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Monday, August 08, 2005


Reduce. Reuse. Recycle

As you might have guessed from this week's cartoon, I'm going to be talking about recycling in game design. Wait, before you move on to another site, let me explain. From the start I've wanted this site to be my "bully pulpit" for game related topics, to sort of spread the word about how games are made and how they can be made better. Hopefully, those of you who are in the game business (or would like to be) might gain some nuggets of wisdom that will make your lives easier. For everyone else, I hope this will be an informative look into the whole game-making process. Don't worry, I'll be posting a little something for everyone later this week. And now on with the show!

All games have limitations. These are called rules. When making a game that is to be published and distributed, there are other limitations to consider, practical limitations that force you to fit the game you want to make into the game you can afford to make. Time, money and other resources force you to become a little more creative with what you have available. Components merge together and otherwise perform double and triple-duty so that you can a fun and entertaining game that still shows a profit at the end of a quarter. You recycle.

For instance, you have a game where the hero fights the bad guys, who obligingly all wear identical green jump suits and masks. One character model has now become an army! Of course, all of these bad guys fight exactly the same way and will always fall over when the hero hits them twice with his patented twister punch. But suppose you want a different opponent for the player to fight? Someone that's tougher and is smarter? In most games, there are only so many characters budgeted, so if you still want to have that giant electric penquin at the end of the fourth level, you're going to have to make do with the jump-suited bad guys. So you change the color of the suit from green to red - and you've got a new bad guy!

Now the best way to make this work as painlessly as possible is to plan ahead. When you go to buy a car you can get one with a radio or without one, but even if you don't get a radio, the slot for a radio is still there on the dash board. It's easier to make a car with space for a radio than to make two different cars, one for radio listeners and one for the other folks. When designing your game, if you want a basic character model to perform many different actions, then make one that can do everything you want, then disable and enable the particular features you need. I'm over-simplifying this of course, but the idea is to come up with ways to get the most use out of what you're given.

Another thing to keep in mind is to keep it simple! As you're merging bits together, try to streamline them and keep an eye out for bits that don't seem to fit. The key to recycling is not just reusing old things, but getting the best use out of them.
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