Notes to first release: When I, about two or so years ago, came upon
the Ohrrpgce and the group of people who make games for it, and the games
they make, I realized then the necessity of this article. I intended to
write it then. I never did get around to it. I do not know why. Thinking
back, it might have been better if I had written it then. Yet I can't help
but think that it would not have been very clear, very complete, or very
good then. I did not know very much on planning games myself back then,
though I certainly knew more than most. So I have put an especial effort
into this article. The time required to write this article is the main
reason why Ohrrpgce Monthly is so late... I've spent more time on this
article than on any other article I've ever written (unlike last issue's
article, which I wrote in one sitting), therefore if this article fails
to help people plan their game, I have no excuse. In defense of its length,
I believe it is more important to err on the side of usefulness and completeness
than to err on the side of brevity. Certainly, if a thing can be said in
fewer words with no loss of meaning, One uses fewer words.
Notes to re-release: I was rather proud of this article, and so I
didn't have to change much besides a few spelling mistakes and a re-wording
here and there.
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Last time I covered the first aspect, deciding to make a game and
the pre-planning stage. This time I'll cover the next aspect: actually
planning what to make and getting it all in your head and on paper. All
of this happens away from the actual making of the game, ideally, before
you create the .rpg file. This is not an article about how One should approach
writing dialogue, designing gameplay, writing music, or drawing graphics.
That is the third aspect, for next time. By planning the game, I
don't mean drawing up a timeline of what will be done when, when the walkabouts
will be written, on which days the title screen will be worked on, etc.
That is important, but it doesn't really have anything to do with the mental
model of the game. This article is about planning the game.
I realize that this step is often skipped by most game designers. However,
1) it should not be; 2) I'm not addressing these articles to most game
designers, I'm addressing these articles to the top 2% of game designers,
and those who wish to be in that top 2%. By top 2%, I don't mean that this
is an 'elitist' article. I mean simply that this article is directed toward
those game authors who have realized that doing game creation 'well' is
far more satisfying than doing game creation 'well enough' (well enough
to be liked, well enough to be made public, etc.).
A main reason most Ohrrpgce games are never finished (besides lack of
time on the author's part) is lack of planning. Planning need not be done
on paper (although I do recommend that at least part of it is done on paper,
for short games, often you can plan in your head). Planning means having
a clear image in your mind of what the game will be like, before it is
made. Paper helps that image along, and is useful for shaping it and giving
it some lasting ability. But the image in the mind is the most important
part. If you are in the top 2% of game designers, you have probably already
discovered this on your own, and this article will aid you in the task
of creating an even clearer image of your game.
What, then, is the goal of this article? It is: to enable you to better
see and like and know your game. For if you can't see it, your audience
will be blind to it. If you don't like it, your audience will hate it.
If you don't know it, your audience will be baffled by it. Only after you
know what you have to say can you clearly speak and be listened to. This
article is about how to find out more precisely what you want to say. The
next article will be about how to go about saying it, but knowing what
you want to say is more important, or in the least just as important, as
how you do say what you say.
Firstly I'm going to explain exactly what I mean by having a mental
model and a plan of your game, and show why a plan is necessary. Nextly
I'm going to differentiate between the music talent, gameplay architecture
talent, the story-writing talent, the visual art talent, and the director
talent, and go into each of those very briefly. After that, I am going
to take a perhaps strange route to how a game is planned; I'm going to
show what a planned game is like, using Final Fantasy 4, (copyright
Squaresoft 1992). It is hoped that, from those examples, you will be inspired
to plan your game in more detail.After that I will gloss over a couple
of specialized planning-related game design topics.
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