Monday, March 05, 2007

Are There Any Design Outlines?


Why yes there are! So glad you asked. Actually you didn't, I just needed a way to set up this article. heh heh

Anyway, this blog is suposed to be about practical design theory and useful design tools. I've gotten away from that for a little bit, but I hope to get back to that in earnest. So, in that vein, I'm going to share something personal with you. Ever since I wrote Cutthroat, I've been thinking about what it takes to make a complete game. As in, what components have to be there in order for a game to be considered playtest-able. I noticed that when I wrote Cutthroat, I made sure certain things were present. When I wrote Hierarchy, I noticed a lot of those same things were again purposely added to the game. Mainly these are subsystems like, character creation, resolution, reward systems, the endgame, and so on. That's nothing new.

But what I decided to do was take careful note of the mechanics I unconsciously included and then from those notes, I developed an outline. Then I wrote Standoff! And the outline didn't fit, so I modified it. Then I wrote Holmes and Watson, and the outline needed further redrafting. Since Cutthroat I have written seven games. Each time I refined my outline more and more. This is what I give to you:

Outline for Design #1
Outline for Design #2
Outline for Design #3
Outline for Design #4
Outline for Design #5
Outline for Design #6
Outline for Design #7
Outline for Design #8
Outline for Design #9

As you can see, each one is a refined copy of the one that precedes it. Game design is a process that never ends. I imagine that I'll continure to refine this outline, and I will likely edit this article to include future editions.

Here's the thing you need to keep in mind, though. These aren't the only outlines you can use for designing a game. These are just the ones I've used. Plenty of designers use different ones, or don't use one at all. What they do is help me organize my thoughts and signal me when I've finished enough for a playtestable draft. They help me know when I've met the minimum requirements for a finished design.

Also, even if you do like them, not every outline will be right for you. You might find #3 suits you better than #5. Or you could find that none of them suit you. Or it could be that #7 is the very thing you've been looking for. Take these outlines for what they are: one potential tool out of many. If this kick-starts your design, then awesome! If not, that's cool too. These are just here to help those who need it :)



PS: Please feel free to report any non-functioning links. Appreciate it! :)


Jason Morningstar said...

This is seriously cool, Troy.

Troy_Costisick said...


I'm glad you like them. I truly hope that you find them useful, and feel totally free to customize them to your needs. They're just a template for others to build on.



checking said...

Setting is one of those game elements that trips people up (including me) because it seems like it isn't necessary, just a nice add-on. "This game doesn't need a setting! It's generic!" I think that if that's true, then you don't actually have a game. In fact, what actually happens is that the players create a setting (with or without realizing it) to play this "setting-less" game in. So in fact the game does need a setting - it just doesn't provide one.bohyme

Rhadamantis said...

Excellent because we need ideas to get efficient tools, I need something like this to improve my projects atxl pharmacy the place I work.

Anonymous said...

Ack! All the links are broken!