I want to make Video Games: The Game Designer
Hello everyone, let’s have a quick recap first.
In the previous posts, we discussed the three key roles of Video Game Development namely, The Game Designer, The Game Artist and The Game Programmer. We also discussed the various phases of Game Development process.
This time we will discuss each role more at length starting with the Game Designer, following up with the Game Artist and lastly, the Game Programmer.
Game Design! What sorcery is this?
Before we understand the roles of the Game Designer, we need to understand what Game Design is. The terms Game Art and Game Programming are easy to understand but the question many people ask is what exactly is Game Design. I have seen it many times that good artists and programmers join the game design course because “Well, it had game written in the name, so here I am”. Not only that, many times marketing people would sell Game Design and Game Art as the same thing.
So, what exactly is Game Design?
Like I said in the first post, Game Design is about creating the vision, the rules, the interactions and the systems of a game.
Whoa, Whoa, Whoa! Slow Down, Mate! What are all these things?
Yes, let’s understand what these things actually are! Let me first describe some commonly used terminology in Game Design. Keep in mind, these are very basic descriptions and I’ll dedicate a post to each one of them in future blog posts!
Gameplay is term used to define the player’s interaction with the video game. In the most basic terms, Gameplay comprises of two things.
What a player can do?
What other entities can do in response to player actions?
Any gameplay in any video game ever made can be defined by answering these two above mentioned questions.
Oh! Look a mighty Dragon!
What can the player do?
Hides from Dragon
What does Dragon do in response to respective player actions?
Looks around killing other things
Dragon attacks back
Dragon chases the player
Take any game you love to play and try to answer the two questions! You’ll be defining the gameplay of the game.
Game play of Angry Birds: Player launches bird and pig base breaks depending on the player action
All game objects which create a specific gameplay are termed as the gameplay elements. In the above scenario, the gameplay elements would be:
The player object, the dragon object, the weapon the player can attack the dragon with, the body parts the dragon can attack with, the things the player can hide behind and the other things the dragon can kill.
OK, so I understand gameplay. How do I make this for my game? That’s where the next term comes into play!
Game Mechanics are the tools required to create gameplay. Game Mechanic is the term given to how different object in a game interact with each other.
If the player object falls into a pit, the player object dies – Death Mechanic
If the player object shoots a projectile, the enemy takes some damage – Shooting Mechanic
The enemy has a chance of dodging the projectile – Dodge Mechanic
See if you can identify a few mechanics in your favorite games. Post them in the comments.
Of course, only mechanics would not give you a complete game. That’s where Game Systems come in.
Game System is the term given to how different game mechanics interact with other different game mechanics.
A very simple example would be the health system in a game in which you have a life of 100 points. If you hit any object in the game while moving, you lose 20 points. If your life reaches 0 points, you die.
This is a combination of 3 game mechanics.
Player interacts with the ground by moving forward on it at a certain speed – Movement Mechanic
Player interacts with another object by colliding and taking some damage – Damage Mechanic
Player takes damage and life is less than 100 points, player “dies” - Death Mechanic
As we can see, Movement Mechanic + Damage Mechanic + Death Mechanic = Health System
See, if you can find some systems in your favorite games. Post it in the comments!
It all comes together now!
Coming back to the original topic, Game Design is about creating and defining the Game Mechanics and Systems, which make up the Gameplay. The Gameplay, the gameplay elements, the story and the feelings you want to portray to the player combined is known as the Game Vision.
Of course, there are other things to take care about such as levels, designing levels, game balancing, creative writing and of course, UI Design. We will talk about all of these in later posts.
So, what exactly does a Game Designer do? Like they just sit and think these?
Well, yes! Thinking of these concepts and seeing how everything fits into one another is a core part of Game Design. However, like I mentioned before, it’s a team effort. The Game Vision has to be shared with the rest of the team so they can work upon it. Mind you, we are just covering the basic roles of a Game Designer in this post to keep it short and sweet instead of long and tiresome! We will keep posting more in the later.
The Key Responsibility of a Game Designer to start off with are:
Designing: Defining the Game Mechanics, Systems, Levels, Puzzles and all the other essentials which create the Gameplay. These are usually defined in pre-production phase and changed/updated/removed throughout the development process.
Documentation: Once the Game Designer is sure of the game vision, writing documents which define the Game Vision and sharing it with the rest of the team becomes the key responsibility. Usually done in pre-production and updated throughout the development process.
There are various kinds of documents a Game Designer has to write.
High Level Concept Document (HLC)/Pitch Document: This contains the primary goals of the game. The important mechanics, gameplay elements, storyline and feelings you need to portray, that will set your game apart from the rest of the crowd.
Game Design Document (GDD): A detailed document for the team defining the game in-depth. All mechanics, systems, characters, user interface, etc defined to the last detail. There are usually multiple versions of this throughout the development process.
Art Design Document (ADD): A document for the game Artist defining how the game should ideally look. The view, the mood to be portrayed, the setting, etc with references for the artist to help in the art creation process.
Technical Design Document (TDD): A document for the game Programmer defining the technical aspects of the game, for example what is the minimum PC/Mobile device requirement, engine to be used, etc.
Note: Nowadays, most designers in companies do not bother with ADD and TDD. However, the HLC and the GDD are highly recommended documents. It’s also recommended to add details about the Art and Technical side in the GDD, in lieu of ADD and TDD.
I’ll end this post here saying that we are just scratching the surface here. There are many other tasks to be performed over the course of Game Development but usually, it starts off from this point. Over the course of the following weeks, we will learn more things about the Game Designer and the rest of the team as well.
See if you can come up with a Game Vision Document with the information given above or write one for a pre-existing game! Next week, we will talk about the basic role of a Game Artist.