AAA Design Documents, and where to get em…

OK, the title may be misleading!

Something Im always on the lookout for are Design Documents of existing games. There is something cool about learning straight from the masters. Unfortunately, there are very few developers who release their design documents (and for good reason!).

If you look around, you can find a few. The full documents of VAN BUREN (Fallout 3, before Bethesda) are available, which if you are building an RPG, you really cant get a better resource!

The thing with these documents, is they show everything, from, level design-power ups, weapons, enemies and where to find them, what strategies the player should use, etc.

But there are some ‘poor mans’ design documents available…

http://www.bradygames.com/index.aspx

Here we have a massive collection of books that detail everything in a game, from level design, to full weapons stats. These guides go through every story point, making certain that the player gets the most ‘bang for his buck’.

Granted, these wont show the inner workings of a game…how certain stats are calculated-but they show how things work from a GAMEPLAY point of view-and as far as I’m concerned THATS what’s important in a game.

I hope this helps someone else, in the scary but awesome world of micro-development. 😀

-Chris

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The story so far…

~~Carry on my wayward son…~~

5 Points for whoever gets the reference. 😀

GAME DEV STUFF:

I have gotten quite a few emails lately about STASIS, so I first want to say thanks to everyone that has either emailed me, or has spread the word on STASIS on other forums.

I have been working on a few more sections of the game, and revising the existing areas. I try to do a speed run through the game, from start to where I am, at least every day. I find that doing this really irons out any issues with the game that I may have missed while in the creation process. I also sit often with my brother, and go through the game as it stands, and make the suggested changes.

Something he pointed out was that I was being a little…explicit with the descriptions of things-perhaps giving away to many clues in the item scans. So I will be revising them a little, and making the provided information a little less ‘in your face this is what you need to do hint hint’y.

OTHER STUFF:

I will be adding in a FAQ section to the game as per request, so if there are any questions you guys want to ask, please either post them here, or mail them to me and ill see what I can do!

THE STORY SO FAR…


The very first render of John Maracheck.

One thing Im most asked is ‘how’. How is one person doing all of this?

STASIS started out as a December project to try and learn some new skills. But the seeds of the project were planted a few years ago, with a project called ISC Sebastian: GHOST SHIP. It was going to be a short that focused purely on environment, with each other the environments having its own story. The idea was that, at the end of the short, you would have only an idea about what happened on this massive abandoned space vessel…the rest you had to fill in for yourself.

I never progessed past the first two environments, but the ideas in there, and the asthetic, followed through to STASIS.

HERE IS A LINK TO WHAT I HAD COMPLETED ON THAT PROJECT (YOUTUBE LINK)

When I thought about developing a game, I had no idea HOW I was going to do it, so I started to put together an art test. I figured that it would be better to use existing assets for what I had in mind, and perhaps using those graphics I could entice a programmer to work with me. So I took the Ghost Ship 3d files, and started to play around with a few ideas for the layout and graphics of an adventure game. At this point, I had no story in mind, but I knew I wanted to do something along the lines of the first act in ALIEN. An adventure game if the perfect vessel for a mystery story-and one involving discovery an abandoned spaceship…man that just gave me the chills!

A SCREEN MOCKUP OF STASIS.

Having no programming skills, but having a clear vision of what I wanted the game to be, I went forward with some actual animated mockups of the game.

ORIGINAL ART TEST FOR STASIS. (YOUTUBE LINK)

Its quite interesting to look back at this, and see the elements that migrated to the current game. The ‘Spinning Disk Selector’ became a much simpler cursor, while having a circular element in the corner staying, but becoming the Hyper Storage Device.

I ended up dropping the character selector, as I felt that in the game, it almost disconnected the avatar from the rest of the world. While it did LOOK cool, it really didn’t have a purpose.

Armed with this, and a design document, I started to look for a programmer. A friend of mine, Mike, was my first choice, and after some lengthy email discussions, we decided to go ahead with the game. These discussions really were quite informative for the game, and drastically changed the direction of the story. They really forced me to look at the game from a developers point of view. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and work started to pile up. We never go past the first basic level build, but what I learned in those few weeks was absolutely invaluable!

In that time, the first level developed was Marachecks ship, which at that point was called The Dortmunder.

The DORTMUNDER was a test level, and while this screen wont make it to the final game, I worked out a lot of the ‘look and feel’ of STASIS here, as well as a workflow to render out animated regions for a game engine. The generator turbines also moved over to The Hawking, although there is one one, not the dual spinning ones we have here.

The DORTMUNDER was redesigned to become The Hawking, adding a lot more personality to the living space.

A ONE MAN ARMY

When I started to rework my design and story material, I was very aware of the fact that it was just me doing the game. Instead of trying to work AROUND those limitations, I embraced them. The game story shifted from one that had multiple characters on-board the abandoned ship, to just one. This allowed me to do the scratch track for the voice, and if it gets to the point where voice artists are needed, really limits me to only needing ONE main person, with any other voices being either crowd sourced from online, or done with a digital recorder and friends with a few lines of dialog.

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Having the communication happen through a radio is also something that, not only adds to the claustrophobic feel of the game, but also gets around to being able to use a pretty cheap mic to record the dialog. Any crackles and interference just adds to the authenticity!

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I dont want to go to heavily into the story of the game, but having just me on the story really lets me tell the tale I want to tell. The story has some rather disturbing aspects to it…Im sure that if this were a ‘published’ game, the publishers would raise an eye brow at some of the themes Ill be exploring, and be downright horrified at some of the imagery I want to put forth. Its not horror for horrors sake, but Im hoping that where there is horror, it will really sink in as to whats going on…

I have a few other posts in the pipeline about the ‘hows’ of STASIS, but if anybody has any specific questions, or ideas for future updates, please drop me a line, either through the contact page (I do reply!), or the comments below.

-Chris

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Camp 731

Camp 731 is an area of the game that I have been working on quite extensively. Im not going to tell you guys just HOW it fits into the story-but it is there to provide an emotional anchor to the story-something I was getting worried that the game was lacking.

STASIS is so much more than just a -sci fi space ship’ game-I really cant wait for you guys to play it!

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“I didn’t realise they were people until one spoke to me. All he said was ‘kill me’. So I did.”

-John Maracheck. 27 January. Camp 731 Liberation Squad.

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