realized that pretty much everything makes a sound when something is done to it, or whatever. My basic point is – use sound effects more often! Just make sure they fit the scene, and don’t suck hugely. Oh, one thing to do is, with RM2k3, in the Terrain editor, click the little thing that says “Sound Effect”. Then, choose a sound that goes with that terrain. It makes it so automatically every time the hero walks on that terrain. Realistic? Sure. Necessary? No, but it’s not… not… just do it. >:(

Also, animations on maps can do it a world of good. For example, when it is raining on water, use little blue circle dealies to make it look like the rain is actually contacting the water. Put frothing white water and the base of a waterfall where it comes in contact with the pool below. Random birds, butterflies, bees and Beatles spice up town and forest maps quite a bit, also. It makes the map seem more alive and engrossing, especially when combined with all these other things.

Have believable NPCs, please! Even simple little conversations involving the hero and the NPC are a lot better than one-liners that are repeated over and over. Having the little conversation repeat isn’t too bad either, but it doesn’t take too much effort to make a switch :P.

Oh, while I’m on the topic of NPCs, something that isn’t done in too many games, but really adds to the effect of the towns and whatnot is having NPCs that have set movement paths. For instance, having an NPC that walks around the town, going into shops, approaching other NPCs and chatting, etc. Of course, this takes some careful planning with movement effects and whatnot, but if the effort is expended it makes the game look a lot better. Real people don’t walk around slowly, having really no place to go.

Ambient effects are really useful too. In towns, or busy marketplaces, have people chattering about in the background, along with the music. In forests, have birds chirping and water babbling over a brook. It really adds to the effect. Guess I could have put this in with sounds, but it was long enough as it is.

Poses and expressions for character sets, if done well and applied effectively, really add a lot to the game’s atmosphere. It makes it look like the game was well crafted with blood, sweat, and tears. Poses really add to the game’s effect, etc. I’ve pretty much covered this.

Anyway, that’s about all I can think of for now. A lot of these are very basic, simple things that most people know. But, often, they’re forgotten, and with just a little effort can really spice a game up. These small things always leave a good impression on the player, vastly increasing your game’s status.