You are previewing Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design.

Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design

Cover of Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design by Scott Rogers Published by John Wiley & Sons
  1. Copyright
  2. Publisher's Acknowledgments
  3. FOREWORD
  4. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
  5. PRESS START!
    1. IF YOU ARE ANYTHING LIKE ME ...
    2. NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE MY JOB
    3. WHO IS THIS BOOK FOR?
  6. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: EVERYTHING I LEARNED ABOUT WRITING A BOOK
  7. 1. WELCOME, N00BS!
    1. 1.1. A BRIEF HISTORY OF VIDEO GAMES
    2. 1.2. GAME GENRES
    3. 1.3. WHO MAKES THIS STUFF?
      1. 1.3.1. PROGRAMMER
      2. 1.3.2. ARTIST
      3. 1.3.3. DESIGNER
      4. 1.3.4. PRODUCER
      5. 1.3.5. TESTER
      6. 1.3.6. COMPOSER
      7. 1.3.7. SOUND DESIGNER
      8. 1.3.8. WRITER
    4. 1.4. HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT PUBLISHING?
      1. 1.4.1. PRODUCT MANAGER
      2. 1.4.2. CREATIVE MANAGER
      3. 1.4.3. ART DIRECTOR
      4. 1.4.4. TECHNICAL DIRECTOR
      5. 1.4.5. AND THE REST ...
    5. 1.5. Level 1's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  8. 2. IDEAS
    1. 2.1. IDEAS: WHERE TO GET THEM AND WHERE TO STICK THEM
    2. 2.2. WHAT DO GAMERS WANT?
      1. 2.2.1.
    3. 2.3. Why I Hate "Fun"
      1. 2.3.1.
    4. 2.4. BRAINSTORMING
    5. 2.5. BREAKING WRITER'S BLOCK
    6. 2.6. Level 2's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  9. 3. WRITING THE STORY
    1. 3.1. THE TRIANGLE OF WEIRDNESS
    2. 3.2. TIME TO WRAP IT UP
    3. 3.3. CREATING CHARACTERS
    4. 3.4. A FEW POINTERS ON WRITING FOR KIDS OF ALL AGES
    5. 3.5. WRITING FOR LICENSES
    6. 3.6. Level 3's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  10. 4. YOU CAN DESIGN A GAME, BUT CAN YOU DO THE PAPERWORK?
    1. 4.1. WRITING THE GDD, STEP 1: THE ONE-SHEET
      1. 4.1.1. ESRB RATINGS
    2. 4.2. WRITING THE GDD, STEP 2: THE TEN-PAGER
      1. 4.2.1. THE RULE OF THREES
      2. 4.2.2. TEN-PAGER OUTLINE
    3. 4.3. THE GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT (AND THE AWFUL TRUTH ABOUT WRITING THEM)
      1. 4.3.1.
    4. 4.4. GAMEPLAY PROGRESSION
    5. 4.5. THE BEAT CHART
    6. 4.6. ABOVE ALL, DON'T BE A SCHMUCK
    7. 4.7. Level 4's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  11. 5. THE THREE CS, PART 1—CHARACTER
    1. 5.1. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
      1. 5.1.1. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
    2. 5.2. PERSONALITY: DO WE REALLY NEED ANOTHER BADASS?
    3. 5.3. LET'S GET PERSONAL
    4. 5.4. FINALLY, WE TALK ABOUT GAMEPLAY
    5. 5.5. WHY WALK WHEN YOU CAN RUN?
      1. 5.5.1.
    6. 5.6. THE ART OF DOING NOTHING
    7. 5.7. MIGHT AS WELL JUMP
    8. 5.8. HOISTS AND TEETERS
    9. 5.9. WHAT GOES UP, MUST FALL DOWN
      1. 5.9.1. ME AND MY SHADOW
    10. 5.10. THE WATER'S FINE... OR IS IT?
    11. 5.11. BE KIND TO OUR FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS
    12. 5.12. USING ALL OF THE PARTS
    13. 5.13. WE ARE NOT ALONE
