Conceptualization
Videogame Design and Programming

Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
Coming up with ideas is difficult
Coming up with excellent ideas is even more difficult
And coming up with ideas is just t...
Creativity

• 
• 
• 

3

Great ideas come from great input into your mind and senses
Not only playing games, but living a ...
The creative process is less linear than recursive.
Sometimes incubation lasts for years, sometimes
it takes hours, someti...
“I want to make a game about studying Chinese!”

Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
Ideas also come from analyzing existing games and activities
Develop your critical skills (not just think “cool!”)
Pay clo...
Brainstorming

• 

7

When there is no time to wait for that moment of inspiration to hit, you need
a more formalized syst...
Brainstorming Best Practices

• 
• 

8

State of Challenge – first you need to articulate the challenge, for instance,
des...
Brainstorming Alternate Methods

• 

List Creation

• 

Idea Cards

• 

Mind Maps

• 

Stream of Consciousness

• 

Shout ...
Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
Editing and Refining

• 

12

It should be done on a different day than brainstorming, works on the same
principles of bra...
When your have a clear idea of the key features,
write your ideas up as a short one-page description

Prof. Pier Luca Lanz...
Guidelines for the Game Concept

14

• 

The game-concept document expresses the core idea of the game

• 

Brief and simp...
Tim Ryan, The Anatomy of a Design Document, Part 1
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3384/the_anatomy_of_a_design_docu...
Turning Ideas Into a Game

• 
• 
• 
• 
• 

16

After the game-concept has been accepted, with a list of potential features...
Designers should not be distracted by the dramatic elements.
Story and characters are important
but they should not obscur...
Focus on the Formal Elements
(the question you should ask to yourself)

18

•  What is the conflict in my game?
•  What th...
To Draft Your Game Structure…

19

•  Define each player’s goal
•  What does a player need to do to win
•  Write down the ...
Exercise: Consider one game you like and
try to come out with new design features

Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
Elements of the Game Concept

•  Introduction
•  Background (optional)
•  Description
•  Key features
•  Genre
•  Platform...
Structure of the Game-Concept Document

• 

22

Introduction
These words will sell the document to the reader.
One sentenc...
Structure of the Game-Concept Document

• 

Key Features
Bullet point list of items that will set this game apart from oth...
Structure of the Game-Concept Document

24

•  Analysis of the Competitors
§ List at least 3-5 games that are your compet...
Your Homework

25

•  Write down the game-concept document for the game you wish
to propose to the class

•  The firm dead...
Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
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Videogame Design and Programming - 04 Conceptualization

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Lecture for the Videogame Design and Programming course for the MSc Engineering of Computing Systems (Laurea Magistrale in Ingegneria Informatica) - Politecnico di Milano.

Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
Dipartimento di Elettronica, Informazione, e Bioingegneria

Course Webpage:
http://www.polimigamecollective.org

Course Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/polimigamecollective

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Videogame Design and Programming - 04 Conceptualization

