First Week Recap

Just a quick recap of what we did in our first full week at Full Sail.

Allllright, first full week down.   The work isn’t nuts, but it’s definitely steady and I’ve been kept busy.  This whole week has been spent more or less fleshing out our game idea.  What started as the word “RPG” and a bag of odds and ends is actually turning in to something… pretty cool. 

This week was mostly spent on designing characters and backstory of our game.  I’ve always know that games have a lot of backstory; it’s one of the things I most enjoy.  But actually creating it was pretty ridiculous.    There are five of us in our group, and we each had a character to define.  I’m talking characters that serve as nothing more than just an inventory management system have pages of backstory.  Then bringing the five of us together and making it all work?  Well that was pretty interesting.  What’s kind of interesting is seeing people bring their different styles to the characters.  We had one guy go very serious and pretty dark with his.  Another was technical and detail oriented.  I went with something that sounded like a B action movie.  Good stuff.

So after coming up with our character backstories, we were introduced to the character design document.  Let me start by saying, my God, I feel sorry for people that do this for real games.  My game isn’t real.  I mean maybe one day, who knows, but for all intensive purposes this game will never exist.  So we have 5 characters, and for the purpose of this class, nothing else.  This document houses the following:  Name, appearance, backstory, purpose in the game, relations to other characters, attributes, behaviors, sample dialogue, and finally the “vocabulary of motion.” 

Appearance sounds pretty self explanatory.   But this has to be so specific, it’s crazy.  We’re told that this paper is what is given to the artists to design from, so saying, “Tall, red shirt, brown hair,” isn’t going to cut it.  I mean you have to get right in there with details.  I’ll give you a small sample of mine. 

“Robert always wears dark sunglasses.  These shades reflect the owner; sharp and mean looking, but found at a convenience store.  He can always be found wearing a plain white t-shirt.  The t-shirt material is thin, with shorter than average sleeves, much like an undershirt.  Always one for comfort, Robert wears a worn-in pair of jeans that are faded and a bit frayed on the bottom from his footwear stepping on the pant legs.  On the left leg, a hole has been worn on the knee, bare threads stretching across, as if they’ll snap and expose his knee to the elements at any moment.  To complete the outfit, Robert has an expensive pair of snakeskin boots.  Ebony black, and with a perfect shine, they start halfway up his shin and end in a rounded tip at the toes.  The heel of the boot is jet black rubber, with clear signs of wear and tear.  The boots are mostly hidden under the jeans, as Robert does not tuck the pant legs into the boots.” 

And that’s just one paragraph.  Reading back I could find a thousand and one ways to spruce it up.     

Moving on we have backstory, which is exactly as it sounds.  The only thing I’m going to say on that one is that the more detail you put in, the better.  Pages and pages are a good thing. 

Purpose in the game states exactly what the characters purpose in the game is.  It isn’t just a simple word like “hero” or “villain.”  If it’s an NPC, is it there as just background or eye candy?  Is it an enemy?  Is it cannon fodder or significant?  Player character?  Co-op only?  And then once you establish that, you have to describe why it’s doing that roll. 

Next up is relations to other characters.  For the purpose of our assignment, we kept it to just the relationships of the four other characters.  But in a REAL document, you have to list eeeevvveeerrryyyttthhhiiinnnggg.  Let that sink in.  Not just big characters, but NPCs.  Idle town-folk.  And if your characters don’t ever meet over the course of the game, you still have to list them and make note of that.  This can get really big, really fast.  When I say describe relationships, I don’t just mean “Dad” or “Sister” or anything like that.  Again, details reign supreme.  Describe how they met, how they will meet, what their fate will be over the course of the game.   

Attributes are a bulleted list of key, well, attributes of your character.  These can be seen in game or not.  Like if your character is smart, has a quick wit, athletic.  You want to be descriptive here, but not long winded.  Complete sentences, that sort of thing. 

Other programmers will be familiar with behaviors.  They’re basically if-then statements.  An example would be “If the character gets shot in the knee, he cries out in pain and grabs his knee.”  This list can get really, really hefty.  You want to cover every base you can think of.  Idle animations, movements, interactions, everything.  Be as descriptive as possible with these, too.  Your animators are getting this, and the better direction provide, the less they’ll want to hunt you down and stab you in the face. 

Following behaviors is sample dialogue.  Just a few lines of dialogue, and the situations that they would be used in.    

Finally, there’s the vocabulary of motion.  This is a list where you describe EVERY SINGLE THING your character does.  Run, sprint, talk, point, reload, shoot, climb, jump.  Everything.  Again, for our assignment we kept it brief.  Reload gun was sufficient, but in a real one you would need to reload your handgun, shoot your handgun, reload your shotgun, shoot your shotgun, being sure to grab everything.  You think of a game like Assassin’s Creed, and the amount of animations he has are seriously ridiculous.  If I spent some time, I’m confident I could come up with 50+.  Probably 100.   

So that’s basically what we spent our entire last week on.  Creating these characters and moving them over to our character design documents.  Our pseudo-game is starting to look pretty cool.  All of us in my group are starting to get a real attachment to it, and it’s not even real.  Pretty cool. 

This coming week we’ll be working on level design.  Our instructors warned us that if we thought anything in this previous week was hard, we’ll be crying in the fetal position this next one.  The workload so far hasn’t been anything I’d describe as over the top, but it’s been steady.  Which I actually like, helps keep my mind in school and not getting lazy.  And with that I’ll wrap this one up, I know it was super long and with a bunch of details no one cares about.  I think I’m going to try and update this thing twice a week from here on out, to keep these posts from getting humungous like this.  I’ll end by saying…  [insert clever sign-off here].                                                                                                                                                                


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