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Article - 'Game Creation Process:: A definitive explanation o' by Guest

An item about Game Design posted on Mar 31, 2005

Blurb

An in-depth article about the theory aspect of Game Design. Why do we play games?, and what makes them enjoyable? are some questions that are posed and answered inside. A great read.

Body

Core Mechanic - Why do we play?
Most of the time, when you experience a game you start with a bridled curiousity of how it works. Who are you? What are you fighting for? What sorta rewards are you given for playing? What makes you want to play again.

The answer to these questions is not very difficult to grasp. We play a game because we want to be entertained. Entertaining things range alot. And thus, there are even genres now of different types of games. Comedy games tend to amuse us, First Person Shooters rely on andrenaline. Scary games make us alert, and shocked.

Every game has a core mechanic. I play Final Fantasy 7 because I like building my character, I like the various aspects of Materia growth, and the well drawn cutscenes (for the day.) I liked playing Metal Gear Solid because it was a masterpiece of tactical combat, stealth, and role play elements. Each time you beat the game at a challenge level, the game changed a bit. (A band that gave you infinite ammo, a cloaking device, even a 007 suit.) I play Gran Turismo because it featured a vast track selections, buyable cars, and expansive upgrades for every car. (Can you say challenging?)

So here we see, we play games because for one reason or another, we enjoy it. That is the core mechanic of every game. It's enjoyable to play. Games do this in many different ways.

Creation Engima - Why is game making elusive?
Maybe you think this is somewhat confusing, you probably already knew games are fun. And that you can make a game fun by adding the things I said. Stop. That's not what I'm trying to imply. Games are fun because they are unique. And thus.. comes the most important, and least-respected part of designing a game.

You must have vision. A game cannot really fare well if you are simply making a revised clone of another one. This is easily seen in the market. After the Medal of Honor series, a flurry of less apted game development companies created a vast amount of games. It went so far that even mediocre movies where granted games.

Most of these claiming "now you've seen, try it out"! This is abysmal to us. A movie may have a great idea, like how dragons fight humans in a modern world. And how we defeat them with courageous tactics. But there is a a scope, and a with that a limitation. How far can you go with a gun, and insulation armor? The answer is somewhat obvious.. not very far.

This is how we develop things. By expanding a great idea into other ideas that fit nicely with it. A vision, is not encompassing a entire universe. In fact, it's just a style, a faded picture of a grander, and much more believable experience.

The Construction - What makes games, and why is it hard?
What makes a game is several factors. But it relies heavily on the story. The story, or outline of events within a game are what make the game a sequence of events. In Final Fantasy 7, the first sequence explains little by little of Cloud's life, and about the Shinra company that was destroying the world.

In Metal Gear Solid we where pushed into a secret miliatary base, and told about a machine capable of starting a new cold war. And we watched, and anticipated each challenge. From the ninja with the menacing exoskeletin, to the snakes' clone. And in Gran Turismo we labored to perfect the controls. To understand how far we can take racing cars to get the best times possible. We enjoyed this, the challenge.

And this is what shapes that vision, the story, or design document explains to us how the game functions. In a rpg game much like our own we have a set of characters, and plot twists not that different from a novel. The difference is big however. In a game we are given the power to not only follow a set of chapters, but to actually add in secret chapters, or even end it all prematurely.

The effect of all this is important. Some can argue that game making shouldn't be hard. That we should be taught the idea of how a game goes from one aspect to another. I thought about this for a long time. And came to a conclusion, game developers are rich because not everyone can do it. The less that people know on game development, graphic design, music composition, and in actuality.. the game process itself; The better off they are.

That brings me to my final point on difficulty in refining a vision into a story. Any story, no matter how open or closed it is. Can benefit from carefull planning. If you intend to showcase a game to dull toddlers it needs to entice them with their needs, be it colorfull graphics, and voice overs. Or destructive adults that find blood, and drama "realistic". Every game has a audience, intended or not. The real power lies in how you manipulate the technology (if you will) that you have available.

The Foundry - How to get from stories to games.
I'm quite sure that to say we can go from a idea to a story, to a fully function game, sounds ludicrous.. but in any event I will try to stress how the different fields are implemented to make a game. Which is important in itself. The self awareness of how it works, not how it looks at the end.

So you are ready to write your story, based on a idea of a game you have. The first aspect that you have to figure out is no different then programming. The data model specifically. It scares me that some people do not understand what data modelling is. (Even programmers!) Data modelling is the concept of determining ranges for things. So.. saving the hit points of the main character could be stored as a number. ("integer hp;") Or the name of the character could be stored in a collection of letters. ("char name[];")

The same applies for a story. What do you have available? You cannot realistically expect to create a intelligent AI that tells you the winning numbers for the lottery; Similarly, you cannot expect a Atari console to render 3d objects. So you again face a common, and ever changing enemy. The technology you have at your disposal. Once you have committed, and kept aware of this. You can proceed to write the outline for the story.

Maybe even short descriptions of what each tangible thing has in the outline. The genetically engineered soldiers in Metal Gear Solid patrol the entire complex where MGS is hidden. Barret's hideout is no more than a bar, where they talk about saving the planet from Shinra. In Gran Turismo we had the basic idea of starting with commonly known cars like the Integra, and the Honda Civic.

In a RPG you'd list the "good guys", the bad guys, and locations within the universe. All within range of both game development you have and the vision for the game. Once a storyline is finished, you can then dissect it, and further expand the general outline with sidequests, multiple endings, rules for engagement. And so on. The important aspect is to create dialog that fashions nicely to a timeline. A timeline that (hopefully) is [color=red]not[/color] interpreted as linear, or recursive.
(Linear: Predictable, never changes. Recursive: Game cycles over and over again.)

This is where the game both falls apart, and comes together. At this point you have a basic graph of different ways to beat (and lose) the game. You also have ideas on characters inside of the game;

Graphic Art
This is where artwork is procured, and worked on. Graphics is important.. unless you are making a text-based game. (Which would be really really old, or on a limited computer, like a pda.)

Music Art
Music is created to support different locations, and events. (In role playing games we consider this: Battle, victory, town, sad, and many others I am probably not aware of myself.) Sound effects are covered here as well.

Programming
Code is created to manage art rendering, music, and rules. This is a really important aspect of game design. A poorly designed engine will fail to entertain. Additionally.. A well designed engine can do more on slower machines, thus.. a wider audience is reached.

Rules
Rules are consistently tweaked. There is no real rule system that isn't tweaked. Bugs, and glitches become more apparent both in how the code uses the rules. And how rules use the code. (If that makes sense..)

The final result is a game. At this point it has to be throughly tested for many different aspects:
Graphical errors, Music blandness, Code bugs/crashes, "bad" Rules *

* Rules are special.. sometimes the idea of a fighter being more powerfull than a wizard is acceptable. What I mean is.. do not confuse different advantages, or difficulties as a total breach that must be "fixed". This can destroy a game!

Conclusion - Why to endure it, from a personal view.
This being the end of my document, I will now state my emphasis on all of this. If I make something noteworthy on my side. The code for a game engine. I feel that I will have at least proven myself capable of devoting the time and effort to make games that are playable. This will later enable me to make better, and better successes not only in making games, but in life itself.