  1. 1. Conceptualization Videogame Design and Programming Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  2. 2. Coming up with ideas is difficult Coming up with excellent ideas is even more difficult And coming up with ideas is just the beginning… Game design is about generating layers and iterations of ideas that help to refine and evolve your original concept Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  3. 3. Creativity •  •  •  3 Great ideas come from great input into your mind and senses Not only playing games, but living a curious life, full of curiosity people, places, thoughts and events Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the stages of creativity as Preparation – becoming immerse in a topic or domain of interest, a set of problematic issues Incubations – when ideas “churn around” Insight – the “aha!” moment, when the pieces of the puzzles, or an idea, fall together Evaluation – when the person decides whether the insight is valuable and worth pursuing. Is it really original? Elaboration – the longest part of the creativity process; it takes the most time and is the hardest (Edison, 99% perspiration 1% inspiration). §  §  §  §  §  Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  4. 4. The creative process is less linear than recursive. Sometimes incubation lasts for years, sometimes it takes hours, sometimes it includes one deep insight and innumerable small ones Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  5. 5. “I want to make a game about studying Chinese!” Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  6. 6. Ideas also come from analyzing existing games and activities Develop your critical skills (not just think “cool!”) Pay close attention to your emotional responses, to your cycle of frustration, exhilaration, confidence, etc. Discuss games with friends, deconstruct games, etc. Begin a game journal Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  7. 7. Brainstorming •  7 When there is no time to wait for that moment of inspiration to hit, you need a more formalized system of idea generation, like brainstorming •  Powerful skill which requires practice – can be done alone or better in team •  It is all about “asking the right question” (The Imagineers at Disney) •  It is all about finding the right balance between stimulation and structure Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  8. 8. Brainstorming Best Practices •  •  8 State of Challenge – first you need to articulate the challenge, for instance, design a game in which players build alliances and then betray them No criticism – if alone, don’t self censor or edit your ides, Write them all down and worry about quality later. If in a team, don’t criticize or ignore your colleagues’ ideas during the process. It’s all about free thinking. Speak in terms of “yes, and …” •  Vary the method •  Put it on the wall •  Go for lots of ideas •  Don’t go too long Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  9. 9. Brainstorming Alternate Methods •  List Creation •  Idea Cards •  Mind Maps •  Stream of Consciousness •  Shout it out •  Cut it up •  Surrealist Games (Exquisite Corpse) •  Research Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi 9
  10. 10. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  11. 11. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  12. 12. Editing and Refining •  12 It should be done on a different day than brainstorming, works on the same principles of brainstorming (e.g., don’t bash ideas) •  Technical Feasibility •  Market Opportunity •  Artistic Considerations •  Business/Cost/Time Restrictions •  When refining, narrow down the list of ideas to three. Then schedule a second level brainstorming session Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  13. 13. When your have a clear idea of the key features, write your ideas up as a short one-page description Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  14. 14. Guidelines for the Game Concept 14 •  The game-concept document expresses the core idea of the game •  Brief and simple to encourage a flow of ideas (one page). •  •  •  The target audience is the people responsible for advancing the idea to the next step: a formal game proposal Typically, all concepts are presented to the director of product development (or executive producer) before they get outside of the product development department The director will determine whether or not the idea has merit and will either toss it or dedicate some resources to developing the game proposal. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  15. 15. Tim Ryan, The Anatomy of a Design Document, Part 1 http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3384/the_anatomy_of_a_design_document_.php?page=1 Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  16. 16. Turning Ideas Into a Game •  •  •  •  •  16 After the game-concept has been accepted, with a list of potential features, it is time to turn the concept into a game Several designers take a shortcut, they begin with a set of existing mechanics, a genre of play But what if the idea does not fit nicely in a predefined genre? For instance, it is not really an FPS. Should the idea be modified to be force to fit a predefined game genre? Try to experiment with your game mechanics to explore new directions Try to develop a vision of the type of player experience you wish to create. The formal structure will follow from that vision. Perhaps, it will have elements of exiting games, but overall, it will feel entirely new. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  17. 17. Designers should not be distracted by the dramatic elements. Story and characters are important but they should not obscure the view of the gameplay They should remain in the designer’s mind, but secondary until you pin down the formal elements Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  18. 18. Focus on the Formal Elements (the question you should ask to yourself) 18 •  What is the conflict in my game? •  What the rules and the procedures? •  What actions to the players take and when? •  Are there turns? How do they work? •  How many players can play? •  How long does a game take to resolve? •  What is the working title? •  Who is the target audience? •  What platform will this game run on? •  What restrictions or opportunities does the environment have? •  Are there any particular interaction modes? Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  19. 19. To Draft Your Game Structure… 19 •  Define each player’s goal •  What does a player need to do to win •  Write down the most important type of player action in the •  •  •  •  •  •  game Describe how this functions Write down the procedures and rules in outline format Only focus on the most critical rules, leave all the other rules for later Map out how a typical turn works. Using a flow chart is the most effective way to visualize this Define how many players can play How do these players interact with one another Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  20. 20. Exercise: Consider one game you like and try to come out with new design features Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  21. 21. Elements of the Game Concept •  Introduction •  Background (optional) •  Description •  Key features •  Genre •  Platform(s) •  Concept art (optional) •  Analysis of the market (mandatory) Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi 21
  22. 22. Structure of the Game-Concept Document •  22 Introduction These words will sell the document to the reader. One sentence to describe the game in an excited manner. Include the title, genre, platform, and any other meaningful bits of information that cannot wait until the next sentence. Should be brief, the longer it is, the more your vision will seem diluted Example: "Man or Machine is a first-person shooter for the PC that uses the proven Quake II engine to thrust players into the role of an android space marine caught up in the epic saga of the interstellar techno-wars of the thirty-seventh century." §  §  §  §  §  •  Description In a few paragraphs or a page, describes the game to the readers as if they are the players. Use the second-person perspective -- "you." Must avoid specifics (e.g., mouse-clicks), but must not be too vague. §  §  Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  23. 23. Structure of the Game-Concept Document •  Key Features Bullet point list of items that will set this game apart from others For instance, "Advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI): Man or Machine will recreate and advance the challenging and realistic AI that made Half-Life game of the year.“ Carefully determine the number of features to include (too few will sell the game short, too many will water down the strongest features) Genre In a few words, define the type of game or flavor (puzzle, FPS, etc.) In case, refine the genre with additional words (e.g., WWII FPS) Platform In a few words, list the target platform(s). f you think the game concept is applicable to multiple platforms, you should also indicate which platform is preferred or initial. If you intend multiplayer support on the Internet, indicate that as well. §  §  §  •  •  23 §  §  §  §  §  Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  24. 24. Structure of the Game-Concept Document 24 •  Analysis of the Competitors § List at least 3-5 games that are your competitors § In one sentence tell why yours is special very important! game concept must be anonymous J your concept must occupy one page at most. name must be on the other side J so that we can scan the concepts leaving out the names art should be included on extra sheets (using one side) Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
  25. 25. Your Homework 25 •  Write down the game-concept document for the game you wish to propose to the class •  The firm deadline is October 18, 2012 •  The game-concept document must be delivered in class •  Students can also prepare a short video to support their proposal (no face shown). The link to the video should be sent to pierluca.lanzi@polimi.it by October 18, 2013. •  The game-concept document must be well-written and accurately proof read. Prof. Pier Luca Lanzi
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