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How to Design Your iOS Game to Grow: Learning from the Style of Tiger Style
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How to Design Your iOS Game to Grow: Learning from the Style of Tiger Style

November 1, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3
 

Strategies for Remote Development

As mentioned earlier, Tiger Style doesn't have a traditional office location, and all of its developers work remotely. "I don't think being a distributed company has impacted our final products, but it does change the processes we use to create and communicate design," says Smith. That involves the creation of highly detailed design documents, and the use of online collaborative tools.

As the creative director, one of Smith's most important jobs is to get everybody seeing the same end goal so that their efforts align nicely into a cohesive, unified work. Smith worked for years at game studios where people saw each other every day in the office, and talked often about the game they were designing.

You'd think that kind of direct, high-bandwidth communication would increase clarity, and to some extent it certainly does, but Smith also found that there's a tendency to take for granted that people understand each other when sometimes they don't.

"Comparatively, at Tiger Style," continues Smith, "I don't see everyone face to face, so I rarely assume they're picturing the same game I am. This puts pressure on me to provide effective direction. I find myself creating more evocative documents to communicate the vision and design."

When some problems can't be solved at the document level, Tiger Style turns to other solutions: "Sometimes things get tricky when we're attempting to solve a design problem, say something that's not working in the gameplay. Ideally, you'd like to converge on a whiteboard to sketch out your thoughts.

Editing diagrams collaboratively in real-time is a great way to brainstorm possible solutions. When that hasn't been available to us, we've at times just individually taken ownership over the problem for a few days until we can present a potential solution that's interactive and running in code. It's essentially like prototyping your answers instead of trying to talk through them. Again, it takes extra effort but is more likely to produce clarity."

Design Document Excerpts from Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor

As noted above, Randy Smith creates detailed design documents to clearly convey game concepts to his remote team. Here's some samples of those for Tiger Style's first game, Spider:

"This document is the 'treatment' of a brainstormed game concept," says Smith. "Its purpose was to develop a one-sentence idea into a potential game design that everyone could envision. This was written quickly, as we were considering several concepts simultaneously. It's important that you be able to boil the essence of your game down to a small number of very succinct bullet points." (See slide above.) "This helps you identify what is most important so you can focus on it to the exclusion of potential distractions and embellishments."


Click for larger version

"In this case, we already see right away that this document describes a different version of Spider than what we shipped." (See slide above.) "We started with this concept but let the software speak to us once digital prototyping began, evolving it into a more accessible casual game. There was never any need to redo this documentation, but if I had, the second bullet would probably read something about the core 'action drawing' mechanic and the third would reference the environmental storytelling that quietly invites players into the mystery of an abandoned mansion.


Click for larger version

"On this slide [see above] I'm attempting to establish a tone that informed Spider: hip and realistic, not cartoony and goofy. In the end, we abandoned photo-real for an Edward Gorey-inspired illustrated art direction, but the tone set forth in this slide still helped to distinguish Spider."

Excerpted with permission from the publisher (Wiley) from "Game Design Secrets" by Wagner James Au, copyright © 2012.


Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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Comments


Andy Wallace
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The slides at the end do a really amazing job of encapsulating how Spider feels. It's a prime example of articulating what a game will be without actually investing in any art or prototyping.

Michael Joseph
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The market seems like it's in such a funk that it'd buy anything that seemed sufficiently different and unique.

I'm not taking anything away from Spider or Mars. I haven't played either of them. But a game about being a spider isn't something you hear about everyday.

Yama Habib
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"For social network promotion, Spider had a feature that let you brag on Facebook that you were playing it or that you solved one of its quests. (The adoption rate of that feature was 11 percent.) Waking Mars did something similar, allowing you to Tweet to your friends back on Earth when you had completed research on one of the Martian species."

How does one make the most of integrating social media into a game without annoying the players who don't want to share their experiences via facebook or twitter? 11 percent of my players tweeting/facebooking about my game doesn't seem worthwhile if even one reviewer slams the game for pestering the player with social media prompts. Is there a way to ensure that players who hate those kinds of prompts will never see them while still making it seamless for those who like them to use them?

Chuck Bartholomew
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Probably the best balance solution to this would be something like this:
1) Don't bug the player during the beginning portion of the game - the "evaluation" period, so to speak. You don't want to give the impression that this game is about spamming your friends on social networking sites.
2) Once the player has gotten far enough into the game to decide if they love it, introduce the option of bragging to their friends about their achievements in-game. Give them an option to always brag, never brag, or be prompted each time.
This puts the choice in the hands of the player, which is where it belongs. No one would fault a game for offering the option of social media integration so long as its offered in a way that respects the player's ability to choose.


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