Lord Generic Productions

A Crash Course in Game Design and Production

Week 1 - Part 1 - A General Introduction To The Course

Hi, and welcome to our class. Over the course of the next several weeks, we will cover material that applies to ALL areas of software design and production, as well as issues peculiar to game design. My purpose is two fold:

1) To show the importance of planning the project BEFORE you start coding.

2) To take you though all the steps in software production, from a vague game idea to a completed, commercial quality game ready to market.

Along the way, we'll cover topics including:

The format for this course will be as follows: Each week I will put up lesson text and sample code on the listserver, and an HTML version with sample images, code and archives on www.BeRighteous.com/euphoria After each lesson is presented, I'll open the floor for discussion on the topics presented, questions for more clarifications, comments, suggestions or whatever. Send group interest messages to the listserver and other feedback to me, Pastor@BeRighteous.com. I will also have a Q&A page on my site documenting all questions and responses.

As with all software projects, there is no way to know for sure when we'll have it completed, but we're gonna set a deadline anyway. Our deadline is September 1st. I know it seems like a long way away now, but believe me, when we're up at 3am on August 31 trying to figure out by "blinky" is spinning around and around in the middle of the screen on level 6 only after you eat your 3rd energizer (whichever one it is) it won't.

I'll tell you now, it's going to be awhile (at least 6 weeks) before we write a single line of code. Game designers have a lot to do before programming can begin. By the time we start coding, we MUST know EVERY STINKING DETAIL about our game, what will be on every screen, how they work, how we will do our animations, how we'll program the AI, when to draw what and how, everything. We'll be dreaming about coding before we actually do. When we are at that point, actually coding the game will be cake. Conversely, when you are NOT at that point, coding the game can be a nightmare. I've worked on a LOT of nightmare projects.

So strap yourself in, we're ready to rock!

Week 1 - Part 2 - What IS a game design?

Game Ideas Vs Game Designs

I hear people talking all the time about the games they are "going to" write someday. Most of these people NEVER actually write anything worthwhile. They may START something, but soon get overwhelmed in speghetti code trying to patch in a feature they realized they needed two weeks in. Often they toss the "Ultimate Game" aside in disgust and chase easier projects. It's not because they had a bad IDEA, it's because they had NO PLANNING before they started. If you don't know what you need before you need it, adding it later can be a nightmare.

That is the purpose of GAME DESIGN, you force you to think about all (as much as you can anyway) aspects of your game in meticulous detail and document what you decide and how you intend to accomplish it. It forces you to go step by step through every screen, action, and reaction. When you get done with a game design, you should know EVERYTHING about YOUR game.

Let's say we have this great idea for a game:

"Ok, this little yellow guy runs through a maze and eats these little dots while avoiding 4 cute little monsters, every level it gets faster until you can't play any more"

Even if you see it clearly in your mind, put it clearly on paper. Think about the game, how it starts, how it ends, what happens at each stage. You need to spell it all out:

The questions go on and on. You MUST decide these things BEFORE you write a line of code.

Ok, you're probably saying to yourself, "wait a minute, how can you know all the programming issues\problems before you start?" Fair question. The answer is, obviously, you can't. There ARE GOING to be programming difficulties in any project. The point is if we know the kinds of things we need to do in the code before we write it, we can avoid as many of the difficulties as possible. Often during the later stages of design, I prototype routines to get a feel for the kinds of data structures I need, and avoid any immediate hazards in the road. We're still going to be trouble shooting and tweaking our code to adjust for things we missed in the initial design, especially when we get to the AI programming. It happens.

Anatomy of a Game Design Specification

A completed game design is called a Game Design Specification or SPEC, and it contains at least the following:

We'll be covering each of these parts in detail over the next several weeks, applying the material toward our group project, which will be an interesting "pacman" clone with some nifty features added.

This a good place to stop. Tune in next week for more.

End of Part 1 - General introduction to the Course and Intro to Game Design
If you have any questions for group discussion, or if you have any other
questions, comments or suggestions email them to pastor@BeRighteous.com
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  A Crash Course in Game Design and Production - Euphoria Edition
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