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  • Thoughts on Our Graduation Project's Iterative Design Process

    - Antoine Fauville
  • This is how I applied GDC talks to my thought process on an iterative design process for our graduation project in Level Design and Game Design. Essentially, this is how you can adapt when you have an "over-creative" team that has great ideas all the time.

    I'm Antoine and I worked on Unity integration, programming and overall level design for Research, a graduation project at ESA - Saint Luc Art School in Brussels.

    On a chronological side, we started the project with a simple pitch and no real game design thoughts - just some notes on the flow for general level design, what kind of interactions we would be in the game, and a pitch for the story we wanted to tell.

    At the beginning, we had a lots of ideas but no real concept to start working with, I started to layout a small scene - the goal was to have a defined idea, to get the direction of the game for the team. It was a simple project with one type of interaction, but the main one, the one you would find everywhere in the game. I also tried to complete the " 3 C. Rule": Third person character with all of what it implies.

    Once we were decided on the main prototype, we did a layout on paper for the main level design. At the beginning we had many more levels than we finally ended up with. There were rough and stiff ideas. We didn't know at the time how time consuming this way to work would be. Everyone had various ideas and wanted to tell something different in the general design of the game. Our team didn't know the level of complexity for content creation. We didn't really know where we were going and with no concrete plan, and we went deep in it straight away.

    Big mistake.

    Figure: Direct design process, creating scenery without testing. (big mistake)

    One of my first big mistakes back then was when I forgot that others had different ideas, and I had to start creating my Unity scene all over again. This happened repeatedly every 2 or 3 weeks. Every time I'd take feedback and apply it to the build to create new iterations. I was forgetting the basic pitch of the game, and as the team we were really getting far from the initial idea.

    At first it was a third person exploration game with simple interaction and visual poetry with important narrative level design and content. Then it became a "survival" third person exploration game with complex mini-games and puzzles. We finished with a return to the initial idea with puzzles and simple interaction for exploration, but within a first person game.

    Figure: Halfway in the project (third person camera)

    Figure: Third area of the game near the end of the year (first person camera).

    Talking about prototyping, as long as your game remains "not interesting", the feedback will be negative (very subjective depending a lot on who you ask for feedback). They will always be about the bad sides of your game but then, when you get something good coming out, keep it, work on it, iterate on it, create different possibilities for it and with it.

    Don't change the game on one feedback, wait for many of those. Make a sheet with all the content you have in the game and assign the feedback to them, which can give you a better idea of what to do or what to work on. The more the feedback, the more interesting it would be to realize if this part of the content needs to be iterated

    Being students, we had teachers surrounding us, they are people of experience that can usually give you good feedback but don't forget that they are also very subjective. I guess it is the same with all type of work, paying attention to who is giving the feedback is very important. It could be bad or good depending on their interests and knowledge.


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