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The Other Side of Games

30 October, 2008 (09:33) | News and Commentary | By: walker

Games can be anything. Implementation is certainly restrictive, but design potential is basically limitless. Because of this potential it’s very likely that a great many game elements are cycled through before a final set is decided upon. It may be then that a game can be better understood by what it is not rather than by what it is. Seeing the other side of design decisions can add immense value to the elements that were implemented. Here are a few categories where the “other side” can be seen:  

  • Alternate or developmental versions of game elements. These could be versions of character designs, plot (dialogue, events, etc.), art, setting, or different design parameters that would change gameplay. What’s key here is that these elements have a counterpart in the actual game, whether it’s a different version of the element or a similar element designed for the same purpose. 
  • Elements developers left out. This can range from game play features to a truncated story to a smaller graphic set. They could come in two forms: elements that had been coded and pulled or elements left out of code but manifested in other creative materials. Key here is that no version or comparable elements exist in the game. 
  • Deliberately disposable elements. These are elements designed to help developers work through ideas, flesh out game dynamics, test functionality, etc. Molyneux’s development model in this interview is a good example. Here he explains the testing modules the development team used to pilot their ideas. 

Keeping an eye out for the “other side” is naturally desirable in collecting and preserving, but it has other benefits as well. It is invaluable in bringing the story of a game’s design into a fuller light. Lost elements are a crucial component of the game-creation narrative in that they complete our view of the decisions that made the final product. You could argue that there is no story without them. 

Lost elements also help in retaining and marking ideas that would otherwise go under the radar. Those ideas are often borne out in player modifications, and in the case of MMO’s, added ad hoc by player-designed limitations and role playing. In this way the story of an idea is more fully recorded.

The ‘other side’ can show up in any way developers talk to each other or to publishers, distributors and fans: conversations, design documents, images, mockups, prototypes, and so on. Materials of this sort could even fall outside certain IP restrictions if an element is deemed not part of the game proper.

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