Author Topic: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)  (Read 2596 times)  Share 

Vince Twelve

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Let's get this out of the way upfront.  This thread will be loaded with Resonance spoilers, so stop reading if you haven't played the game and don't want to be spoiled.  I'd rather the thread not be cluttered with spoiler tagged text.

It's my birthday.  And as my gift to my favorite internet community, I'm releasing Resonance's original design document.  This document was written in March of 2007 and became the jumping-off point for the game's development.  During development, the game obviously morphed and changed, deviating from this original document, but it's interesting for me to read through it now, six years later.

I thought this document might be interesting or useful to people who are trying to write and plan their own game. It provides some insight into how I plan out puzzles and mapped out the story.  If nothing else, it might serve as an example of how NOT to do these things. :P

Anyways, have at it.  Let me know if you have any questions.  I'm open to discussing anything about the game or this document! Ask me here or on Twitter.


Intense Degree

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Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #1 on: 14 Mar 2013, 16:23 »
FASCINATING!

Thank you so much for this, I really look forward to going through this in depth and comparing to my own attempts at a design document!

Happy Birthday indeed Mr Xii.

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Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #2 on: 14 Mar 2013, 17:27 »
Wow, thanks, Vince.  This should make for some awesome bedtime reading.

Ghost

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Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #3 on: 14 Mar 2013, 18:54 »
Vince, thanks a lot for uploading this (I got to stop myself from reading since I haven't beaten the game yet, though). GDDs are always treasure troves for me, so thanks for having birthday and giving presents to US!

Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #4 on: 14 Mar 2013, 19:19 »
WOW! I'm impressed by the amount of effort you've put into the planning, (though i'd expect it for a commercial game). I have a lot to learn in terms of adventure game development and I thank you for contributing this to the AGS community.

Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #5 on: 14 Mar 2013, 19:34 »
Happy Birthday Vince! I thought you were supposed to get gifts on your birthday and not the other way around. ;)  This is definately a great gift you've given to the community. I always like to see "behind the curtain" with how different people do their design. It'll help us budding game designers.

BTW, Resonance was awesome! I enjoyed playing it very much.

Snarky

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Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #6 on: 14 Mar 2013, 19:53 »
Happy birthday Vince!

Just from skimming the document, it's obviously very interesting (particularly some of the gameplay and story elements that got cut); it also demonstrates just how much work goes into a game of this scope. Is the level of detail and explanation here a function of it being aimed at the rest of the team (and help determine the assets needed), or would you be this thorough even if it's just for your own use? For example, if I had written this, section VIII.B with Anna on the fire escape would probably just have been a sketch of the side of the building with callouts for the important objects, and a bullet-point list along the lines of "go down, try crank (breaks but get handle), back up (grabbed if no bookcase), use handle with crank for roof ladder, wire-cutting mini-game (timed). Ed+Bennett to the rescue (cutscene)."

Another thing I'm curious about is that the document doesn't include any sketches, maps, illustrations of any kind. I assume they must have existed? And was the entire game planned to this level of detail before you started implementing/prototyping anything? In other words: as you were working on this document, what else did you make towards the game? (I remember you had some posts on your blog about the various stages of your design process, so presumably you've already explained whether the design was complete by the time you went ahead with the actual production and recruited artists.)

Another question, if you feel like talking about it, would be changes that happened earlier on in the creative process. Were there ideas you had in earlier drafts of the design that were removed or changed drastically before this version of the document?

Thanks so much for sharing this and being willing to open up about the creation of Resonance!

Vince Twelve

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Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #7 on: 14 Mar 2013, 20:42 »
Glad you guys are enjoying it!

Snarky: This document was intended for the whole team, but wound up being more for me than anyone else.  I needed to think the whole thing through and lay it out so I could get the bird's eye view of it.

When I was requesting work from ProgZ or Nauris (background artist), I would create a new thread in our super-secret development forum (one thread for each character, one thread for each background) and create a more specific description of what I required from each asset (often quoting directly from this document). 

