Archive:PlayNOW! - 2 - Order vs. Chaos

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  • Published: ?
  • Host:
  • Author: Paul O’Connor
  • Game: Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee
  • Format: Publised Online


Unfortunately, we were unable to recover the second half of this designer diary. If you have a copy, please let us know.

The Designer Diary

Part Two: Order vs. Chaos

There is a ‘chicken and the egg’ quality to software development. What comes first? The art is dependent on the design, which is dependent on the programming, which is dependent on what the other departments want to accomplish. Also, everything is dependent on a publisher to distribute the game, which is dependent on a schedule to finish the game in a reasonable amount of time. The schedule, in turn, is dependent on the design, which is dependent on prevailing market whims and forces, which of course must be anticipated years in advance of the game actually hitting the shelves, because these things aren’t built overnight …

It’s chaos. How can you ever get started, with everything depending on everything else?

You start by Deciding.

In my last column, I listed many of the responsibilities of a game designer: building levels, defining controls, writing documents, and more. What I didn’t list was arguably the most important task of all—​deciding. Someone has to make choices. Someone has to be the arbiter of what is and what is not good gameplay. That person is the game designer.

Does the game designer have the last word? No. The proof is in the playing. No matter how well intentioned, if the game just isn’t fun to play, then we rip it out and go another direction. No, better than the last word—​and far more critical, considering the time and money that’s on the line—​the designer has the first word. It is the designer’s job to bring order out of chaos by setting creative priorities and forging a comprehensive view of the game, both at its inception and during development.

There were lots of bits and pieces swirling around when we started work on Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee. Here are some that were most significant:

Story: The story of Abe, the hero of our first two games, needed to continue into the next title. How has Abe changed since the end of Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus? Does he continue to lead the struggle against the Magog Cartel, or has he gone back to being a simple, ignorant Mudokon? Character Design: How do we introduce Munch, the newest lead character in the Oddworld universe? What powers does he have? What does he look like? What is his story, and how does he connect with Abe? Technology: What will be required of our new 3D game engine? What platform(s) will have the hardware horsepower to run our game? Gameplay: What play aspects of previous Oddworld games will carry forward into this new title? What new ones will be added?