What is a Treatment? “A treatment is a narrative version of the story in a script, presented in story format, describing the main action with little or no dialogue. Many writers use treatments as a way of fleshing out their stories in narrative format to map out the flow of the action across the major scenes in the script before they start work on the dialogue. This way the writer can be sure that the story flows correctly before they commence the actually script. Most treatments are no more than 2-5 pages.” Benjamin Craig , filmmaking.net Do we agree?
Treatments for Games What will happen? Who are the main players (characters)? What is the AI cost? What are the budgetary systems? (is one level more costly than another?) Complexity (or not) of the story Can you think of any more?
How Does A Treatment Work? A map A guide The law A route The rules The bible!
Activity Read an excerpt from the FFVII game manual. Take note of the following: How does this read? What is included? What is omitted? Anything else?
Treatment Dos and Don’ts Part I: “1. Most of your game design should be prose (words describing details about your game, in complete sentences). You are writing a book, not a shopping list. 2. You are describing an interactive experience, not writing a screenplay. Don't say things like, "then the player does this and then the player does that" (for example, "the hero defeats the ogre and takes the sword, then the hero takes the left fork in the path to get to the castle"). The player might do something else entirely! You can describe it as if the player has choices, and you should do so. Example: "the hero needs to defeat the ogre in order to get his sword. After that is accomplished, if the hero ventures down the path, he'll come to a fork. The left fork leads to the castle." You have to anticipate that the player might do something other than what you intend. But you ought to outline the optimal "path" through the game.
Treatment Dos and Don’ts 3. A lot of times people write game designs as though they were shopping lists. For example: Weapons: sword, bow & arrow, catapult, Uzi. Seasons: spring, summer, autumn. That's way too terse! You're writing a game design, not a shopping list. When writing a list of items, don't separate the items with commas - separate them with carriage returns. And usually you'll need to write a description of each item.
Treatment Dos and Don’ts Weapons: Sword - it's an ogre's sword, so it's big and heavy, with rust patches and nicks. It glows a sickly green whenever the moon comes out. Bow & arrow - made by an Apache in 1867 and transported to this game's world by an evil time-traveling wizard. Catapult - your standard garden variety catapult, such as the one in my back yard as I write this. Capable of heaving a full-grown cow three city blocks (Los Angeles blocks, mind you, not your puny Providence R.I. blocks!) Uzi - [no description needed - just look in your desk drawer]
Treatment Dos and Don’ts Seasons: Spring - a lovely setting. Flowers blooming, fluffy clouds in the sky, birds chirping, little winged guys with bows & arrows flitting around looking for hearts to impale. Summer - hot, dry. No clouds in sight. The sun is baking the flesh off our hero's very bones, who tends to sweat and seek shade a lot (well, OK, at least when the user doesn't activate any controls for X seconds) (A.I. programmer take note). Autumn - the trees are changing colors - some are yellow, some orange, some red. Some are still green, but not for long. The tree-covered mountains look like heaping bowls of Froot Loops! Clouds in the distance threaten the coming winter (which this game doesn't have because we don't want to program the physics for ice and snow) (and also because if the hero is wearing a heavy cloak we can't see his sinewy muscles). ...Now THAT's the way to write a list!
Treatment Dos and Don’ts 4. Some folks get their inspiration from game instruction manuals. Instruction manuals are written with a specific purpose - to help confused players understand what they're looking at, and to do it in as few words as possible, because players don't want to spend all their time reading, they just want to play. You can't write a game design the same way you write an instruction manual. The purpose of the one is completely different from the purpose of the other.
See What Fits! Part II is next week, but until then.... Try it Try it Try it