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Author Topic: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!  (Read 4093 times)

Upon reading Retro Gamer's Amiga special magazine, there was an article on Monkey Island; and Ron said they didn't have a script ready for dialogue, they just had an idea of where they were going with it and wrote it on the spot. They said you couldn't do that today. Maybe not in commercial games, but I did just that when creating Limbo The Adventure Game!

I had the vague story planned, the main characters imagined, and knew how my game would start and end, and what was in the middle. I pretty much winged most of it, I find it's more fun to just create as I went along, and I think I'm funnier when I come up with stuff on the spot than trying to force it out of me in planning stages. Puzzles. They were planned to some degree, I think you have to think backwards with that. What does the character achieve, how can you put something in the way of that, to be solved?

Do others merticulously (Er.... that's spelt wrong isn't it.) plan every detail or get a rough idea like I do? My game even ended fairly differently to my imagined ending. I was going to have more puzzles as a last chapter, but as time went on and it became harder to push myself to finish it, the ending was arguably "rushed" with the ending being pretty much "on rails" with no puzzles to solve, but it meant my game was out the door, finally!

NickyNyce

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Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #1 on: 13 Apr 2015, 23:23 »
There's certainly no wrong way to do it if it's freeware. Everyone is different. I don't know what I'm eating for dinner until 2 minutes before I shovel it into my mouth. My games get created the same way.

I think lots of freeware game are rushed at the end. It's like when you finally see the finish line in a running race and your legs start stumbling at the finish line until you fall on your face. I now wear a helmet and knee pads when I'm trying to finish my games.
« Last Edit: 13 Apr 2015, 23:28 by NickyNyce »

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Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #2 on: 14 Apr 2015, 07:49 »
Planning the beginning and the end first is good, as that ensures that the game begins and ends strong, even if you get bored of the project towards the end. However, it also requires quite a bit of planning to work out, or you'll end up changing something and breaking your own ending as you develop the game.

I myself am a strong believer in documentation, planning and writing things down.

Here's a dev document I made for my old OROW entry "Sinking": https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wt0vn1YVT-SsoJBE9yO78Rw4h5SuHrYcpm6s8swtJKw/edit?usp=sharing
Here's an early dev document for a game I began and then quickly abandoned for lack of time: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rt7_P-xNWVvHcYcJlCGi2Pnze2r1BMHVXbTScWVZgkM/edit?usp=sharing
Another doc for a project on hiatus: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hlFVdce1JnmAn-yziCXzLzJPjcOg7TnFfKR3Ka4bLyk/edit?usp=sharing

Generally I like to outline the story, key gameplay mechanics etc, but I leave much of the graphic design to the later stages, since that is not my strong area. Focus on the things you are good at and build around those. :)
My Fortnightly Writing Competition collected works
https://goo.gl/VUQbzU

Monsieur OUXX

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Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #3 on: 14 Apr 2015, 09:44 »
Keep in mind, though, that in MI, the game is mostly centered on: a well-structured global plot (divided in four chapters) and well-designed puzzles. Therefore, the dialogs are just fillers, and the fact that it's a comedy game allows the writers to just insert gags as-they-come in those impromptu dialogs.
Tehrefore, it's the combination of : well-structured story+well-designed puzzles+comedy that allows improvisation. That wouldn't work if you overlooked one of those 3 ingredients.
 

Retro Wolf

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Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #4 on: 14 Apr 2015, 10:38 »
Sometimes I build an idea in my head, dialogue is made up as I build the game.

A couple of times I've made a mini design doc, very rarely more than a page long. Bullet points and snippets of dialogue. When I actually start building the game it tends to go off in different directions.

This is coming from a guy whose only made a few short games though. Nothing full length or amazing!

Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #5 on: 14 Apr 2015, 10:43 »
Upon reading Retro Gamer's Amiga special magazine, there was an article on Monkey Island; and Ron said they didn't have a  they just had an idea of where they were going with it and wrote it on the spot. They said you couldn't do that today.

I disagree, this is pretty much what I do!

