The fun part of building games is the development of the idea for the game. It tends to be an iterative process. The idea comes bubbling up from somewhere, usually in the middle of the night. In the cold morning light I may, or may not, pursue the idea, depending on the notes I made and whether it still makes sense!
If the idea still appeals to me when I look at it later, I start to flesh it out. I have to look at the scope of the game – is it so simple that it will be a free game or not? Will it have levels? How will it be scored? Can it be played using assistive technology, and if so, what types?
These considerations lead to a preliminary game design document that spells out the nature of the game and what I perceive as its “gameness”. This is run by the others in the company. If they like the idea it moves to the next step. If it involves something with specific rules or characteristics, I’ll model it to see if it will work as I envision it.
Once the outline is complete, I sketch the layout for the game and update the game design document. This may iterate several times before I’m satisfied with the design.
One of the unique characteristics of 7-128 games is that they are not singletons. We try to build a series of related games. This means that I need to consider if the proposed new game is one that fits into a category of games and if other similar games can be developed within that category. If so, then the other games have to be fleshed out using the steps described above. One of the ways in which we can be so productive is that when we develop a process, such as scrambling a word or removing letters in a word, that process can be used in another game in that series, or even in another series completely. It does not have to be re-developed for each game we build.
Once the game design document is as complete as I can make it for each of the games in the series, we start the coding. We usually develop a prototype game and not worry about the prettiness until we have the mechanism working. Once that works, the graphics and decorative touches are added. In a later article I’ll describe the steps from prototype to finished product.
Eleanor Robinson Chief Operating Officer (and Game Developer) 7-128 Software