    14. 5.14. WHO ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD?
      1. 5.14.1.
    15. 5.15. Level 5's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  12. 6. THE THREE CS, PART 2—CAMERA
    1. 6.1. GET IT RIGHT: CAMERA VIEWS
    2. 6.2. FIRST PERSON CAMERA
    3. 6.3. THIRD PERSON CAMERA
    4. 6.4. GIVING UP CONTROL
      1. 6.4.1. SO YOU'VE DECIDED TO LET THE PLAYER CONTROL THE CAMERA
      2. 6.4.2. SO YOU'VE DECIDED TO NOT LET THE PLAYER HAVE CONTROL OVER THE CAMERA
      3. 6.4.3. SO YOU'VE DECIDED TO LET THE PLAYER SOMETIMES HAVE CONTROL OVER THE CAMERA
    5. 6.5. TWO AND A HALF D
    6. 6.6. ISOMETRIC CAMERA
    7. 6.7. TOP-DOWN CAMERA
    8. 6.8. SPECIAL CASE CAMERAS
    9. 6.9. TUNNEL VISION
    10. 6.10. CAMERA SHOT GUIDE
    11. 6.11. CAMERA ANGLE GUIDE
    12. 6.12. CAMERA MOVEMENT GUIDE
    13. 6.13. OTHER CAMERA NOTES
      1. 6.13.1. ALWAYS POINT THE CAMERA TO THE OBJECTIVE
      2. 6.13.2. NEVER LET THE CHARACTER GET OUT OF THE CAMERA'S SIGHT
    14. 6.14. MULTIPLE PLAYER CAMERAS
    15. 6.15. Level 6's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  13. 7. THE THREE CS, PART 3—CONTROLS
    1. 7.1. ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT HUMANS ARE PLAYING THESE GAMES
      1. 7.1.1. ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT HUMANS ARE PLAYING THESE GAMES
    2. 7.2. DANCE, MONKEY, DANCE
      1. 7.2.1.
    3. 7.3. CHARACTER OR CAMERA RELATIVE?
    4. 7.4. SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL
    5. 7.5. Level 7's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  14. 8. SIGN LANGUAGE—HUD AND ICON DESIGN
    1. 8.1. HEALTH BAR
    2. 8.2. TARGETING
    3. 8.3. AMMO GAUGE
    4. 8.4. INVENTORY
    5. 8.5. SCORE
    6. 8.6. RADAR/MAP
    7. 8.7. CONTEXT-SENSITIVE PROMPT
    8. 8.8. THE CLEAN SCREEN
    9. 8.9. ICON HAS CHEEZBURGER3?
      1. 8.9.1.
    10. 8.10. DON'T GET QTE
    11. 8.11. HUDS, AND WHERE TO STICK 'EM
      1. 8.11.1.
    12. 8.12. THERE ARE OTHER SCREENS THAN THE HUD
    13. 8.13. THE PAUSE THAT REFRESHES
      1. 8.13.1.
    14. 8.14. A FINAL WORD ON FONTS
    15. 8.15. Level 8's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  15. 9. EVERYTHING I LEARNED ABOUT LEVEL DESIGN, I LEARNED FROM LEVEL 9
    1. 9.1. THE TOP 10 CLICHÉ VIDEO GAME THEMES
    2. 9.2. THE NAME GAME
    3. 9.3. EVERYTHING I LEARNED ABOUT LEVEL DESIGN, I LEARNED FROM DISNEYLAND
    4. 9.4. THE BEAT CHART
    5. 9.5. RE-USING RE-USE
    6. 9.6. THE GARY GYGAX MEMORIAL MAPPING SECTION
    7. 9.7. THE DAVE ARNENSON MEMORIAL MAPPING SECTION
      1. 9.7.1. WALKING IS NEVER, EVER GAMEPLAY!
      2. 9.7.2. IF IT EVER FEELS LONG OR BORING, THEN IT IS
      3. 9.7.3. EVERY FINGER SHOULD HAVE A REWARD AT THE END, EVEN IF IT'S JUST A TRASHCAN
    8. 9.8. WRAPPING UP MAPPING
    9. 9.9. ILLUSIONAL NARRATIVE
    10. 9.10. GRAY MATTERS
      1. 9.10.1. IF IT LOOKS LIKE THE PLAYER CAN GO THERE, THEN THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO
    11. 9.11. LEAVE THE TRAINING LEVEL FOR LAST
    12. 9.12. Level 9's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  16. 10. THE ELEMENTS OF COMBAT