Although... whilst I am useless at designing the whole thing from scratch, I tend to make design documents for small sections of the game.  It certainly helps to map things out and keep tabs of everything, else continuity conflicts are extremely difficult to avoid.

cat

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Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #6 on: 14 Apr 2015, 13:30 »
My design documents usually consist of random notes and sketches on paper. When designing a game I usually carry a small notebook with me, where I write down what comes to my mind. It's some kind of brainstorming where I add stuff later on and go more into detail.

The dialog, however, I write directly in AGS. I don't see a benefit in writing the dialog in a separate document and copy it to AGS later on. I also edit it there.

Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #7 on: 14 Apr 2015, 17:24 »
I think we all agree (at least, considering what has already been said) that not everything is worth planning. To know what is may be a matter of experience and self-determination (if I'm lazy, I do more mistakes). I think that lack of planning or bad planning hurts more when you have to work against a time limit (e.g. for MAGS) and you only have available a few hours each day. You can only set something like a weekly goal based on your assessment of what has to be done. It really isn't nice to happily want to start something only to find out, for example, that you did not take in consideration one minor detail in the story that required you to change the way all backgrounds look (e.g. ...on second thought, it's rather embarrassing to give the example from my current project :)). About the means used to manage my work: when you write, more ideas come and I think this is the main advantage over holding everything in the mind - you "work" with the ideas; but if you don't hold a lot in your mind you find it harder to motivate yourself (you feel estranged from the project).
springthoughts

Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #8 on: 14 Apr 2015, 21:03 »
Interesting, folks!

I think I made it strangely easier to not have to plan that much by making the game layout non-linear, whereas my previous game "Secrets" was totally linear and so I had to plan every room in advance. Although near the end, once again, a chunk of the game was cut out. There's a part where you go to a retirement home, the reception room, and then get past the receptionist and go upstairs. The plan however, was to have another room full of senile old people in the living room and there was puzzles planned and eventually you'd get upstairs. I even drew the room layout on paper! But I was losing motivation and was fed up with it so I cut it out and made it a hell of a lot shorter, but at least the game was finished, rather than give up on it and it never be played by anyone!

Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #9 on: 14 Apr 2015, 22:23 »
I feel comfortable planning but I admit that planning too much has probably done me more harm than good.
I designed the entirety of A Window Cleaner's Apprentice on paper, including all dialogue and puzzles, before even opening AGS. That was around the time you started Limbo, Matt. I'm glad one of us finished!:-)

What happened was that I spent more effort trying to build my game to match my plan and less time trying to make it fun As it turned out, the game in my plans just wasn't really that fun.

With my current MAGS/AdventureJam project, I also started by planning out most of it in advance. However, I left the dialogue out and have been adding it ad hoc to try and build a more organic story around the puzzles.

I wouldn't feel comfortable jumping into any project without some sort of plan but it doesn't need to e a ridiculously meticulous plan. And you're not obliged to stick to your own plan. In fact I would encourage changing your own plan regularly. It probably means you thought of something better than you originally had. :-)

Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #10 on: 14 Apr 2015, 23:45 »
I have to echo ManicMatt's comment about being funnier on the spot rather than trying to force humor in the "planning" phase.  I'm all contextual and coming up with something funny / compelling is often just about letting all the shutter doors compartmentalizing your brain's knowledge for Adult World fly open, relax, and "flow" as they say in hip hop culture.  It's kind of hard to do that when your right brain is drawing up blue prints.

Trying to tell jokes into a Game Design Document is often like painting with chopsticks.  Also why I hate programming and doing creative art/design in the same day.  It's like trying to bring out your inner Picaso while you're replacing the starter solenoid.  The left and right brain headspaces start clashing and make me look and feel like sunken-eyed, frazzled schizo Keanu Reeves at the end of Scanner Darkly.

I find my best writing comes out when I'm in some random dialog with a friend on a message board or in an email, and I informally just start explaining my game by chance.  Having that social pressure, trying to "perform", to make them laugh or get interested in my project, or whatever, and having to "get in their head" often brings out my best suit.

I just wish I was better at consolidating and organizing all of the off-the-cuff paragraphs into coherent story.
« Last Edit: 14 Apr 2015, 23:48 by SilverSpook »

Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #11 on: 15 Apr 2015, 07:56 »
Stupot plus, Did you abandon your apprentice window cleaning (or widow cleaning according to my initial typo, just imagine that!) or is it still ongoing? And what happened to Stupot minus?

