Design Treatment

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

  • Dwight David Eisenhower quotes (American 34th President (1953-61). 1890-1969)

Today I was working on a a design treatment as described in Game Developers Marketplace. This book breaks down documentation into a few sections:

  • Design Treatment – Small (on paragraph to one page) overview
  • Design Document – Multi-page document describing everything in more depth and getting into specifics
  • Design Specification – Working with everyone to actually specify how things are being built and how much time/resources it will take.

Design Treatment
One of the most influential games in making me want to create games for a living was Wing Commander. I would like to create an experience that is like Wing Commander but from a top down perspective with a simple approachable interface. This should be along the lines of Star Control II, but with a much more directed level structure and a more directed story exposition. Less exploration and gathering and a large focus on combat. Each mission should be 10-30 minutes and an act should be achievable in 5 missions (either a week or one long 1.5-3 hour sitting). Target audience is people that miss these old school experiences that don’t have time for 3D space simulation but still enjoy storytelling.

Game Story
The year is 2492 and humanity is at war amongst the stars against a deadly alien race. Things are not looking good for humanity and you are a fresh recruit at the top of your class assigned to a small task force in your region. All attacks to date have been 100% ineffectual and you are sent in with new weapon systems that may be humanities last hope for a counter attack.

Game Play and Look
The play is broken down into two sections: On ship life and combat missions.

Ship life is comprised of one or two rooms on the ship and hot spot locations that you can click on characters and talk with them. This will reveal extra information about the world to the player and create a story and connection with the other pilots on flights with you. The interface will be simple 2D environments with fixed outcomes based on where you are in the story and how well you are doing.

Combat missions start with a preallocated ship specifically chosen for the mission you are going on. These ships will very in speed and fire power and may also involve having more crew with you. You will control the ship with a keyboard or mouse and drive it around. Most missions will either be protecting ships or destroying enemy vessels or bosses. The objective is to successfully destroy, protect or rescue depending on the circumstances. Each mission will have multiple sub points and in game conversation will be handled by a small pop up.

Development Spec

The game is initially targeting windows only, will either be written in C++/Lua using the PopCap Framework or in a 3rd party engine (Torque or Unity). Game should support a wide range of PC configurations (anything made in the last 4-5 years).

Commentary

Writing the design treatment has solidified what I want to build more in my mind. The next couple of weeks will probably be fleshing out the design more and then digging in to build the first examples of each area.

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2 Responses to Design Treatment

  1. Dave says:

    A little late for a comment, but I also “would love to create a game like Wing Commander, but from a top-down perspective.” I don’t know if you were just thinking in text, or if you have made any progress toward this end, but if you’re interested, feel free to email me.

    I started something (with WC1 ships :D), just the top-down scrolling “engine” in Gamemaker, but never really had time to finish it – (e.g. no story line, engine incomplete etc. etc.) I have a bit of time now, but my laptop lacks the power of the computer I made the engine in, so still no further progress… I’d love to hear your thoughts if you are still interested in this sort of thing.

    I enjoyed your posts – I think the story really makes the game (or movie), far moreso than the visuals, although they are also important. Anyway, shoot me an email if you want to talk.

    • jhuculak says:

      I’ve been dabbling with that idea for a few years now and really enjoy games like Star Control II and more recently Starscape. I have two projects ahead of that one (asteroids remake and a ship combat game) and then I’m probably going to dry and do a retail top down game. Keep and eye out here for updates if you are interested and thanks for the comment!

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