Monday, August 27, 2007

Tools For The Average Game Designer

A-lot of people ask me what tools/software do you need for a designer. Well to be honest it's according what project your working on. In a general term I have written a list of tools and software which myself finds very useful for fleshing out and developing the game title:

Must Need Software
  • Microsoft Word – Microsoft word is the designers Kung Fu. Most design is either written or art, having a good knowledge of word is a good start but to lay out your documents you need advance understanding in its interface and shortcuts.
  • Microsoft Excel – A designer uses excel for many things, project planning, lists for weapons with hit points and health.
  • Microsoft Power Point – Power point can be used to produce game flow presentations as-well as an ideas presentation to team members and to show the flow of the actual game.
  • Adobe Photoshop – Has to be one of the best packages out there. It’s a must for any designer/artist.
  • 3D Modelling Package – modelling packages are good for designers to get a theme or model sense through for the games.
  • Zip (Compressing Software) – Sending big files to your team is a pain so it’s god to zip your files up to reduce the file size.

Optional Software
  • Microsoft OneNote – This is a personal preference. I enjoy one note as it’s quick and easy to jot down notes and pictures as-well as produce quick flow charts and scripts.
  • Microsoft Project – I use this a-lot as it’s good for keeping my projects managed. Deadlines and milestones can be noted and sent to others as-well as able to produce a full schedule.
  • Microsoft Visio – Now I would put this into the must have, but some designers like to be different. Visio is amazing for flow charts and planning out system flow diagrams.
  • Adobe Dreamweaver – Some of my design documents are website format so I find it fun to create a website for the team and mostly publish it on the Internal Wikipedia for people to see as guidelines and updates.

Prototyping Software
  • Microsoft Power Point – Good to show off your ideas and test out game flow practices.
  • Macromedia (Adobe) Flash – Now flash is hard to grasp but once you know some good action script you can basically make a full prototype with it. Everyone uses it for the prototyping and game idea generation.
  • 3D Modelling Package (needs to support animation) – Making small low poly base scenes and animating them can give off a good little representation of your game/game idea.
    Good Engines/Middleware For Prototypes
  • FPS Creator – I use to quickly prototype FPS games, and level based games.
  • Multiverse – I use to test out npc’s, questing, advance scripting ect.
  • Realmcrafter – It can be used for RPG & MMO prototypes in my opinion. Not games. Prototypes.

Games That Can Be Modded For Prototypes
  • Unreal Tournament – Powered by Unreal technology, it’s got to be one of the most powerful and easy (when got to grips with the tech and structure) to mod and create your own prototype.
  • Halflife 2 – HL2 engines has been used to create all sorts of weird and wonderful mods. A good choice to prototype a variety of game types on.
  • Battlefield (1942,vietnam,2,2142) – Very powerful engine, allowing players to run around as FPS and drive vehicles, different objectives. Battlefield has the FPS to it. Although some mods have changed it to a RTS.
  • Command & Conquer Generals – Great for the RTS prototypes. C&C Generals can be modded easily for any sort of RTS – Even space.
  • Freelancer – Is a good and very big space rpg style game. I know a few teams who have used it to prototype space session based games and MMO space games.
  • Quake – Could argue with Quake and Unreal. There both mostly the same. It’s what you prefer.

  • Paper All Sizes – A designer shouldn’t be without paper or at-least a notepad. Able to jot notes and draw ideas out.
  • Pencils – To draw, and note as-well. Some people can write better with pencils then pens.
  • Coloured Pens/Felts – colour in your drawings with vibrant colours.
  • Pencil Sharpener – To sharpen your pencils. Don’t draw with blunt pencils
  • Yellow Posits – Good for writing ideas down and sticking them around your house or studio. Good for reminders as-well just don’t use to many. I found myself a yellow desk after all my work.
  • Eraser – Make a mistake, rub it out.

  • Laser Mouse – With the laser mouse you can move your cursor freely with not jolting in movement or delay.
  • Comfortable Keyboard – You will be using nearly all day so get one your comfortable with.
  • Two or More Monitors – Its easier which anyone will tell you to be able to work on two or more monitors. Especially when using 3ds Max. Photo reference on one screen, Max app on the main one.
  • Printer – Print out concepts, ideas, documents. Just watch the ink.
  • Scanner – Scan in ideas, drawings, from books, scrap books ect.
  • Wacom Tablet – This is a personal preference. I find it better then a mouse.
Other Stuff
  • Lego – Something fun an exciting. Plus good for idea generation. Maybe build your level out in Lego first? There isn’t much limit using it. Especially if you got robotics kits.
  • Laser Tag Guns – Now a-lot of people don’t know this but studios who develop FPS’s play with guns. Not real ones (unless they go to the shooting range). Push up a couple of chairs, get a few laser guns get some of the team/ whole team to join in on the fun. You can practise tactics using them in-game. It also makes work fun.
  • Board Games – Some of the best games are board games. Monopoly, game of life and axis and allies. Those are a few examples but what ever you prefer.
  • Retro Games – Atari, commodore, N64. Look at the very first games and consoles. These were the original titles.
  • Card Games – Some designers like to design a card game for there game first off.
  • Kids books – Designers like Will Wright love to generate new and exciting games. From his experience of reading through kids books, using kids programs and toys.
  • Encyclopaedia – Now this maybe just me but books like this seem to give me a huge handful of game ideas.
  • Remote Control Car – If your developing a racing game. Some studios have adopted Scale Electric cars and remote control cars to have fun building tracks and testing out cars and how fun the actual track design is.
  • Clock (preferably with an alarm) – Random yes, but could come in handy.
It doesn’t stop there. Enhance your creativity with things you enjoy around you and process’s that you can enjoy. I know one designer who writes all his t-shirt. Random yes but if it helps you work why not?
Thanks for reading!

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