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What part of a creative project comes first?


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#1
Zebranky

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When making a game/mod/D&D campaign/any other creative work, what do you focus on first: story, setting, characters, or something else entirely?

It's a pretty simple question, but I suspect the answer varies a lot by person and by project. I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

#2
Nightshape

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General concept is the first thing, details come later... Depending upon the type of genre, you will likely find that "Story", isn't that important early in development.

#3
Starwars

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Hey, it's Zebranky!

I don't have any published work, but for the NWN2 mod I'm working on, the idea of the setting came first. I didn't develop it right away, but the general idea of it. It also wasn't something I sat down and thought about actively, more just thinking about it before I went to sleep and so on. After I had that, and decided that I was actually gonna try and make a mod out of it, I thought out just what kind of design I would apply to this. Would I make storybased, linear/non-linear, dialogue-heavy, combat-heavy etc. And how would these different things apply to the setting I had in mind.

After that, I looked at the setting and re-shaped where I felt it would fit better in with the gameplay design I was going for.

So yeah, the general idea of the setting came first. But it's the gameplay design that I decided on that kinda dictated and changed where the setting went finally.

#4
TrueNeutral

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Yeah, I'm not a game designer but logically it would be a toss-up between getting a general idea of the setting or coming up with interesting an gameplay design.

#5
Matthew Rorie

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Yeah, I'm not a game designer but logically it would be a toss-up between getting a general idea of the setting or coming up with interesting an gameplay design.


We were recently at a gathering of old-hand game developers (Feargus was on the panel) that was giving advice to upcoming college grads. One of the speakers (Steve Perry, if I recall correctly) said that when he is listening to a game pitch, he tells the person giving the pitch to not mention the game's story at all. All he wants to hear about are the unique mechanics and gameplay that the game will have. He says that many of the people who pitch games to him are so enamored of their storyline that they basically collapse at this point and can't explain why the game would be compelling at all outside of the plot.

That's a poor summary, but it was an interesting point to make. More for retail games than mods, though, I suppose.

#6
Tigranes

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I fully agree with Matthew, and this should apply to mods as well. I've seen way too many NWN/2 mods that just think they have a great story to tell and focus on getting it out there (sometimes with terribly epic writing, long-winded cutscenes and badly photoshopped posters).

#7
Kaftan Barlast

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To semi-quote the CEO of Paradox "A game usually begins with someone having an idea while in the shower"


For the smaller games and mods Ive been invovled in, its typicly in this order

1. gameplay mechanics
2. technical possibilities
3. visual style
4. setting/story/characters

#8
Humodour

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Yeah, I'm not a game designer but logically it would be a toss-up between getting a general idea of the setting or coming up with interesting an gameplay design.


We were recently at a gathering of old-hand game developers (Feargus was on the panel) that was giving advice to upcoming college grads. One of the speakers (Steve Perry, if I recall correctly) said that when he is listening to a game pitch, he tells the person giving the pitch to not mention the game's story at all. All he wants to hear about are the unique mechanics and gameplay that the game will have. He says that many of the people who pitch games to him are so enamored of their storyline that they basically collapse at this point and can't explain why the game would be compelling at all outside of the plot.

That's a poor summary, but it was an interesting point to make. More for retail games than mods, though, I suppose.


Spot on.

#9
Nightshape

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To semi-quote the CEO of Paradox "A game usually begins with someone having an idea while in the shower"


For the smaller games and mods Ive been invovled in, its typicly in this order

1. gameplay mechanics
2. technical possibilities
3. visual style
4. setting/story/characters


Funny list you have there, as it's split across disciplines...

1. Design
2. Code
3. Art
4. Design, mostly....

That and you've always got the iteration factor, the more you can iterate a concept the better it can be.

#10
Kaftan Barlast

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Yeah, but when you do a small project everyone pitches in with ideas in almost every area. And you always have to account for what practicly and technicly possible to do with a small team and limited budget, you cant just let loose and take a leap into unknown country. Every step of the way you need a coder or an artist saying "we probably cant do that"


1. Lets make a teambased multiplayer shooter, in 3D but not FPS or OTS. Fast-paced action but some room for team tactics.
2. If we use UT3, we can do alot of these that by just working with pre-existing code. And it works really well with max, which is what us artists use. Making it top-down would mean we dont need as much detail in the graphics so we could get alot more content in less time.
3. Lets make the style more realistic than UT3, modern day with lots of tacticool equipment. Like cod4 maybe?
4. Story is not important, lets just say we have two major fictional powers of equal tech-level duking it out in a not too distant future.



Sorry. Im not sure how coherent this post is, I kind of restarted it several times doing other things in between.

#11
TrueNeutral

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Does Obsidian also start this way? Because I feel some of the major selling points for Obsidz games
(and most cRPGs) are the settings, storylines and characters.

EDIT: Actually, I can see with the Alpha Protocol coverage that a LOT of attention has been given to gameplay mechanics so I think that was definately done that way. But with NWN2 and KotOR2 I never really got that impression.

#12
cronicler

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Here is some personal tips on crafting a decent scenario:
When compiling a scenario there are a few different elements you need to keep seperate: the Background, The main story, the personal story and the little side bits.

Background can be or can contain anything. Its basically what you are basing your own logic on. you can show it to the player with in game resources like newspapers, in-game internet, documents etc or you can just keep it locked away (like Ultima 1 taking place at a forgotten space colony that fell down to medieval tech and magic from blasters and spaceships)

The main story is what the player will be muddling trough in the end. Try to keep this simple and bare bones. After you are sure of your game's abilities and limitations you can add details to this part to make it more fitting and to cover up your limitations.
Example 1:Bad guys invade and kill and bad. Professor's daughter gets kidnapped. Kill bad guys, Rescue girl, blow up the bad guys reactor and then escape. (HL2 Ep1)
Example 2: The engine can't handle too much movement in z direction: Your Power Armour is extremely powerful but it has severe cooling and grounding problems. Do not try to seperate from the spaceships surface on EVAs or you will die. Messily. (Theoratical Shooter in 0g/Space ship setting with map size issues)

Personal Story: This is the main thing that you should flesh out first and the last thing you should polish. It is basically what the player will see in your game. Just build up your bare bones list like player starts here; he goes to here; here and then here. Boss fight should be here and Vistas / breathing points should be here. After your mappers turn out some basic maps and you get a feel for the limitations and strenghts, use those to make the gaming more enjoyable. The maps cause a graphical error / weird textures at some point? Call those points anomalities that can kill/harm the player and booby trap them.
Make the story cover and highlight the game not sit by its side.

Side Stories: If you have time, try to create some side stories.And try not to make sidekicks only. A hero is as good as his enemies. Lucky Luke wouldn't be funny if there weren't a horde of stupid villains in it. Try to make the player hate some enemies. (and if you are making a game on the wacky side, having a bad guy that resurrects again and again so much that the player character cries out "Die and let me pass the bloody level would you. I need to get to the pub after this a**hole..." is a classic :sorcerer:)


Anyway while I agree that scenario is probably the last thing the game making team needs to work on, someone to keep the whole mess in 1 coherent piece and direct/fit and cover the non-standard parts is what makes a game good or medicore




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