c.a. davis

// filmmaker | editor | storyteller \\

Indie Diary #1 - A Quick Note on Design

Chicken nachos help. Well, good conversation too.

I say that because I just had dinner with a new friend of mine, Toiya, who is well known in the game writing community (specifically the IGDA Writer's SIG) and who is filled with tons of literary, narrative design, and all-around professional wisdom. After a nice, long chat about games, film/TV, Tao Lin, and the genres thereof, I walked away convinced of two things:

  1. had to start blogging about my design/game creation process
  2. A game about overcoming the overwhelming feeling of depression/not believing in yourself would indeed be well-received
  3. (Extra bit) Other people also saw the strong - albeit pessimistic - eastern spiritual and philosophical aspect of Rust Cohle's character in True Detective besides me!

Anyway, Toiya was right. I need to blog about my experience making this first game of mine, even if it turns out to be a train wreck. So, here's the first entry in this on-going blog series.

What you see there to the right is not a game design,

but a diagram explaining the process of a game design - in this case, my game design.

I struggled for a week and a half before coming up with this visualization. In that time, I could not envision the flow - from both a narrative and level design perspective - that felt focused or precise. I needed to orient myself somehow so that I could feel the story beats as well as know the intended aim of the level design and game mechanics. I needed a full-fledged drawing that would prompt deeper, subconscious thoughts into waking life.

And, amazingly, that weird flowchart really does work for me.

So, if you're in the "thought incubation" stage and need a way to condense your many ideas into one succinct avenue of focus, start drawing diagrams. Let the direction of your playable characters guide you. If the story walks to the right, draw to the right. If the story takes place in the air, draw flight paths. Whatever way you can directly portray your ideas quickly and efficiently, do it. And have pages filled with these diagrams, as they'll help remind you of key details down the road.

This practice was especially helpful to me back in undergrad days when I and my student teams were working on our game projects. Our exploration game was entirely mapped out with diagrams before I even brought the design concept to the table. Today it's no different (blasted job, getting in the way of my work) - I need a quick way to capture, refine, and intensely focus my energy on the narrative, design, and flow of my game.

I'm sure you indies have already found your own ways to efficiently begin productions, but in case you were looking for other methods, diagrams totally work...