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Guidelines for the Game Proposal
A game proposal is a formal project proposal used to secure funding and resources for a game development project. As a game proposal takes time (and therefore, money) to do correctly, it should only be developed for promising game concepts.
The proposal is an expansion upon the game concept. Writing a proposal may involve gathering feedback and information from other departments, especially the marketing department (if it exists). You may need your marketing department to perform some market research and analysis on the concept. If the game requires licensing, you may need your finance and legal departments to investigate the availability and costs involved in securing the license.
The programming staff, typically senior programmers or the technical director, should perform an initial technical evaluation of the concept. They should comment on the technical feasibility of the concept and the programming areas that may require research. They should assess the risks and major tasks in the project and suggest solutions and alternatives. They should give a rough estimate as to the required research and development time and resources.
The game proposal should include a revised version of the game concept. Technical, marketing, and finance feedback to the concept document might force you to scale back the concept. It might also suggest modifying or adding features. These changes should not take anyone by surprise, as this is the first time that the concept has been subjected to major criticism and the collaborative process. Giving copies of the feedback and analysis to the director of development (or whoever asked for the game proposal) before they are folded into the game proposal or effect changes in the concept is a good idea. This process not only provides written confirmation that the concept has been reviewed by certain people or departments, but it arms the director with the knowledge to veto, alter, or otherwise approve any proposed changes.
The game proposal includes the following features:
Market analysis: The marketing department and/or a market research firm, assuming your company can afford it, should compile this information. If you are compiling this information yourself, you should try to avoid pure guesses on numbers. Look for info on the Internet (www.gamestats.com is a good source) and use existing hits in the same genre as indicators for market performance.
List their platforms if they vary from the platform for the proposed game. However, because the markets change depending on the platform, you should always present some title of the same genre on the target platform, even if it didn't perform as well as the others. Such data may indicate a sluggishness for that particular genre of games on the platform. For example, turn-based strategy games may have great sales on the PC platform, but have terrible numbers on the Sony PlayStation. This list of top performers should indicate this discrepancy if you're doing a turn-based strategy game.
Tactical Combat: In Command & Conquer, Dark Reign, and Myth, you order your units to attack specific targets and move to specific places or ranges for an advantage. Most units have a unique strength and weakness that become apparent during play, thus encouraging you to develop superior tactics. Tanktics has a wider variety of orders to allow you to apply superior tactics, such as capture, ram, and hit-and-run. Unit position and target selection become even more important due to terrain, movement, and range bonuses; firing arcs; and soft spots in rear- and side-hit locations. All of the units have distinct weaponry, armor, and speed to differentiate their strengths and weaknesses and encourage tactics. Not only do you learn to master these tactics over time, but you can also script these tactics into custom orders.
Technical analysis: The technical analysis should be written by a seasoned programmer, preferably the technical director or a lead programmer, and then edited and compiled into the proposal. Reviewers of this proposal will use this technical analysis to help them make their decisions. Be honest; it will save you a lot of grief in the end. Overall, this analysis should make the reviewers optimistic about the game's chance of succeeding.
Include an estimate of the time that it will take to bring the experimental feature to an evaluation state, as well as an overall time estimate for completing the feature. Experimental areas generally need more time in the schedule, so the more experimental features you list, the longer the schedule will be. While some companies shy away from such 18- to 24-month projects, many see these experiments as worthwhile investments in creating leading-edge titles. So tell it like it is, but don't forget to tell them what they will get out of it. Make them feel comfortable that the experiments will work out well.
"Artificial Intelligence Script Parser: Three to four months with two programmers. The parser reads and compiles the AI scripts into lower-level logic and instructions that are executed at run-time."