Usually I was too specific and over-explained everything (often to the point of it causing confusion!) but eventually we'd get there.

For example, for Anna's building exterior which you brought up, here was the forum posting with image (using hide tags because it's big, not because it's a spoiler):

Add spoiler tag for Hidden:
This is a tall background.  The example I've attached to this message is 320x880, but any height will do.

After Anna wakes up from her dream in the middle of the night (in the night background of her apartment that you just finished) she hears someone in her apartment.  She will push the bookshelf in front of the door and climb out the window.

Outside, she finds herself on the fire escape of her building.  She lives on the third floor of a four story apartment building.  Each level of the fire escape has one window.  There are ladders leading between each floor.  The top floor and bottom floor have retractable ladders for security.

Gameplay:

Just so you understand what's going on:  Anna will climb up to the fourth floor, but she'll find the ladder is not extended up to the roof.  The mechanism that cranks the ladder up is missing the handle.

Unable to proceed, she'll try going to the ground floor.  So she'll climb down to the third, and then second floor.  There, she'll find that the ladder is broken.  Cranking the lowering mechanism does nothing.  However, she can take the handle out of this mechanism.

She can then go back to the fourth floor and put the handle from the second floor into the mechanism and crank up the ladder.  The mechanism pulls up a rope that loops over a pulley mounted on the roof.  The rope pulls the collapsable ladder up to it's full extended position.

Anna then climbs up to the roof.  As soon as she arrives, she hears a crash.  The person in her apartment has broken through the bookshelf and is in her room.  He climbs out the window and begins climbing up to the roof.

Anna can check the roof-access door, but it's locked.  The window, however, is broken.  She takes a piece of glass and uses it to cut the rope holding the ladder up.  If she does this before the man reaches the roof she's safe, if not, game over.

Once she's cut down the ladder, the roof access door will burst open to reveal Bennet the cop inside.  He rescues her, etc.


The description

The building is relatively clean.  She's a doctor, so she's not living in the same kind of squalor as Ed.  However, this is the fire escape, and who cleans a fire escape?

Roof:

On the roof is a pulley mounted on some kind of metal structure used to support the ladder when it is pulled up.  The ladder only pulls up to the lip of the roof.  The rope that leads down connected to the top of the ladder should go straight down for ease of programming.

Also, there is a roof-access door.  The small window on the door is broken.  A piece of glass is removable.

Fourth floor:

The window on the fourth floor is borded up.  Anna will say that the room is under renovations.  There is a collapsible ladder up to the roof, and a solid ladder down to the third floor.  Don't worry about making the ladder collapsible.  Just draw the ladder, and I'll probably just cut it into three pieces and make them kind of slide or fold down onto each other.  The rope from the top of the collapsible ladder should go straight up (as vertical as possible) for programming ease :)

There is a small mechanism next to the ladder.  Initially, there is no handle connected to turn it, but when it's connected, it can be used to pull up the rope to lift the ladder.


Third floor:

The third floor contains the open window to Anna's apartment.  It should be pretty dark inside, but maybe we can make out some shapes.  There is a solid ladder on each side, one going up, one going down.  If you'd like, maybe Anna has some flower boxes out there or something to pretty up the place. :)


Second floor:

The second floor has a window as well, but it is shut and there are bars over the window.  It should be dark inside, no one is home.  There is a stationary ladder leading up to the third floor on one side.

The other side has another mechanism with a crank (that anna will later remove)  But the rope from this one is hanging over the edge loosely.  The ladder that it would normally connect to is bent and broken off slightly below the fire escape.  There is no way to get down to the ground.


Ground floor:

There should be a significantly threatening drop from the second floor to the street below so that Anna wouldn't risk it.  Other than that, whatever you want to go down there is cool!  No need to make it too detailed, the camera will likely only pan down there for a second or so.  You can make it engulfed in darkness.  No need for too much work down there!


