How We All Play Together – Game Design at Fire Hose

“Should this be moving faster?”
“Is this anticipation long enough to be readable?”
“Can it be more awesome?”

For this post I wanted to discuss how the different departments here at Fire Hose influence each other and how we answer some of the above questions when designing a new feature. It will tend to have a bit of an art-focus since animation is the main thing I contribute to the company. In my next post, I’ll go a little more in depth with the art pipeline and walk through a character from design to implementation.

It all starts with a design pitch. This doesn’t necessarily refer to the way the character looks (although we sometimes worked that way too) but it is usually a discussion on how the character will behave in the context of the game.  Here we just try to work out some very broad strokes and create a rough outline of how we want things to take shape.

Of course an actual design document eventually gets into far greater detail than this, but here is the “skeleton” from which we started:

  1. The character will be appearing at point X in game.
  2. This character will need the following props/weapons/vehicles.
  3. The character will move in this certain way and is in environment Y and we’ll have to consider that in its design.
  4. Attacking this character will make use of a special ability or a certain technique.

It’s really important to note that nothing in this design pitch is a concrete mandate. That’s really the beauty of being at a smaller studio; the design process is this totally organic and ever-evolving process that makes use of everyone’s talents.

After this pitch, art, code and design will sit down for an initial brainstorm on what kind of character design and motion would best fit our gameplay thus far. These sessions are usually my favorite part of game development (aside from making stuff move of course!). We just sit down together and blurt out whatever we think might look awesome or feel really cool while you’re playing. It’s like this creative stream of consciousness that is crazy fun and surprisingly productive at the same time.  It’s here where we plan out most of what you’ll see a character do in-game.

These sessions have a huge influence over the entire studio as well.  When we discuss a new idea, we’re potentially inviting many more people into the discussion.  Weapons will need concept, behaviors will need animation, animation will need code support. All of these things get passed back and forth through several iterations as we test. It’s important that we stay aware of the fact that decisions you make can greatly affect someone else’s work and also not to get too attached to certain things, as they can be changed or cut for various reasons.

A major driving force behind the company is everyone’s willingness to give and receive feedback on those ideas. Though not everyone will fancy their selves a designer or an artist, opinions are always welcomed and expected throughout the evolution of the project.  We always try to stay aware of the steps being taken by each other while still allowing people enough “heads-down” time to really crank on the features they’re working on.  Catching that stride in game development is an awesome feeling: when it seems like the bunch of you are moving together as this hive mind, buzzing along and complimenting each other’s genius. It certainly is a huge perk of being at a smaller studio.

So in my next post I’m going to show a bit more of the actual art process here at Fire Hose. Stay tuned!

One Comment

  1. Ben

    Great post. Looking forward to seeing the next one and learning more about the art creation for your game.

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