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  • Book Extract - Creating Games: Mechanics, Content, and Technology

    [06.04.09]
    - Morgan McGuire and Odest Chadwicke Jenkins

  • 5.5 Player Composites

    This section creates a marketing model of the players who will purchase and play your game. These aren't the in-game characters but the real people who will playing the game. The characteristics of this group will help you create intuition for design decisions, as well as serve as a job description for the playtesters you will recruit.

    Creating a player composite takes the player from being an ambiguous presence in the design (or, even more dangerous, a carbon copy of you!) and makes him or her into a concrete person you want to make happy. For example, you may create the following profile:

    "John Brooke, 27, accountant. Single. Graduate of Loyola College. Plays games alone about once a week, and with male friends on a next-generation console plugged into an HDTV in his living room on weekend afternoons. Focuses on competitive, action games like Gears of War and Madden. Watches football one day a week. Favorite TV shows are Lost and Sopranos reruns. Drives an Audi A4. Drinks imported beer."

    The profile answers the following questions about this target player.

    1. When and where does this person play games?
    2. Who buys the games this person uses?
    3. What platforms does this player use?
    4. How much time does this person spend in each session, and how frequent are gaming sessions?
    5. Who does he or she play with?
    6. What does the player like about games?
    7. What (non-game) brand images appeal to this player?
    8. How much disposable income does this player have?
    9. What licensed content would appeal to this player?
    10. What competes with gaming time for this player?

    Most games have both a primary market and a secondary market; for example, an Asteroids remake might target both preteens and nostalgic 40-somethings. Make a composite for each demographic you hope to target. When available, the composites can be based on actual market research. But even without such research, it is better to invent the composite than to have none at all. With a composite, the entire development team will explicitly agree, which is far better than having everyone independently make different personal assumptions.

    5.6 World

    For all but abstract games, like Yinsh and go, the setting and narrative are significant aspects of production. Most players never create a mental model more sophisticated than the fiction they are told and depend on a consistent virtual world for enjoyment.

    In the world section, give the background. This may be the history of an entire civilization or just the conditions surrounding the main character. Record information about areas and events to keep the decisions made by various team members consistent. The Halo series is based on hundreds of pages of documents detailing several alien races, the main character, the rough geography of the universe, and the detailed geography of the ring world in which the game takes place. The amount of detail needed for your game depends on the scope of the setting and on the player's exploration ability. The only limiting factor is the time you can invest creating and maintaining this information.

    Some of the world information will be revealed to players in the game manual or throughout the course of the game. Other aspects will never be revealed, but their consistency will be felt. Sequels and expansion packs are a great opportunity for revealing aspects that were kept secret in the initial game. Chapter 11 describes methods for building out your world.

    5.7 Characters

    Describe each character's background and motivation. This is especially important for the main character in a narrative-driven game, whose motivations will become the player's own. Include concept and in-game art for each character. List aspects including their:

    1. motivation
    2. physical description
    3. likes and dislikes
    4. family
    5. friends and enemies
    6. vital statistics
    7. education
    8. occupation
    9. transportation
    10. tools/weapons
    11. clothing

    For nonhuman characters, make sure their origins and race are well developed.

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