Layers:

Since there's so many things Anna can go behind, it would be helpful to have many layers.  The bars and rail on each landing of the fire escape should have its own layer.  The floor of each fire escape should have it's own layer as well since anna could go under/behind it while climbing the ladders.  Thanks!


That's it!  Does that all make sense?  Definitely ask any questions if something is unclear!


We would then have some back-and-forth and sometimes go through a couple sketches before proceeding to the final product.  This was one of our earlier backgrounds while we were still working out a system.

This is definitely a case of me being too specific. My over-explaining of everything occasionally led to confusion with members of the team, particularly with Janet (sorry Janet!). I had to learn to be more concise, while still being specific and getting my vision across.  I just had so many details in my head, I wanted everyone to share them with me!

On the flip-side, descriptions for ProgZ were usually too simple ("Ed bends down to pick something up while facing right") and he occasionally asked for the full details of how I'd use the animation (emotional state of the character, etc.) so he could add his own flair to it, which he does brilliantly.

And was the entire game planned to this level of detail before you started implementing/prototyping anything? In other words: as you were working on this document, what else did you make towards the game?

Yes. I wrote this during the month of March 2007.  It was last updated in April 2007.  I got ProgZ and Nikolas on the team in April, and spent April, June, and July entirely on implementing the user interface.  It took me about three full months of part-time work to build my own inventory system including LTMs and STMs and my own dialog system.  Nauris joined the team thereafter and we had Ed's apartment (first room of the game) put together pretty quickly and that led to lots of tweaks to the system.  Once it was done, we continued with the rest of the game.

I hate TV shows where they are clearly "making it up as they go" and wanted to make sure I knew the whole story and game before I put one line of code down.

Another question, if you feel like talking about it, would be changes that happened earlier on in the creative process. Were there ideas you had in earlier drafts of the design that were removed or changed drastically before this version of the document?

I started writing the story of Resonance in high school as a film script (a really crappy one, I'm sure).  I've long since lost it, but the idea stuck with me.  It was originally set in a post apocalyptic world where the nation is made up of vast deserts with lush domed cities setting up a theme of dichotomies.  Instead of Resonance being the force pulling the MacGuffin particles together, it was to be "spin" and "counter spin".  The game was to be named "Spin/Counter Spin" with the first half being called "Spin" and the second half (after Anna's death and Ed's betrayal, when the plot's course changes drastically) would be called "Counter Spin".  This was all working into the dichotomy theme. 

I changed it to Resonance very shortly before writing this document because the media had just started using "Spin" and "Counter Spin" as buzz words for political jargon and I didn't want to be confused with that.  "Resonance/Counter Resonance" never had the same ring. :P

The character of Eddings always had the first name Tolstoy, though. :)

The particles, by the way, were heavily inspired by the novel Artifact by Gregory Benford.

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Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #8 on: 14 Mar 2013, 21:03 »
Happy Birthday! I haven't played Resonance, well I started it. The document looks really nice, glad I'm not the only one to use Google Docs to design games. ;)

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Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #9 on: 15 Mar 2013, 12:33 »
Tres cool!
This is arguably one of the most extensive and elaborate design documents I've read all week. 

Eric

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Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #10 on: 15 Mar 2013, 14:42 »
This is fantastic. Thank you so much for sharing!

Shane 'ProgZmax' Stevens

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Re: Resonance Design Document (Resonance spoilers abound!)
« Reply #11 on: 19 Mar 2013, 20:49 »
The story (and artwork) definitely went through a few revisions as we plugged along but it all got finished in the end :).  XII Games website still has up some of the placeholder artwork I did for the menus (which Vince thought was final heh) as well as some early style tests for the characters if anyone's interested.

It's the only game that I've worked on for so long that I never really worried would get finished, and I can directly credit Vince's enthusiasm for that.  I would have liked it done sooner, but I never thought it would fizzle out like so many indie games do after a couple of years in development.
« Last Edit: 19 Mar 2013, 20:51 by Shane 'ProgZmax' Stevens »