I was thinking about how to organize the stage about getting informed about whatever game is needed to develop, what would others do.

For example, if I wanted to develop a game about car racing, I should figure out all the factors during the race, from the car factor to the pilots, etc., environmental factors like weather, circuit conditions, etc.

How does one manage this stage?


  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you referring to production management / game-design / technical direction? \$\endgroup\$ – Jonathan Connell Aug 3 '11 at 15:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I mean, the now how stage where you get familiar about the details in the real world that you need to know when your are designing your game "engine", as an engine I mean the calculations and parameters to simulate whatever you need. \$\endgroup\$ – arrrrgv Aug 3 '11 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the term you are looking for is "research". And I'm quite sure your question cannot be answered because the amount and type of research required varies heavily from game to game. \$\endgroup\$ – bummzack Aug 3 '11 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @arrrrgv I'd actually say Josh is a very helpful and impartial member and the community would do well to have more people like him. He probably took more time trying to understand and edit / reformat your question than you took to post it. I saw the original version and you showed no effort to spell correctly or even capitalize words. You'd do well to change your attitude. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonathan Connell Aug 4 '11 at 8:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ My bad, @Randolf Richardson actually did most of the editing, but my point stands nontheless. \$\endgroup\$ – Jonathan Connell Aug 4 '11 at 10:35
  1. Use your imagination on the general topic if you haven't already.
  2. Do some research online and in libraries / museums too if you're keen.
  3. Play a few similar games, or at least watch youtube vids / read reviews of them. Know your competition.
  4. Rinse, repeat steps 1-3. Slowly your imagination will feed off the ongoing research you are doing, and your game idea will become more defined / refined.
  5. (Optional) Take notes as your major ideas take shape, if you don't have an amazingly good memory.

And before you do any of the above: Get a google account if you don't already have one, and set it up for tagging so you can use it as an all purpose database. Gmail, google docs and google bookmarks all use tagging as you probably know, to cross reference information by topic. What if you have two categories, "fuel" and "circuit conditions", and a single article matches both? -- So, tag to keep track of the cool stuff you'll find. You can search gmail more easily by typing eg. label:"circuit conditions" label:"crashes" into the gmail searchbar to find an article you know you saw somewhere on both these topics...

And as Phil has stated -- using a cyclical approach like this will show you quickly enough if your idea is not something you wish to pursue.

EDIT: And as Randolf has suggested, even if you only scribble notes that you will never look at again, scribbling notes and sketches has the impact of solidifying concepts in your mind.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 because this appears to be a good solution. I'd emphasize more on the 5th point though because even people with really good memories can still benefit from writing things down. \$\endgroup\$ – Randolf Richardson Aug 4 '11 at 6:26

There are many different approaches you can use. Since the 1980s, I've been designing an MMORPG and using a hierarchial point-form layout in simple ASCII text files (which are also organized hierarchially)...

Initially, I started out with a vision of having a system with a bank of modems, which was inspired by a real-time multi-user game called Infinity Complex on a multi-line BBS which was apparently running the Galacticom BBS software. Then in the 1990s the internet swept the public by storm, and I upgraded (or scaled up) my vision to accommodate a much larger multi-player base.

To organize the data, I have a set of directories like this:

  • Project_name

    • Concepts

      • Cartography (maps of the planet, continents, cities, dungeons, etc.)
      • Creatures (monsters that are computer-controlled)
      • Environment (plants, buildings, terrain, etc.)
      • Foods (some real, some fantasy)
      • Items (things the players can pick up and use like tools, art, etc.)
      • Magic (spells, potions, equipment like wands, etc.)
      • Quests
      • Shops
      • Species (the player-controlled characters, most species have multiple races)
    • Documents

      • Background (detailed histories that are not fully explained in the story)
      • Dictionary (almost exclusively for made-up words)
      • Encyclopedia (almost exclusively for made-up things and places)
      • Story (mine is currently larger than 65 MBs of pure ASCII text, divided up into numbered book sub-directories each containing separate files like "chapter8.txt")
    • Miscellaneous

      • Marketing ideas
      • Screen shots from other games
    • Source

      • Database
      • Prototypes
      • Production (this one is currently empty as I'm currently developing prototypes)
    • Specifications

      • Interface
      • Protocol (for client-server communications)
      • Size of elements (or tiles, etc.)

Within many of these directories, I have a variety of text files named simply and logically, and then in many cases I also have accompanying "Research" directories where I store more files that are the result of research that I've done over the years...

