Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Don't Stop Designing

Short post for today, and this one is aimed at all the game designers, and wanna be game designers, that are out there. See, there's a bit of advice that is commonly bandied about for writers, which is namely this: don't stop writing. This is true, and for the same reason, for design, and it is something that can serve major dividends later on down the line, even when you least expect it. So, for today, I want to talk about that bit of advice.

Don't Stop Writing
Now, the trick to this bit of advice, like with a lot of advice, is to realize that it isn't meant to be taken literally. The advice doesn't mean that you should be writing non-stop 24/7. That would be crazy. What it means though, is that you should never turn off the writer side of your brain. You hear a piece of an anecdote, play it out in your head and see what you would do with it. You'll be amazed at how it plays out, what comes from it, and the ideas that it can generate. Even if it never goes beyond something you mentally envision and jot down in your little idea notebook (you do have one of those, right?) it has done it's purpose. Why? Because it is something you can pull on later.

Maybe you never use the story you thought up upon hearing about a trip to the zoo that a friend of yours had. Then again, maybe when you're writing your story you can pull a character from that idea, or a small part of the event, and use that. It will be there, and ready to go, because you'd already written it. Since it was already crafted, your brain could just lift it and apply it.

With Design
This is true with design, but how true it is didn't become clear to me until recently. See, me and my friends have a massively dorky game that we play. The game works like this, "what stats does X character have?". It works as both a way of giving our view of a character (i.e. "so that's what Driving 7 looks like.") and as a mental exercise for deciding what system/what stats best represent a character. For me, personally, I've also begun to try and figure out how I would make mechanics to represent that specifically cool thing that I am watching.

Then, recently, I realized something. Two mechanics that I made for something completely different, have shown up in other works. Namely, the "Duel" system in 'NINJA!' (which will have more news on it as soon as I hear back from people giving feedback) and the majority of the combat system for M.A|C.C, which I really need to finish these editing/revision runs on. The Duel system in Ninja started off as a way of bringing threat and more indepth rolling to non-combat situations such as "running the engine room during spaceship combat". M.A|C.C's combat system started as a combat system, only for something designed to catch the feel of boxing manga/anime like Hajime no Ippo, not vigilante combat like in Batman. However, both work well repurposed, and I doubt that either would have come out half as good as they did if the ideas hadn't been wiggling around in the back of my head from earlier design work.

So, keep at it, keep designing, and keep building. You never know when you'll make the keystone for another project somewhere down the line.


  1. This is why I love the people in this industry. I am someone that struggled with my own issues in game designing. It can get frustrating when you do not get as much done as you would like. Then you see a random post by someone in the industry...and how supportive they can be. Thank you for this post.

  2. I'm glad it helped you out. One of the awesome things about the RPG industry, imo, is exactly what you said. Folks are very supportive. No one is doing this for the money, there's simply not all that much money to be made in RPGs. That means that almost everyone is doing it for love.