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Tell me a Story

By Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon
Vol. 2, Issue 9
January 24, 2000

Justin Chin: Typically I've been working on standard story driven shooter games, but our current game has some very new elements to it, so I've approached it with different design ideas then in the past. I'm working on several other new designs and each one of those have a very different in design approach as well. In a nutshell, the goals or the style of the project can really dictate the process. Just coming up with a story is not enough, just as having a game type in mind, i.e. FPS, RTS, or FRP, is not enough. You really have to get into the root of what you're trying to create.

It usually starts out with me thinking, "You know it would be really cool to play a game where you can ____________". That gets the ball rolling. Then I start doing some research in the areas that might apply to that initial inspiration.

I then start a notebook so I can have a place to write down ideas – research notes, characters, plot points, weapons, game-play and design goals. It helps to keep all that information in one place. Sifting through books, reviewing similar games, and looking at artwork is an important part of this process as well. It's pretty messy in the beginning, with me photocopying visuals ideas and taping them into my notebooks. The Palm Pilot also allows me to take notes on the run.

Then to make a long story short (too late), I take all those notes and "hide" them (within reach), start over, and begin to write what I think will be the "treatment" or "outline". That is then taken to the next level, the design document. I usually have two documents (both are updated throughout the production process), a design doc, and a story doc. Both have very different goals. The design doc focuses on detailed design issues; weapons, enemies, controls, naming conventions, essentially everything that a person might need to make the "game". The story doc, is what one would use to make the levels, record dialogue and find out what the hell this thing is "about" and where the game may take you.

Only reading both documents will one get the full picture of what the game is really about.

And to answer the question about whether I, "consciously make an effort to remember you're developing this for a computer game": yes......

and no...

I mean, I like to push the limit. You can ask anyone that has ever worked with me and they might say (other than the fact that I want things, "bigger"), that I'm fond of saying, "No one has really done that before. "But with pushing the envelope comes a lot of compromise and potential failure. Then again some people might say I don't do anything innovative at all. It's a madhouse out there.

There seems to be no set standard for beginning the creation process of a game, which is probably why you’ve never seen a book on the subject. Each of the designers takes a vastly different approach to creating their games, and yet at the same time, the “story driven” theme is felt from the very beginning.


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Credits: Illustration © 2000 Durrenberger David (dines). This article is © 2000 Russell Lauzon. All other content is © 2000 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. So don't do it, or we'll make you cry, sissy.