A few weeks ago I wrote up my DesignDiary #1. Today, I’m continuing this
saga. But before I get to today’s issue:
a rabbit chaser. Every designer has to
deal with personal distractions and tragedy along the road to publication. Who knows how many thousands of would-be
designers have had to abandon their games due to addiction, loss, disease, or
what-have-you. I feel the pain of those
designers and my life is an exemplar of that struggle. So hopefully, this design series will serve
not only to instruct nascent game-makers in the art of design and publishing
but also instruct them on the art of dealing with real-life barriers that come
up during the process. More on that
later, tho. On to brainstorming.
I want to stress to you just how
important to the design process letting your mind generate ideas and at the
same time, writing those ideas down are.
The human mind, especially mine, is weak. I can’t remember every mechanic or piece of
trivia I come up with when imagining how my game will work. Once I have envisioned play, I begin the
process of brainstorming. Everyone has
their own method for doing this. My post
today is descriptive not prescriptive, but if you like my methodology, feel
free to employ it in part or in whole :)
Back in the olden days (1998-2001) I
kept stacks of composition notebooks around me all the time. Each notebook would be dedicated to a
different topic: Chargen, Resolution System, Rewards, Magic, Setting, etc. etc.
etc. After my first game was published
in 2002, I switched to computers.
Now, I keep a single file with all my
notes. I have a specific system that I
use, and I’ve mentioned it before. My
notes are kept in a stream of consciousness outline. I let the inspiration flow, and I type it out
as it comes. Sometimes, I still jot things
down on random scraps of paper when a computer isn’t handy, but it all goes
into my file in the order it came to me.
As an example, here is the first half-page or so of my design notes for
this game: NOTES EXCERPT
I have to confess one thing. The “Dungeons” label for the game came after
the entry on Moldvay and Keep on the Borderlands. It wasn’t until then, I had even the faintest
idea what I wanted from this thing. In a
future post, I’ll explain how I arrived at that decision.
Anyway, I find that keeping my notes
this way lets me see where I made decisions in the design process and why I made
those decisions. Sometimes, when you get
half-way or even 2/3 of the way through a text, you forget why you made a
certain rule. You look at something and
go, “What the…Why’d I do this?” Keeping
my notes in a stream of consciousness, helps me understand my game’s purpose SO
Also, it helps me organize my text. I have an outline ready to go that will only
need a small amount of tweaking before I dive right into the writing
process. I found that it makes writing
my games more efficient. This isn’t fool-proof,
though. As you can see, those notes are
quite busy in some places. Sometimes I’ll
copy and paste a section of my notes into its own document just to separate it
from the clutter as I’m writing.
The entire document is well over 20
pages now, but not everything will make it in.
Stuff I’m not using stays in the notes, but I might make it “strikethrough”
or highlight it in a different color so I know not to include it in my
Anyhow, that will just about do it for
my entry today. Brainstorming is the
second step I take after envisioning play.
I have kind of a wacky system for doing.
Yours could be even wackier. If
this is your first time writing a game, I recommend putting all your ideas down
somewhere. Whether it’s on paper, on the
net, or in a file: write them down! If
you don’t, I promise you’ll forget.