Parts of a Whole and Chasing the Dragon
Some folks, heck, some of you even, may think game books (or any book for that matter) is written in a clear, precise fashion. Certainly, this is largely true for support materials which don’t rely so heavily on the design aspect of the process. When it comes to the rules parts, anything goes. The short answer is: it’s not so clean cut.
Game designers are one part analyst, one part writer, and three parts crazy. We have to sort out design goals. We have to make certain things make sense. We have to make certain they are both crystal clear and entertaining. If you don’t read them, you won’t use them. And then, why then, it’s all total chaos, and you might as well be eating toads in a whole and listening to Garbage on the radio (if you can dust it off and tune in to the nineties).
What we do is write where the Muse takes us. Okay, not entirely. But we do jump around a lot (and that’s entirely true). As a creator, we create. We work on parts of things, yet needs dictate we think holistically, or, in simpler terms, how is Part A going to fit into Part B? Sometimes, there is One True Path. Other times, there are so many combinations, you can just jot down the possibilities, or you may clearly see, as you sort out Part A the right direction for Part B. You can be right in the middle of Part A when this happens. Some of you may think you’re cheating to jump ahead to Part B to work on it. That’s silliness and crazy talk and crazy silly talk. You have to get those ideas down. Don’t rely on your memory. You may have a great memory. Creative connections are not the same thing. Remember disparate parts as opposed to possible intention is not the same thing.
What I’m saying is you have to chase the dragon. You rapidly sketch out enough of Part A and you jump over to Part B and get that going. Heck, you may need both the parts to get to Part C. The part you really want to test out to see if it works right. This may or may not have anything or everything to do with character gen. It may be a killer subsystem. Get enough done to move on.
This is what I term proof-of-concept design. It’s better to sketch it out and, if it makes sense to you, let a few friendly eyes check it out to see if you’re really mad or you’ve got something. Sometimes, you’re going to find out you’ve got a mess and the mess may not lie with Part B. Part B could be kicked back in the shade sipping a margarita waiting on you, while Part A is sweating in the sunlight. It’s good to know where you need to focus. Ideally, if you’ve been doing this for awhile, you can rely upon the combination of your experience and intuition to know you’ve nailed something. This happens for me more often than not. Competence breeds confidence and all that sort of thing.
For example, I’m working on something which I just put through these paces. I’ve done some rapid design work for proof-of-concept. This phase is working and I’ve laid out the structure, so it’s merely the process of filling in the blanks. When I say merely, please realize I say that with the sweet scent of sarcasm assailing your senses. Filling in the blanks can take some time. However, the path is clearly laid out. If I have to take a break to work on some other stuff, then I can and come back to where I am without missing a beat.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk a bit about how I break down a project these days, provided you’re interested.
Until next time, I bid you, dear reader, adieu!