Monday, July 19, 2010

Design mobility

So I'm in the midst of what I call the "design phase" of development.  For me, this is the most fun and also the most challenging part of the process.

On the one hand, I've got a lot of creative freedom.  I let my mind go nuts and my pen follows suit.  If what I come up with sucks or doesn't work, I just cross it out and start again.  It's quick, it's dirty, and it's very satisfying.  I think I have about a dozen notebooks of cross-outs and scribbles on my shelf.

On the other hand, I rarely feel like I'm accomplishing anything substantial.  During proper production, you have a list of tasks you need to accomplish and you get the satisfaction of ticking them off one by one.  You have a large goal that is broken up into smaller goals, and it's much easier to digest.

The design (or pre-production) stage isn't like that for me. I can't break up the game into smaller chunks, because I have no idea what the game is going to be.  It's some nebulous, insubstatial, raw thing that's floating out there in the ether.  So there are days where I feel great that I get to be all artsy and creative (this is fun), but there are days when I pound my head in frustration when I see that a whole day has gone by and I've only designed half-a-puzzle that I may or may not keep (this is not fun). Time is money, and all that.

But the biggest perk to the design phase?  I don't need my laptop.  No longer do I have to lug that thing around.  I just grab a working pen (usually two, just in case) and a notebook and off I go.  A laptop gives you great mobility, but a pen and notebook is even more so. 

In the last week, I've done design in the following places:

- on the subway
- Washington Square Park, while a live jazz band played
- on a bench overlooking the east river
- a park overlooking the Hudson river
- the back seat of a taxi
- the bathtub

So yeah, the design phase can get frustrating but it certainly has its moments.



  1. Hey Dave!

    I design best on paper as well, but eventually have to pull notes together and transcribe them to the computer, this part takes time. But I feel that creativity flows best, and is less constrained, using a pad and paper, so the slight inefficiency in transcribing may be cancelled out.

    That aside, I was compelled to write a comment questioning the logistics of designing in the bathtub. I too seem to have my best ideas in the tub, but then writing them down is an awkward process. Unless of course, you have no water in the tub...

  2. Sometimes I think of getting one of those tiny netbooks that aren't very powerful but lasts a loooong time without recharging. Not sure about bringing one to the park though. I can never see the screen.

  3. I'm in the design phase too, scribbling ideas on bits of paper, but to me it's the least enjoyable part of game making. (Yes, I even enjoy bug hunting more, frustrating as it can be!) This is the bit that I just have to struggle through to get to the good bits.

    I think the reason for that is in part what you say about lack of obvious progress. And that it's the part that makes me feel completely without talent. I am pretty happy with how my previous game turned out, but right now when I'm trying to come up with a somewhat original and fun game I just feel so utterly uncreative.

  4. My thoughts exactly! The design phase is probably the most important part, much in the same way you shouldn't build a house without a foundation. In story-based games you need to have the story set in stone or the whole thing will fall apart. As much as you want to dive in and start coding, it's never a good idea.

    Of course, things always end up changing anyway!