Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Elements of game design - Planning and Concepting

If you don't iron out the kinks in your designs or push them as far as you can, be it characters, environments, story or the way you progress through the level etc then your game is not going to be as good as it could be. If it's not at it's best when shelved (if shelved at all) then you're going to have problems. Not stating it would be unsuccessful, merely that it isn't doing as well as it could be.

This reminds me of an illustrator by the name of Iain Mccaig, best known for designing Darth Maul. While drawing he constantly takes an eraser to his work (another traditional artist), this is usually frowned upon as we're often taught to learn from our mistakes by leaving them in there and trying to adapt them (within reason), however he has a saying for this:

“If it's wrong, take it out.”

It's an obvious thought but Mccaig practices this statement with utmost zeal in his drawings. If it's even slightly off, say the arm is just so that it doesn't quite convey the exact feeling he's trying to achieve (despite being anatomically correct), then he'll chop it off without a seconds thought.

In his GNOMON DVD – Visual Storytelling he frequently quoted the literature saying:

Murder your darlings”- Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

Basically what it means is sometimes you create something that you're rather fond of however it might not fit in the grand scheme of things so in the end, to get the best result out of your painting/writing or whatever, there may come a time where you have to 'murder' it for the greater good.

In a previous post (I believe it was the one on environments) I described the different ways in which level designers go about creating environments using techniques such as silhouette, function and storytelling. These are all part of the planning process for a level, and as such, the entire game.

One of the most common parts of achieving a good or believable design are to use references, this goes from Google images to the real world. The use of Google images gets knocked a bit by artists because it’s apparently ‘shit’ or ‘cheating’ but that isn’t a reasonable argument, if the resources are there to use a reference from then why would you give yourself MORE work in finding something in person when it is right there in front of you? I’m not backing Google images I’m merely arguing why it’s seen as wrong to use it; probably a pride thing.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t go out and get real references, in fact I’d encourage it more than Google for the obvious reason that it’s better to see something up close and really get a feel for it. On top of that your photo references will be a lot more tailored to what you need instead of trudging through page after page of non-helpful images on Google. Still don’t think Google is wrong though, and you’d be an idiot to think it is.

Simply, using references will make your designs accurate as appose to bringing them out of your head which are likely hazy at best if not practiced regularly.

Process and planning is the part of design where you get it all right before you even begin the final piece because no one likes spending forty hours on something only to realise it failed right from the start due to poor planning and conception.

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