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Sometimes you are so focused on development that you forget about the most important thing: what was the game about? If that's the case, don't panic. Just check your designs and lead the game experience towards your original idea.

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Time goes by so quickly while you're an indie developer.

Last month I was programming tiles and heroes, the month before I was programming the physics engine, and the month before that I was... maybe programming something else. The case is I have slowly forgotten about the roots of the game. That vage moment of time when I was doing concepts, drawing pixelart, and writing the game design document. I've become so involved in "making the game real" that I've forgotten what was the game about.

The great thing is that the Internet always has a new surprise to make your day a little happier. Have you heard about gamestorm? Basically, it's a tumblr of game design doodles, sketches and scrap-papers. You should certaintly stop by and take a look at some of these designs.

That was the right answer to my problem. Digging into my scrap-paper pile, I found one of the first level design sketches of DungeonQuest. Here it is in all its splendor:

First level design sketch

Wow! It's not a masterpiece of drawing and design, but it surely captures the essence of the game experience. Or at least, it makes ME remember that essence. Of course, DungeonQuest is a multiplayer platform-RPG (whatever it means). But it's more specific than that. The game experience is about exploring a dangerous environment filled with dynamic traps that force you to think a way out. The group of heroes reach a dead end and everyone is thinking "there has to be a secret passage somewhere".

Or maybe a big rock falls upon a hero. If the hero is quick enough he will survive, but then the group has to think how to pass through the rock blocking the corridor. These kind of moments are what I want in DungeonQuest. Of course, there's also many enemies to fight and XPs to gain. But the essence of DungeonQuest adenture is exploration and cooperative problem-solving.

DungeonQuest Level Design

Here's a screenshot of the current state of the game and level editor. Side by side, they don't look too different. However, beyond the graphical similarity, I have so many things to do to make DungeonQuest a unique experience of exploration and cooperation. See that small tile and the spiked door in the lower side of the sketch? Its a door-tile that a hero has to step in to open a spiked door. When the hero steps off the tile, the spiked door falls down (hurting any heroes or enemies that have the bad luck to be below the spikes). It's just a simple example, but the group has to cooperate to solve this problem: one hero steps in the tile while the others rush trough the spiked door. Then, the group has to think a way to bring the first hero back with the group. Also, the group can take advantage of the spiked door during combat. They can push or taunt the enemies below the spikes, release the tile, and enjoy the blood spectacle.

That should be my first priority. Implement the things that add to the unique DungeonQuest experience, such as traps, switches, spiked-doors and spiked-ceilings. Elements that make the dungeon fun to play and challenging to solve. Note that all these elements are in the lower part of the sketch, and (to my misfortune) in the bottom of my to-do list. That is the importance of design:

Capturing the essence of the game, for a future moment of time when you will lose the game vision.

Keep that in mind when you're starting your game. Don't throw away that scrap-paper pile of design doodles. They're your game vision :)

Cheers!
Emanuel

Comments
ceriux
ceriux

Cool stuff, defiantly made me think of my own game design approaches. Also thinking about this sort of stuff, seems to make me feel more inspired and motivated again to keep work on my own projects. Sometimes you worry too much about your list of things that have to be done (or else) , but you forget to imagine why you decided to work on a project because your too busy worrying about the things you have been working on rather than creativity that inspired you to start in the first place. great new's post defiantly. i look forward to your game =D

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EmanuelMontero Author
EmanuelMontero

I'm glad not to be the only one worrying too much for the to-do list. Thanks for the comment! I'll work hard to make the game as close as possible to my original inspiration :)

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