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Playing to Designing, Either or.

I'll be spewing out either my experiences working with an indy team developing an MMORPG, or my experiences playing video games to fill in the gaps between univerisity classes.

Author: Munki

Design a game.

Posted by Munki Thursday April 3 2008 at 2:36PM
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To keep as vague as possible and respect the wishes of my fellow teammates, im keeping the perticulars of our game a little under the radar, but in this blog I want to give people a little heads up on just how much work a design document can be, and things I've found very useful on this project.

The first thing I was to say is that a wiki is glorious. At first we were just typing things up and uploading, but when multiple people were updating the same subject, version would be overwritten and it was chalked full of issues.
Thats when the wiki came along. This marvel of technology allowed parts to be updated in unison as well as being attractive and easy to access from any computer. It really helped us get ideas in there when people could just log in and pop em on.

I cant recommend a wiki enough, but that aside, lets get to the real meat and potatoes of this post.

Atleast in my mind, creating the world people play in is the next best thing to god. Being that Im not too qualified for the latter position, Ive been working towards the design job since I was a wee little man. That being said, nobody ever mentioned just how hard it was to get your ideas into a game.

It starts with an idea, a broad, cool idea that you think would be fun. You type it out and there ya go. Then another one comes are you write it down. Repeat this untill you've got all these ideas, but absolutly nothing to tie them together. As I am slowly learning, this is the hardest part.
How can you plant a tree, and have this really cool skill system, all while keeping things in the scope of the original idea.

This is where a LOT of our design meetings sat still for the first while. Stapling all these ideas together into an attractive package can be daunting, but if you love what your doing its worth it. I have yet to meet the satisfaction ive felt after reading through ideas, walking around, thinking and then it his you. You change one thing, call this something else, tack on a few little extras and BAM it fits like a glove. Sometimes Ive had one idea that became part of another which explained another and it all just fell into place. This is how we came up with our current plan for a skill system.

I HIGHLY reccomend learning how other games work. Take a game you love and break it down. Not just into little peices, little LITTLE peices.

Here is another example of a problem I ran into when designing the skill system:
When we were designing, how skill and abilities would be designed, we were at a loss on how to do it. We've all played numerous online and offline games, we all knew how skills worked... but we had no idea how they WORKED.

sounds funny I know but if you actually take the time to think about it, what peices do you put together to create a skill. We went through a couple ideas, some of them were actually good, other were gross and messy. The coders were all on a stand still on this issue untill the design team had sorted it out.

Being a cosc major I strived for something elegant and simple.. yet powerful. I loaded up RPG after MMORPG, thinking how the skills worked, but short of parsing a simple coding language, I was left with somewhat powerful solutions, but none had the grace and simplicity of what I needed.

Then I logged on WoW a few days later and was in an instance with some friends when we went up againsed a mob. Cant remember for the life of me who/what it was but it had a skill I was curious about so I popped onto WoWhead and looked it up. From there is had a breakdown of the skill.
In WoW abilities are defined by effects.
You can define an effect as a conjuction of the group of pre-defined/programmed effects. Then you can further define more complex effects using those effects you just made.

From there everything just sorta fell into place. The way we implemented it im sure its probably different from wows but we took the idea of defining more complex effects as a composition of the predefined ones and from there we've been able to create what I think is a VERY powerful, yet simple system for designing not only the player useable abilities, but buffs, items, armor, everything. For armor we give it a predefined armor effect, toss in the armor stats, give it buffs. It was beautiful how it all just fell into place.


In closing, Solving design issues can be a daunting task. Trying to tie everything together is harder than it looks at usually the simplest solution is the best. Don't just go with the best of the first few ideas and never except a solution when you know there is a better one out there. Sometimes it takes time but in the end its worth it, or at least so far it has been in my experiences.

Daedren writes:

Nicely said, Munki.

That's a hell of a task tackling an MMO as a first project. Any advice I could give would be start out smaller - if you're looking to develop the game eventually, it has to go through a non-multiplayer phase anyway as you get it up and running.

Anyway, just my 2 cents! Good to see more indy teams trying to get into the scene.

I work freelance as a game designer - drop me a line ( if you have any questions or maybe need some help on it.


Thu Apr 03 2008 3:01PM Report
Jsteiner writes: Hey, I'm having a similar experience. I'm putzing around with making a game (SP but it's still a game) and I'm finding out just how hard it is to code the AI from scratch :( Thu Apr 03 2008 11:30PM Report writes:
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