Core Design: What is a Game Games are not Everything Game Means Game Play Creating Game Specs Example of Game Specs Initial Design: The Beginning Hardware Abstraction The Problem Domain Thinking in Tokens Use of Technology: The state of Art Blue sky Research: Reinventing the Wheel Use of Object Technology Building Bricks: Reusability in Software Initial Architectural Design: The birth of Architecture The Tier System Architecture Design Development: The Developmental Process Code Quality Coding Priorities: Debugging and Model Completion Seven Golden Gambits Three Lead Balloons 2 2 5 6 9 20 26 28 31 48 51 80 84 97 111 112 122 124 176 177 186 197 206 207 210 237 241 250 254
KEY TOPICS • Working up the concept
• Adding gameplay • Developing the game spec • Prototyping
n this chapter, we’re going to show how to turn a raw idea into a ﬁrst-pass working document. By now, you have your game concept—which means that you already know the environment in which the player will be making choices, whether that be a starship, a dream world, or the British empire. You will even have a good idea what those choices will involve—searching for dilithium, hiding from pursuers, or sending armies off to war. Now it’s time to pin down the details. What are the spells, weapons, units, or tactics that will feature in the game? Throughout this chapter, we will be using as an example, one of Dave Morris’s own designs, Warrior Kings, a medieval realtime strategy game that was developed at Eidos and Black Cactus Games.
What Is a Game?
If we want to start putting in some gameplay, the question “What is a game?” can serve as a good starting point. But ﬁrst, let’s consider what a game is not: ➤ ➤ ➤ ➤
A bunch of cool features A lot of fancy graphics A series of challenging puzzles An intriguing setting and story
Cool features are just ﬁne; in fact, they are a necessity. However, cool features do not, of themselves, make the game. You know those brainstorming sessions with your developers that end with everybody saying, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could give a whole bunch of swordsmen an order and every swordsman would do something a tiny bit different?” Even if all those great little ideas didn’t take forever to implement, there’s a point at which cramming in extra features just starts to damage the elegance of the gameplay. This tendency to add unnecessary features, commonly known as gold plating, is always the result of somebody, at some point, deciding those features would be cool. They may well be cool, and having them might help the game—just know when to draw the line.
Games need fancy graphics, just as a blockbuster movie needs special effects—but neither will save the product if the core creativity and quality is lacking. The fact is that in today’s market, not having fancy graphics in your game is commercial suicide effectively because games are a chart-driven industry. All such industries are strongly affected by the reviewers—who tend, of course, to be hardcore aﬁcionados with top-ofthe-range machines and who therefore expect to see impressive technology on show. The danger with fancy graphics (as with cool features) is that they can distract the development team’s attention from putting any depth into the game. The movie industry is littered with examples of movies that cost $100 million and up but failed to spend anything of that on getting a good script. Cinemagoers can see through that, and there is growing evidence that gamers are starting to also. We would certainly never turn down any fancy graphics that the technology can provide, but the game has to be able to work without them.