Silverspoon, er spook, :wink: , just your explanation here is well crafted and written out like a story of metaphors and artistic descriptions! Although Adult World fly open didn't make much sense to me. It's also got capitals like a name, curious! Also, don't make me have to google what a solenoid is!

Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #12 on: 17 Apr 2015, 01:04 »
Haha thanks Manic.  I'm a recovering English-major, what can I say!  (Actually a computer science major but really loved Creative Writing 300 + classes.)

I overcompressed that statement possibly; by Adult World I mean, the dayjob-world, where you must keep your tie straight, speak clearly to your "clients" or "customers" or whatever in very rigid, "proper" speak.  Which also tends to get boring.  When you're filling out a tax form or writing a progress report for your boss, you're just communicating functional data, you're not trying to entertain or create art, evoke an emotional response, etc.  Generally the contrary -- legalese is all about *minimizing* emotion and keeping things absolutely neutral and non-biased.  Adult World as opposed to Children's World, where imagination, creativity reign.  It's been talked to death by a lot of self-help gurus specializing in motivational books/speeches. 

Solenoid - it's just a random car part that you need to start a car.  Point being, it's hard to be technical support and creative director simultaneously.  I'm like The Collector from the Marvel universe, but instead of collecting powerful superhero / villains /artifacts, I collect interesting words and display them in my novels / at parties / on niche internet forums!

Mandle

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Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #13 on: 17 Apr 2015, 14:11 »
God and AGS laughs while men make plans...

Radiant

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Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #14 on: 17 Apr 2015, 14:24 »
I do plan dialog to some extent. For example, for Heroine's Quest, I made a list of pieces of information about certain areas or monsters, then divided these items among knowledgeable NPCs to make sure I didn't miss any. The rest of the dialogue was written on the spot.

Erenan

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Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #15 on: 17 Apr 2015, 18:09 »
Usually what I do is plan out pretty much every detail of the entire game and then don't even start actually making the game. :~( (laugh)

The Bunker

Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #16 on: 18 Apr 2015, 01:46 »
When I was writting dialogue for my game I didn't have a script before the area in which the characters interacted was finished. I've found that I work better when I have the overall ambience of the characters surroundings established because having an over-arching ambience to put my characters in also helped me bring out the right tone for their choice of words, line length and other things. It's really hard for me to just sit down and write something without having visuals and sounds accompany me in the process.

Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #17 on: 19 Apr 2015, 21:35 »
+1. I hate writing into a blank page.  I need a prompt, context, visual or otherwise.

Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #18 on: 20 Apr 2015, 23:04 »
What did I do before facebook when I wasn't sure what to write back with and just clicked 'like'? It must have made my brain lazy, damn you facebook!

Radiant

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Re: Curious how much planning others do when creating games!
« Reply #19 on: 20 Apr 2015, 23:17 »
On the topic of planning, I'd like to tell a little bit about contingency planning and how this may result in emergent gameplay.

When writing room scripts for Heroine's Quest, relatively early in development I wrote code for when you find Sigurd badly hurt in the forest. Each class has his own way of dealing with that, but when I wrote it I decided that giving him a healing potion would also work (since it seems like an obvious move). When I wrote this, it wasn't decided yet at what point in the game this scene would occur, merely that the game has healing potions.
Then later, I wrote shopkeeper code, which allows you to buy things from NPCs. For those NPCs that have a limited amount of certain items in stock, I decided to simply use AGS's rarely-used feature that every character has an inventory list. Again, this simply made sense at the time.
Finally, several months later, I wrote the pickpocket code, which (yes) allows you to take items from an NPC's inventory list. This was meant so people could steal certain quest items from NPCs, as well as miscellaneous coins and junk I handed out to some of them.

And now, even though this combination of events wasn't planned, it all fell into place. As one of the testers noticed, you can indeed pickpocket shopkeepers to steal the items they'd sell you. And though the scene with Sigurd appears very early in the game and you technically aren't supposed to have healing potions at that point, it's possible to have them anyway if you steal them from a shopkeeper; and as coded months agao, they are a valid method of reviving him. So you can solve a problem in an entirely unexpected way, because of emergent combinations.

Contingencies are fun :)