Sunday, 24 February 2013

Elements of game design, part eight: Documentation

Documentation is very important as it is the stage that needs the green light before any real game development can begin. It is the pitch, the ideas, the technical specifications and limitations. It is defining the genre, art style, demographic, platform, budget, time, and software. As second years we will need to prepare something like this for our FMP’s next year, doing this and reflecting or reverting back to it consistently is a great way to build functional game levels. So let me take a shot at this!

The Overview:
An open world Massive Multiplayer Online FPS. 5 different factions in game and 4 classes per faction. The Medic (healing class), The Sniper (long range class), The Rouge (quick close range class) and The Tank (does a lot of damage, takes a lot of damage). Each faction has its own back story and player can choose to role play or just get stuck in combat. 5 large cities exist, one to each faction and here is where players will purchase upgrades, armour, weapons and can choose Arena 2 v 2, 3 v 3, 4 v 4, and 5 v 5.
Screenshot - Planet Side 2)

Gameplay: Across 2 Continents, more than 30 bases exist and players fight in many numbers to secure these locations for XP and bonus content.
This pitch is not specific to a demographic but will have a 12+ . The aim is to create a pick up and play game such as Call of Duty but consist of the complexity of something like Guild Wars 2 for the more interested players. Attributes like Arena PVP, unlock able content depending on level, xp/leveling process and faction cities will exist.   
(Open World Map - Guild Wars 2)
Create one of the high detail environments and unique cities for one out of five factions, differences in factions will include race, size, as well as historical and cultural elements.
Aim for current gen pc graphics, referencing games such as Crysis 2, Uncharted 3, and Batman Arkham City.

Autodesk 3ds Max
Autodesk Mudbox
Adobe Photoshop CS6
Pixologic Zbrush 4R4
Main Character:
Depending on which faction you choose, the character will vary. All classes and races will have a 9k Tri Budget. As it is a FPS, you will not see your character in 3D except in the customisation screens, but other players will be visible in game so detail is very important. Weapons will be of high detail, 7k will be the maximum tri budget for any weapon. 

Main Character: 9K
Two 1024x1024 Diffuse, Normal, Specular maps. 
Main Character Weapon: 7K
One 1024x1024 Diffuse, Normal, Specular maps.  

(Main character from Mass Effect)

One of the most reoccurring NPC’s will be the Kings and Queens of each city. Players can invade other faction’s cities and kill the royalty, to gain high XP, exclusive content and achievements. This will reset every 24 hours in game. As these characters will be highly sought after to kill, they must be powerful and high in detail. Up to 15K tri’s will be set for each King and Queen.
Main NPC’S: 15K
Two 1024x1024 Diffuse, Normal, Specular maps.  

(king concept from World of Warcraft)

As the open world will be very large, vehicles will play an important role. Tanks, bikes, infantry carriers, as well as air support will all be usable in game. For air vehicles the budget will be 9K. For ground it will be up to 12k. This is because wheels can take up a high amount of detail. These are the limitations and smaller vehicles may be lower in tri count.

Air vehicles: 9K
Ground vehicles: 12K
Two 1024x1024 Diffuse, Normal, Specular maps. 

There will be 5 focal points (faction cities) as well as bases that can be conquered, each base should be around 50 – 100k depending on location, and there will be several buildings with between 15 – 20 high detail modular assets around.

The cities could be pushed up to 200k+ as they will have monumental structures like statues and very large exotic architectural pieces.

If I were to present this as a 3rd year FMP project for a level, I would go over all the challenges I would be facing, such as:

Time constraints,
A schedule to have things done weekly and stay on track,
Limiting the idea to one city or one base location and one character,
Getting a certain FPS out of the level once it is done so it all plays smoothly,
Software and pipeline learning curves,
Maximising texture and tri budgets,
Not losing the narrative and story throughout the process,
(to name a few).

These will vary from barrels, boxes and trash, to standing posts that mark faction territory. Also things like chairs, Inns inside the city, PvP Arena props, smaller customisable assets like armour, weapon attachments will all vary from size and importants. Anything armour based could go up to 3K and any modular assets could be limited to 1.5k but these are just guidelines.

In an article I found about educational game development, Subject Matter Experts and Instructional Designer’s seem to be at the hierarchy of gameplay and instructional aspects. So as an artist I would not have any say in the outcome of these factors, I would simply be doing the ground work to create what is needed. I am guessing that these guys will also have a strong input on any pitch or design document as it is their vision that becomes the final outcome.  

On another website it suggests that the pitch cannot always be simply a design document, but something called a ‘vertical slice’ may be created. This is because a document may not be enough to convince funding for the project; investors may want to see something in 3D before they are willing to back it. This is when the design team could have an input. It 
doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all because before I get into 3rd year, I could even use time in the summer to build a ‘demo’ or ‘vertical slice for a FMP pitch’ with the document so my tutors get a better idea of what my idea is. Just a thought!    

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