For the Orc species I have a file called "Concepts/Species/Orc.txt" which contains specifications, the various races, abilities, natural intelligence levels, and other information about Orcs. I also have a "Concepts/Species/Research/Orc/" directory which contains pictures and other information about Orcs which I have researched over the years. If I create art for Orcs some day, then I will store it in the "Concepts/Species/Art/Orc/" directory (and make any subdirectories there for the different races, or whatever, if necessary).

For other species, just change "Orc" to whatever the name of that species is. For a species I created where there is no pre-existing data anywhere to be found, if there is something similar to it then I store a copy of it in the relevant "Research" directory for that species. If I need to add a note to a .PDF file, for example, then I'll create a .txt file with the same base filename and save my notes in there.

Another example would be "Shops" which works in pretty much the same way. For the Weapons shop (which is sometimes combined with the Armoury and/or Archery shops in some towns), I have a text file called "Concepts/Shops/Weaponry.txt" which contains a list of various weapons that these shops can carry. There's also another sub-heading for "specialized weapons" in this same text file that lists certain specific weapons that are only available in a few shops throughout the world, along with a little bit of background about why (e.g., the merchant has a specialized skill that is needed to create this particular type of weapon, and there are only three characters throughout the world that have this skill). For shops that are sometimes combined with other shops, I have a special sub-heading in my text file for this too, with references to the filenames for those shops (and then I make sure those shops reference back as well). For pictures of weapons and documentation about how various weapons work (from researching the internet, scanning pages from library books, etc.), I store these files in the "Concepts/Shops/Research/Weaponry/" directory.

The key with using a hierarchy like this effectively though is to try to keep the structure deep instead of flat. In other words, don't fill up your higher (closer to the "root" or "top") in your structure with too many categories -- sub-categorize instead. (If you're so inclined, use a database to store your information; my personal preference just happens to be a deep directory structure instead, and it works quite well for my needs.) If you go flat-and-wide instead of deep, it will become a challenge to navigate and manage, and over time it will feel "disorganized" and be more of a pain to work with.

Under "Project_name" I do keep a few text files, which are:

  • credits.txt (a list of people who have contributed a few ideas, support, etc.)
  • description.txt (a generalized description of the project, will be useful in marketing)
  • names.txt (literally thousands of names I've been dreaming up all these years)
  • vision.txt (general purpose of this project, key features, benefits to users, etc.)

Under the other directories I often have a "resources.txt" file that includes links to web sites (and the dates I found them just in case I need to use a service like "archive.org" to view them in the future) with a note about why the link is relevant. These are the types of resources that I don't absolutely have to have, but would be useful in expanding on further research should I need to at some point (searching for stuff in Google is very helpful, but pre-determined resources like this can still save a lot of time).

I hope this is helpful to you, or, at the very least, interesting enough to get you started.

  • \$\begingroup\$ -1 Or, just live in the modern world, and use tagging. That's what its for. There is also little restriction to the size of files you can upload to the cloud (google docs, basecamp or whatever else you want to use). \$\endgroup\$ – Engineer Aug 3 '11 at 21:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nick Wiggill: I don't understand why you down voted my answer, which was a genuine and constructive attempt at providing one possible solution. You mention tagging (which requires a database), and I even mentioned using a database to store the information as a possible solution while emphasizing that this solution works for me. I also don't understand what you mean about "live in the modern world" as I'm using current technology on modern computers to do this. Using a "cloud" seems like it could be a good solution too, so you could always add an answer of your own. \$\endgroup\$ – Randolf Richardson Aug 4 '11 at 3:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed. I retract my -1. I was just re-reading the stackexchange FAQ and you've not misinformed anyone, so there was no need for the -1 or the bad attitude. I get a bit trigger-happy when I feel its a competition. \$\endgroup\$ – Engineer Aug 4 '11 at 10:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nick Wiggill: Thanks! I really appreciate you taking the time to add comments (+1), and also for changing your vote on my answer. (P.S.: I didn't interpret your comment in the light of having a bad attitude, rather I was just trying to understand where I may have gone wrong with the hopes of learning something new, so no worries there but thanks again.) Hmm, trigger-happy in a Game Development community? That's hilarious! Happy shooting! \$\endgroup\$ – Randolf Richardson Aug 4 '11 at 15:39

I tend to work more iteratively, and break the idea I have down into smaller problems that can be solved more easily. By doing this it helps me see my progress more clearly with concrete results rather than spending weeks researching something that might never make it into the final game.


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