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Dead Space's Beaver: Design Docs No 'Blueprint' For Game Complexity

Talking to Gamasutra as part of an in-depth interview published today, Dead Space senior producer Chuck Beaver has been discussing the importance of game
Talking to Gamasutra as part of an in-depth interview published today, Dead Space senior producer Chuck Beaver has been discussing the importance of game design docs for initial planning, but not to religiously follow throughout the project. Beaver, who is one of the key architects behind the M-rated survival sci-fi/horror project in development at EA's Redwood Shores studio, explained of the importance of starting with a rigid game design document and expanding from there: "The difference between planning and plans is that your plans, as soon as they're made, are fairly worthless, but the planning is invaluable. So that's what we're learning. Writing down everything is almost useless as soon as you've written it down. But thinking about it enough that you can write it down is the point. Then, when you start building it, and it starts falling apart for various reasons, then you're like, "Well this doesn't work, and that doesn't work." Then you're like, "Oh, okay, from this huge body of research we've done, here's the next step to take to go where we're going." So what we've learned is that that's what you're after; that big body of understanding of what you're trying to do. This way, when it starts to mess up, you're like, "Okay, we'll try this; we'll try that." So you're not just shooting in the dark forever, wasting your resources." Expanding further on the role of the design document in today's massive projects such as Dead Space, Beaver noted: "I think "design" used to be where you would just write a gigantic design document that was huge, and you'd throw it over the wall, and say, "That's our design!" And that's clearly not how a 4D product works; your dynamic is through time. It's not like designing the Sydney Opera House, where it's just a static object. It's a blueprint... So for you to even talk about what you are doing, you have to almost have it there, and just go through it, and just get through it. So we're doing that, we're doing a lot of prototyping as fast as we can, so we can get these experiences out there, and mess with them. And then from there, we just go into full-on standard production." You can now read the full Gamasutra interview with Dead Space's Beaver, including lots more on the decision to have no cut-scenes in the game, the M rating, and the advancing complexity and sophistication of the game business.

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