Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Game Design

Focusing on video games, a game can be designed in a number of different ways. In modern day terms a game is usually designed via a document, often called a games design document, which describes the games design for use during development. This is more effective today, as games studios often have fairly large development teams were as with early video games the programmer was often also the designer and designs were much more constrained by technology. A good design document would typically cover ideas such as story, setting, level and character designs etc but due to the whole outline of the idea being theorized on paper unforeseen issues often do arise which need to be dealt with through a modification of the paper design, so even a design document can easily undergo some kind of change during the development of a game.

Design documents need to be clear, concise and well ordered. A well managed document should give other members of the design team (artists, animators, level designers etc) useful information on how the game should look, feel and play but mustn’t be too fussy and overly controlling on all details as often the artists and animators etc should be able to break down the information given to them and translate this better than the designer can. So, primarily, design documents are reference materials or instruction manuals for the other team members, and like any instruction manual, if it cannot be easily read the reader is often going to give up or make things up.

Games consistently involve activities in which the game player engages and these activities usually define the genre of the game i.e. racing, shooting, action/adventure etc. As we now have this set of ‘defined’ genres on which to base a game, the design of a game can often become quite general and this can affect the final outcome of the game from the very begging at the design document. Some games that spring to mind here are Gears of War, although it looks amazing and plays amazing the actual story behind the game seems pretty lacklustre to be honest and the characters pretty stereotypical. Halo also, although the games have been highly successful and even expanded into novels why bother? The game just seems like a mask pulled over the same generic bullshit that we see time and time again with a few minor details changed. Halo is a ‘first person shooter‘, ‘set in the future’, where you ‘fight aliens’ to ‘complete objectives’ in control of a ‘cybernetic -enhanced human super-soldier’........sweet Jesus you get the point!

Basically what I am saying is that originality is an extremely important factor in the design of a video game for me. I believe that as we head into the future we are already starting to see some fantastic games that completely take things to a whole new level in terms of originality as well as some games defining whole new genres for themselves. Great examples of this would be Little Big Planet for the Playstation 3, which really was a genre defining game. I also see interactivity becoming a major factor in the design of new video games, already we see amazing examples such as guitar hero and eye pet which take interactivity and the whole ‘experience’ to a new level. Finally I see more games reaching for that movie standard storyline, through its narrative, levels and characters. Great examples of this would be Uncharted 2, were playing the game really gives you a feeling of being immersed within this whole ‘Hollywood movie’ experience and in the future, games such as Heavy Rain, I feel may even surpass movie standard storytelling, leaving a gamer to not just witness but to actually believe heavily in viewpoints and make moral choices.

Overall I see a major shift in gameplay in the future, new rules that will change the interactive aspects of a game, and distinguish games and set them apart from non-interactive mediums such as films and books and for many people may even replace them as a more satisfying experience.

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