    1. 10.1. 400 QUATLOOS ON THE NEWCOMER!
      1. 10.1.1. "PEOPLE WANT TO PLAY GAMES THAT MAKE THEM LOOK COOL
    2. 10.2. NOW YOU HAVE TO KISS ME
    3. 10.3. ON MOVING
    4. 10.4. ON GUARDING
      1. 10.4.1. "WATCH OUT!
    5. 10.5. STATE OF THE ART BANG BANG
      1. 10.5.1. PLAY THE BEST SHOOTERS AND STUDY THEIR SOLUTIONS
    6. 10.6. THE BEST GUN FOR YOU
    7. 10.7. RUN AND GUN
    8. 10.8. NOT JUST SHOOTING
      1. 10.8.1. ALWAYS STRIVE TO ENABLE THE PLAYER, EVEN WHEN YOU'RE DISABLING THEM
    9. 10.9. DAMMIT JONES, WHERE DOESN'T IT HURT?
    10. 10.10. DEATH: WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
      1. 10.10.1. YOU WANT TO KEEP THEM PLAYING
    11. 10.11. Level 10's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  17. 11. THEY ALL WANT YOU DEAD
    1. 11.1. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION!
      1. 11.1.1. FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION
    2. 11.2. BRING ON THE BAD GUYS
      1. 11.2.1.
    3. 11.3. I LOVE DESIGNING ENEMIES
    4. 11.4. I HATE YOU TO PIECES
      1. 11.4.1.
    5. 11.5. NON-ENEMY ENEMIES
    6. 11.6. HOW TO CREATE THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOSS BATTLE
    7. 11.7. WHO'S THE BOSS?
    8. 11.8. SIZE MATTERS
      1. 11.8.1.
    9. 11.9. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
    10. 11.10. WHY NOT TO CREATE THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOSS BATTLE
      1. 11.10.1.
    11. 11.11. Level 11's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  18. 12. THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF MECHANICS
    1. 12.1. HOLY DEATH TRAP!
      1. 12.1.1.
    2. 12.2. TIME TO DIE
    3. 12.3. THE MUSIC OF MECHANICS
    4. 12.4. A NICE LITTLE CALM SPOT
    5. 12.5. RIDDLE ME THIS
      1. 12.5.1.
    6. 12.6. A SHORT WORD ON MINIGAMES AND MICROGAMES
    7. 12.7. Level 12's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  19. 13. NOW YOU'RE PLAYING WITH POWER
    1. 13.1. "LOVE THY PLAYER"
      1. 13.1.1.
    2. 13.2. MORE WEALTH THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE!
      1. 13.2.1.
    3. 13.3. Level 13's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  20. 14. MULTIPLAYER—THE MORE THE MERRIER
    1. 14.1. HOW MANY IS THE RIGHT NUMBER?
    2. 14.2. MMORPGS, OR HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE
      1. 14.2.1.
    3. 14.3. Level 14's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  21. 15. SOME NOTES ON MUSIC1
    1. 15.1. ALWAYS MAKE THE MUSIC MORE EXCITING THAN THE ACTION ON SCREEN
      1. 15.1.1. ALWAYS MAKE THE MUSIC MORE EXCITING THAN THE ACTION ON SCREEN
    2. 15.2. SOUNDS LIKE A GAME TO ME
    3. 15.3. Level 15's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  22. 16. CUTSCENES, OR NO ONE'S GONNA WATCH 'EM ANYWAY
    1. 16.1. CAN IT BE DONE IN THE GAME?
      1. 16.1.1. CAN IT BE DONE IN THE GAME?
    2. 16.2. HOW TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY IN EIGHT EASY STEPS
      1. 16.2.1.
    3. 16.3. Level 16's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  23. 17. AND NOW THE HARD PART
    1. 17.1. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR STUPID LITTLE WORLD
