The Fourth Dimension - Game Design Doc [WIP]

Been working on a full GDD for a while now, but with massive breaks in between here and there. Now that I'm back from holidays, I'm hoping to crack my whip and get back onto making my game design portfolio. Since this is my centrepiece (or it better be with it's sheer number of pages), I thought I'd leave it here for some comments (even though sumea is a bit quiet at the moment...) whilst I finish the 10-20% which needs to be finished.

The Fourth Dimension - GDD
(it's online, so I can't sue you =P)

In short, it's an RPG with real-time fighting elements. I don't expect anyone to read it all, so I'll also put the Overview here:

Overview

High Concept

Four Dimensional is a game developed in the RPG genre which centres itself on interactive storyline, real-time combat and ease of play.
Gameplay

Four Dimensional is a third-person role-playing-game that implements an interactive story, real-time button-combination-based combat and an open, but moderately linear, explorable world. The story flows around stories of many gifted individuals and their interaction with a completely fictional, and highly imaginative, world and it's people. The main features which players can interact with this game include interactive choice for story; a real-time combat system based from fighting games where combination of buttons is favoured over simple selection alongside party member management; and an open world which is vast enough to warrant exploration over the duration of the standard RPG-based world.

Implementation

Four Dimensional would be favoured for console development given the combination requirement of combat, however size may become an issue given the 'choose your own adventure' approach and large world. Developing a motion-sensor approach to a Nintendo version is only required if an action can be easily implemented with an easy-to-use motion. Online capability, of all console types and PC, is almost seen as a pre-requisite for many games, and this would be used to advertise the co-operative play of combat which can also be accessed through standard multiple-controller use of consoles (a versus component may also be acessible).

Four Dimensional has a variety of ways in which it can be implemented which will depend upon the success of the game and the level to which it will be used as a franchise. Though the game is designed to be a one-off game, prequels, sequels and even the breakdown into episodes are all possible points of implementation. The game includes enough characters and only a particular slice of the larger fictional world which translates to more levels/areas and plot to develop prequels and sequels. Another possible approach, which has become increasingly popular in games recently, is to implement the game episodicly where episodes would be based around one character in every episode (e.g. Laura would feature in episode 1).

Distribution, futher implementation strategies and expanding on the above points are all discussed in Market Analysis.

Key Selling Features

Expansive world which provides user with sense of adventure and gives the story with a wide variety of settings and themes. World is 'open', by allowing gamer oppurtunity to travel back and forward, but somewhat linear concerning story development.

Character-heavy game with anywhere between 4 and 10 playable characters; each with substantial character development throughout the game.

Other characters can be ordered to follow certain commands to work effectively against enemies as a team.
Difficulty levels are built around the selection of hard route versus easy route for certain sections of the game This allows 3 difficulty levels: easy, hard and free-form.

Co-operative and competitive enabled for game as a secondary mode aside 'story mode' with possibility of online play. Versus mode may also be a possibility, or extension, of the game.

The common 'leveling' of the RPG genre is replaced with a focus on learning new abilities through training, scrolls, etc and item hunting which results in players having to do as little 'number-crunching' as possible.

Battle style is a mix between fighting games (where a combination of buttons translates to character attacks/abilities) and RPG (where character management and strategy is essential) while keeping the flow between being in and out of battle.

Designed universe is infinite in a theoretical sense as exploration of dimensions is developed, though developed world

Design Goals

Flexibility – Game should be created with the knowledge that every player gives a different approach to every game and thus the game should allow this flexibility by giving the user choice, or the illusion of choice, in regards to story development, game progression and exploration.
Simplicity – The game should be designed to be as simple to the user as possible in terms of learnability and usability.
Story-driven – The game should be designed around the plot, but never take control away from the player for too long.

Plot Setting

The world has long progressed through the ages where people believe one power can rule the lands, but is not naïve enough to hold belief of peace throughout. Terms such as nationalism favour few, and globalisation even fewer. The world exists divided: geographically, socially, politically, economically, technologically, religiously, and magically. But in this division is a precarious balance which has been forged through the passing of time exists, but like all things that must be balanced, good and evil must exist. If this balance breaks, only a god would be able to stop the snowball which the devil will purposefully cast.

Two youths named Laura and Taille exist in this world with a special gift unheard of previously in the catellogues of time, and their story fatefully intertwines with other unique beings in a quest for revenge, gain, belief, answers, salvation, peace and laughter. Boundaries which have been created through time will be broken by those who fight with strong reason; even the boundary of time itself.

Objective

The game's basic objectives can be broken down into the two higher level challenges of completing the story and completing the game. Though they can be essentially categorised together, completion of the game entails meeting all provided challenges within the game which are discussed in Challenges. Throughout the episodes, a player should constantly feel the story drive them forward, which in turn places 'completing the story' as a goal the player must accomplish to discover the entire story. Challenges of the game should also be enticing for a player to undertake with the promise of both a deeper understanding of the story and an increased ability in playing the game (I.e. more techniques, items, etc).

