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Author Topic: How do you plan a game?  (Read 1062 times)


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How do you plan a game?
« on: 03 May 2021, 04:40 »
Hi, everyone! sorry if this was asked before, I could't find it in the forum. Anyway, I want to know how do you plan a game; how do you write the story and the puzzles (do you put everything in a single document?); how do you plan the rooms; how good practices could you say to make a game design's document.


Re: How do you plan a game?
« Reply #1 on: 03 May 2021, 13:07 »
It's very hard to answer that in a general manner, the more so because different adventures stress different aspects. Short adventures need different planning than long adventures.

There are some design documents on the Internet. Here's a specific example: the design document for Torin's passage.

I personally think that they document the end result of the planning process; I don't find them all that good at explaining just how the authors got there.

Huggles goes on a trip -- High level planning (1)
« Reply #2 on: 03 May 2021, 13:21 »
FWIW, here's an outline of what I did for my most recent adventure, “Huggles goes on a trip”. It's a jam adventure, so I only had short time to splurge on abstract planning; the detail planning happened in the coding stage.

It so happened that the jam in question finished just before Easter, and so I decided to present an Easter adventure.

I started out with a broad story / background line. The schema I usually use is:

Once upon a time, there was ... (a herd of bunnies).
They lived ...  (on a bunny meadow).
Each day, ...  (the mother bunnies laid some eggs, and the others bundled them).
(And once a year, the father bunnies went to the town to sell the eggs to the town people).
One day,  ... (they didn't manage to sell any eggs at all. The townspeople now only wanted coloured eggs, nothing but.)
So therefore,  ... (the bunnies researched egg colouring.)
So therefore,  ... (they got the necessary ingredients.)
So therefore,  ... (they experimented until they were able to produce high-quality egg colours)
So therefore,  ... (they coloured all their eggs.)
And so,  ... (they won over the town people again and got filthy rich by selling coloured eggs.)
In general, the story schema can have any number of “So therefore” lines.

The parenthesized parts are what I did this time to  “fill in the dots”.

I envisioned humanoid bunnies because I have little experience with animating animals.
« Last Edit: 03 May 2021, 13:51 by fernewelten »

Huggles goes on a trip -- High level planning (2)
« Reply #3 on: 03 May 2021, 13:22 »
IMO, a big part of Adventure writing is reducing scope.

The more people there are in the game, the more sprites to draw and animate. And the harder to make them all individual and different from each other. So immediately after establishing this story, I tried to cut down the protagonists. When I thought about the “bunny meadow”, I envisioned lots of bunnies being busy with lots of egg laying and bundling.

Far too many. So, let's do a “bunny family“ instead of a “bunny herd“ and have just one of a kind. A father, a mother, a child.

Come to think of it, I can even cut out the father and still tell the story. So let's just do “Bunny Mother” and “Bunny Son”. One female and one male, one old and one young, so amply different from one another. “Bunny Mother” will do all the grown-up work: earning the money by laying and bundling and selling the eggs, and now she must colour them too. So “Bunny Son” comes to the rescue and offers to do the painting part.
« Last Edit: 03 May 2021, 13:53 by fernewelten »

Huggles goes on a trip -- High level planning (3)
« Reply #4 on: 03 May 2021, 13:24 »
The “Once upon a time” schema will usually only give a high-level story arc with much to much scope.

I can't tell all of that and I shouldn't. Also, I'm in a jam and I must make the story about a “journey” (that was the jam motto). So let's cut down the scope further and only concentrate on the part of getting the ingredients. Let's make it a journey of getting the ingredients. Egg colours get made from ... erm ... spring flowers so the bunnies must collect spring flowers. Let the boy do it; he'll be the protagonist and go on a journey of collecting spring flowers.

In my experience, what limits me the most after the number of characters is the number of locations. I can only do a handful of them in the month that I have. So let's plan and limit the screens next. To make a “journey” feel like a journey, it needs to have a start and an end and several stations in between. Bunny Son will collect the flowers and come back, so conveniently I can re-use the start location for the end location. I can tell the story of the journey with just two stations in between, so let's do just two of them. So my general plan is

Bunny meadow Start location: Establish mother, son, problem that son must solve.
Station 1 Do some riddles
Station 2 Do some riddles
Bunny meadow Son returns with colours, festivities ensue.
« Last Edit: 03 May 2021, 13:43 by fernewelten »

Huggles goes on a trip -- High level planning (4)
« Reply #5 on: 03 May 2021, 13:40 »
I'm in the jams to systematically learn something about adventure writing, and so I usually try to bring in something new that I have never done before. For this jam, I wanted to do a bridge troll.

So of course, I needed a river and a bridge. How can I bring a river into the story line? Let's make Bunny Son walk along the river. He must reach flower fields that are upstream or down stream.

Wait: If we have a river, then Bunny Son might go by boat! In “Jake's Very Last Journey” I had found a way to make Jake drive from the left of the screen to the right with little animation effort; perhaps I can do something similar for Bunny Son boating from left to right.

So let's make Station 1 a boat mooring: Bunny Son will acquire a boat.
Insert small animation about Bunny Son boating.
Boat crashes, so Bunny Son needs to foot the rest of the way, arriving at:
Station 2: Bridge troll guarding the bridge to the flower fields. 

So there you have it: That was the core of my high-level planning.


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Re: How do you plan a game?
« Reply #6 on: 05 May 2021, 16:17 »
Wow, thanks a LOT for the answer. I didn't knew about game design document of old adventure games. I was searching and found some GDD from Lucas Arts.
About your planning, was really interesting some particulars points, like the simplification of the game for less effort and that. Thank you again, dude!


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Re: How do you plan a game?
« Reply #7 on: 06 May 2021, 17:34 »
Different people tend to have different processes for planning an adventure game. Even professional companies do it differently.
But to generalize it though:
  • First you need to explore ideas,
  • then you need to choose an idea and expand on it,
  • then you need to work out a story,
  • then divide that story into a series of events,
  • then divide those events into goals,
  • then figure out what needs to be achieved in order to fulfill those goals,
  • then continue to subdivide these goals until you have an appropriate level of complexity,
  • then finally start making the artwork and implementing it all, making adjustments to the plan as you go along.

As an example, let's say I want to make an adventure game.
I might have a few ideas, a sci-fi story, a high fantasy story, and a horror movie story.
I choose the sci-fi story, and decide that it's going to be about a guy trying to get drunk.
I then come up with a premise, it's about a guy named Bobby Bloke, who visits a space bar in order to get a beer, but he can't because he's underage in that part of the galaxy, despite being 46 in human years.
The events are: visit space bar and try to order beer, and go on adventure which results in getting beer.
The goals are therefore to: find a bar, prove you're not underage, and finally get a beer.
To find a bar, you would need a map. To prove you're not underage, you'd need a fake id. To get the beer, you'd need money.
To get the map, you need to steal one. To get a fake id, you need to apply for one. To get the money, you need to get a job.
This continues until you have a full puzzle dependency chart, and then you just need to write down a layout of the rooms, how they interconnect, what needs to be in them, and of course start drawing them.
Lastly, you don't want to stick too rigidly to the plan. It should always be evolving. Also, you don't want to spend too much time planning. A bit of planning can go a long way, but there is a point where you start to hit diminishing returns.

Re: How do you plan a game?
« Reply #8 on: 06 May 2021, 20:38 »
This thread has a great post about how Eri0o made I rented a boat.

Also, if you follow the Mags threads, the members will frequently report of their progress and their thought processes.