      1. 17.1.1.
    2. 17.2. VIDEO GAMES IS A HAAAARD BUSINESS
      1. 17.2.1.
    3. 17.3. WHAT TO DO FOR AN ENCORE?
    4. 17.4. Level 17's Universal Truths and Clever Ideas:
  24. 1. THE ONE-SHEET SAMPLE
  25. 2. THE TEN-PAGE DESIGN DOCUMENT SAMPLE
    1. 2.1. Page 1: Title Page
    2. 2.2. Page 2: Story and Gameplay
    3. 2.3. Page 3: Game Flow
    4. 2.4. Page 4: Character(s) and Controls
    5. 2.5. Page 5: Main Gameplay Concepts and Platform Specific Features
    6. 2.6. Page 6: Game World
    7. 2.7. Page 7: Interface
    8. 2.8. Page 8: Mechanics and Power-ups
    9. 2.9. Page 9: Enemies and Bosses
    10. 2.10. Page 10: Cutscenes, Bonus Material, and Comps
  26. 3. GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT TEMPLATE
    1. 3.1. COVER
    2. 3.2. YOUR GAME'S TITLE
    3. 3.3. GDD Outline (for action, adventure, platform, RPG, or shooter-video game)
  27. 4. THE MEDIUM-SIZED LIST OF STORY THEMES
  28. 5. THE BIG LIST OF ENVIRONMENTS1
  29. 6. MECHANICS AND HAZARDS
  30. 7. ENEMY DESIGN TEMPLATE
  31. 8. BOSS DESIGN TEMPLATE
    1. 8.1. Boss Fight Arena
  32. 9. HIGH CONCEPT PITCH PRESENTATION
    1. 9.1. Slide 1: Cover Page
    2. 9.2. Slide 2: Company Profile
    3. 9.3. Slide 3: Target Specs
    4. 9.4. Slide 4: Game Story
    5. 9.5. Slide 5: Game Goals
    6. 9.6. Slide 6: Gameplay Summary
    7. 9.7. Slide 7: Gameplay details
    8. 9.8. Slide 8: Download strategy
    9. 9.9. Slide 9: Production Specs
  33. ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: EXACTLY LIKE MAKING CHILI
  34. CONTINUE?
    1. TIME TO LEVEL UP!
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Chapter 2. IDEAS

Let's talk about making video games. To most people, making a video game is a mystery. The average party conversation goes like this:

IDEAS

At this point in the conversation I then tell people that games are made by elves. All I have to do is leave a game design idea in the middle of the room overnight and in the morning the elves have made the game[28].

OK, this is not entirely true.

You have to leave a good idea out for the elves to make into a game. Which begs the question: "Where do good ideas come from?"

IDEAS: WHERE TO GET THEM AND WHERE TO STICK THEM

Every good idea borders on the stupid.

Michel Gondry[29]

I like this quote because many game ideas often sound stupid. Try these on for size:

  • A yellow creature eats dots while being chased by ghost monsters.

  • A plumber jumps on the heads of mushrooms to find his girlfriend.

  • A prince rebuilds stars by rolling balls of junk into bigger balls of junk.

All of those stupid-sounding ideas ended up being games that made lots and lots of money. I guess they aren't so stupid after all. To me, the lesson is, never dismiss a game idea, even if it does sound stupid.

So, where do I get my own stupid ideas to turn into video games? The traditional way to get an idea is to get inspired. The good news is that a good game idea can come from anywhere. Here is a list of things I do to get inspired. I suggest you try them yourself the next time you ...

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