Wednesday, July 6, 2011

One Prototype in Particular

At the current moment I am screwing around in regards to my work in game design. Playing with ideas; seeing where they go and what they can do. Sometimes I will take the next step and quickly whip together a rough prototype that allows me to get a more clear perspective on how the systems work. This is one thing that I have found Game Maker very useful for; I can have a working prototype within a few hours.

Much of this work is really just practice for myself. I am a far better programmer than I used to be (I now use my own collision system in Game Maker that gives me the flexibility I want) because of sitting down and rapidly prototyping my ideas. One prototype dealt with the AI of enemies who existed in a top down environment. This allowed me to utilize and see the advantages and disadvantages of the tricks used by game designers in the past to create AI monsters who are interesting and reasonable to fight. There has to be certain amount of an organic quality to any AI enemies in a game; they must make mistakes and have victories just like the player.

There is a particular prototype I worked on that basically was about expanding the mechanics of the top down combat found in the original Legend of Zelda and moving them into an arcade-y, randomly generated dungeon crawler structure to allow for more replayability. The intricacies of player movement and action are not usually considered by the player (rightfully so, for they should not be), but as a designer it is surprising to find how many decisions are made just regarding how a player should use their sword. Do they stab with their sword or do they swing it? How long does they sword attack last? How much time is there between sword attacks? Does the player come to a stop when attacking with their sword or do they keep in motion? What visual aids should be used to help the player understand the way their sword acts and how it affects the game world? How much damage does the sword do? Does it knock enemies back when it hits them? Can it be used for non-combative purposes such as cutting grass or rope?

These are all questions whose answers can be found in experimentation, one of the greatest assets of a game designer. Test the systems with different people to discover entirely new results, bad or good. If the same system delivers the same results with each unique player, something is wrong. There is no room for play, an essential component of games that is commonly left out of a lot of the more modern designs focused around attaining some sort of narrative quality.

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