Soul's picture

Free afternoon == time to read this thing!

One thing I can already suggest, before using this in your portfolio, is finding a friend who is a good editor and getting them to go through your work. Obviously this is still in a draft stage, so it's not crucial right now, but it will need a bit of polish and attention to detail in order to make sure it's an impressive centrepiece for prospective employers.

Take it easy!
-Soul

P.S. My apologies for any grammatical or spelling errors in this post - they are almost certain to appear whenever writing about editing :)

Bittman's picture

Thanks for the advice. I plan to QA once everything is done, because it is not little things change along the way so I would only need to QA it all over again a bit later.

Soul's picture

Just finished! I skipped the appendix to avoid any potential confusion with overlapping or contradictory information - design documents are always challenging enough on their first reading - so my apologies if I miss anything covered within it.

If I had to explain this game to someone, I'd call it "Final Fantasy meets Street Fighter", which is probably enough to make the Japanese market wet its collective pants. Some people feel its tacky to refer to other titles when describing a design, so for fthose people let's call it a "story-driven J-RPG, mixed with traditional beat-'em-up combat elements". I prefer the former description, myself.

What I like about this document is that, at times, you provide some clear insight into the rationale behind the stereotypical decisions made by this genre. For example,

".. not to encourage saving large amounts early for powerful gear which may ruin the balance in early combat challenges, some gears[sic] should only be obtainable in certain shops which are further into the game."

or,

"... areas which encourage Exploration Control are either spacious areas to give the sense of travel or cluttered areas to give the sense that the terrain itself is a puzzle."

show that you're already thinking beyond the "list of guns" + "list of items" = "game design" school of thought. Understanding the impact of your choices upon the player, whether they be physical, emotional or intellectual, is the cornerstone of good game design (in my opinion, at least).

I especially liked the idea of enabling "combination technique assistance" for more casual players - it's a great idea, and is the sort of thing that should be turning up in more mainstream titles.

Barring the A4 page of scribbled notes sitting in front of me, I have two pieces of advice; the first is related to document layout. Because most people won't have time to read your document in its entirety, it's always a good idea to put your high-level, executive summary style text at the top of each section. For instance, in your "Player Interaction" section, "Character Control" should probably appear before the list of buttons contained in the "Actions" section. In fact, you should probably endeavor to write a clear and lucid high-level description of every major element of your design.

The second is to introduce the idea of "gameplay minutes". Gameplay minutes are prose descriptions of a passage of play, and are a great way to convey the experience of playing your game to the reader. The level of detail you go in to is entirely up to you; maybe you want to write a rousing, dramatic account of combat, or take a more technical view and describe the button combinations the player might use to perform a sequence of actions. You already have an excellent flair for fiction, so I suspect using this technique may greatly help others in visualising your game.

Well, that's all I've got! Sure, there might be a few, remaining nit-picky issues - they're really not very important - but feel free to send a message my way if you want to discuss it further. Overall though, good work!

-Soul

Bittman's picture

Thanks a ton for your advice and proper comments. Final Fantasy meets Street Fighter probably sounds right, though I of course intend to bring it across in a better way.

Thanks for your comments on insight. I was often worried that I was not specific enough with some parts, but I guess comments show more insight than numbers.

Document Layout: An executive summary hey? Sounds like something I should have thought of earlier since I've had to do them in other documents I've written. Excellent tip.

Gameplay Minutes: I like the wording, and I had also thought of something like this but wasn't sure how to convey it without making it sound like an unrealistic dream.

Thanks a ton for reading it all (didn't actually expect that), your comments are more than I could have hoped for at the moment anyway. If I want to discuss it more (and bug you more) I might message you, but perhaps I'll save it until I've completed it (should only take a few hours, except this isn't the only thing I'm doing at the moment).

Anonymous's picture

Fourth Dimension seems like a solid game design. I like how you are focusing character development on a "non-grinding" schematic...this gives a lot more incentive for new/beginning characters, and adds a sense of equality to the game. Have you pitched this to anyone?

--
Frank

Bittman's picture

1) I'm using it in my resume, and hence it needs to be freely available on the internet.
2) Pitching game ideas to studios probably has a 1 in a million chance of working from my viewpoint.
3) It's not finished yet
4) It is only for my resume, if it was something I was paid to write up I would have some things working much better. As it is now it's difficult to find time to finish it off let alone change it.

Thanks for your comments though. The "non-grinding" thing is as you say, but more importantly to deviate from the norm some designers feel is required which leaves many games appear as stagnated sequels than original ideas. A lot of what I put into the Fourth Dimension addresses what I see wrong with some current RPG's given evolving demands of gamers.