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July 4, 2012

RGP GDD (work in progress)

As I mentioned before I will post all of the development process online. Today I am making a game design document or GDD. This is the first time I am writing one on my own.
I consider GDD to be one the of most important parts of the game development process, especially if there are more than 1 developer working on the project. Well in my case this document will be a lead that will keep me on track and I do not waste time on details while there is not a solid foundation yet.

all content here is a subject to change and will form up in further development of the game. At one point I will have to make a document file. For now this is more like a verbal sketchbook of ideas and concepts not a proper GDD, so here it goes..

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"Racing Game Project¹"

¹I will come up with a proper title in the process


BRIEF OVERVIEW

RGP is a fast paced single player¹ racing game where the player is a pilot of ultra fast, hovering race vehicles². Game setting takes place in a distant future or a fictional parallel universe on various distinct planets around the galaxies. The aim of the race is to test the very limits of racers skills, endurance and cutting-edge technology of vehicles in various terrain and weather conditions, much like Rally Racing and Formula One.

¹ multiplayer not planned for now
² will need a name of the vehicle


STORY

Player takes a role of a race car driver born on a fictional desert planet¹ where except for racing there is not much else to do. Player has to prove that he is the best racer on the planet in order to qualify for much more prestige races taking place in different locations. Here starts player's journey through galaxies and exotic places and extreme races. As player progresses through the game the vehicles get faster and more responsive, racetracks more dangerous and more challenging.

¹planet not yet named
Edit: darn this sounds like a plot from StarWars Ep1 taking place on Tatooine...


GAMEPLAY

Well racing games is all about being first to the finish line.
The goal of my game is for player to experience the racing itself and have fun, rather than finishing the race always first, and this might not be that easy. To do this I might make different vehicle classes or groups separated by their performance. For example player starts with a lower class race car and competes against better race cars. To qualify further, player needs just finish the race, or during the race player competes in different race groups. Player does not have to finish first, but finishing at higher position in your race group is the aim. Overtaking higher class cars might make finish more rewarding. Well of course eventually the final cup becomes a fight for the first place.

But, while the game is in the development, I will focus on primary goals - having great race mechanics and make a challenging opponents.



RACE CARS

Player has a control over a jet engine powered racing vehicles able to reach speeds that exceeds the speed of sound ( in dry air -> 1236 kph / 768 mph). Vehicles are specially designed to be agile and race at extremely high speeds. The overall design is to be aggressive yet sleek, something between jet fighter and Formula-1, the design is very distinct for each class or manufacturer.  Cockpit is completely isolated from outside world as races often take place at poisonous atmospheres, very low atmosphere densities or even vacuum. Race cars are powered by a fictional power source fit in a compact capacitors that can be filled up instantaneously by being near the power source. It also powers the power-ups and onboard weapon system¹.

¹ I am not yet sure if I want add a weapons system in the game.

RACE TRACKS

As races take place in different planets the tracks vary in every possible way -
 track length & width, terrain, weather, hazards, even day/night cycle, etc. As the vehicles are hovering there is no need for a dedicated race track so it can take place at canyons, forests, deserts, rough surfaces and hills and even above water. Off-road racing is much more extreme and adds additional difficulty unlike on specialized racing tracks (from now on called "speedways"). Speedways offer a completely different racing experience - it is more narrow and requires more precision while overtaking and planning turns. 

Length of each racetrack might be around few hundred kilometers. Most of the tracks will be cyclic, but alternate routes will add variation in each lap. Alternate routes are an important part of a race track design. Some of them might be harder to reach, but more rewarding to use, some would shorten the track if used properly, but add risk losing speed otherwise. As I mentioned there are off-road races and speedways. Speedways are powered with a force field that keeps race cars on the track. This allows speedways to be oriented at any angle, and keeps vehicles racing even upside down. When off-road, racers have full freedom. Off road races takes place at canyons, dry lakes, oceans, hills and snow filled landscapes. The only lead that shows you that you are on the course are checkpoint marks, it is up to you how you reach them.


GAME MECHANICS


I plan to keep the controls as intuitive and simple as possible, so it has a steep or almost non existent learning curve even for newcomers in the racing genre. The difficulty of game will increase as the player progresses in the story. I want to completely get rid of manual difficulty settings in game options.

I am putting high priority on the vehicle physics. Making a race game for cars without wheels makes the task much easier, but getting the right feel and believability might be a difficult task. The ground friction is non existent (as the vehicle does not have contact with ground) I get to play around more with air friction and physics laws behind it. This involves changes in vehicle control at higher speeds, changes of pressure at different atmosphere densities or behind other vehicles.
Visual feedback as vapor cone at high speeds and humid environments will add more realism in physics presence.


PRESENTATION

Having a memorable and unique visual style is one of the most important tasks in the development process.
As I have graduated in fine arts, I feel that visual aspect of the work is one of my strongest sides. I am planing to keep the game in somewhat retro futurism style, like seen in 60s - 70s futurist artworks - smooth, bright, shiny and simple, but in the same time functional and realistic.
As a professional shader designer I will focus on creating the game visually stunning and physically plausible using atmospheric effects, smooth lighting, volumetric clouds, smoke and fog, dynamic FX and sophisticated post-processing. As the hardcoded lighting engine in BGE is currently quite limited, I will make a completely custom lighting, shading and effects engine, written from ground up completely in GLSL.
(to be continued)

REALIZATION

I am making my game in Blender Game Engine (BGE). I am a long time BGE user and I know what it is capable of as well as its limits.

This is how I plan to split the realization process.

- planning & preparation
- sketching & concepting
- developing game core mechanics
- developing graphics and shaders
- developing game art
- developing sound, graphics & effects
- putting all together
- playable alpha version
- debugging

planning and preparation
Is stuff I am doing here right now - collecting my ideas and putting them on paper. Gathering inspiration - watching videos, images, reading books. Drawing sort of an initial roadmap for the development. Having a good rest before sketching and concepting. Taking a rest nicely fit in this schedule as I am moving back from France to Latvia.

sketching & concepting
Taking a look at collected ideas, then getting rid of complex and stupid ideas and keeping simple and good ones.
Making sketches and concept art of environments, vehicles, characters, menu, HUD, overall style, etc.

Alternately "sketching" the game code, making code snippets and proof of concepts. Visualizing it on paper how all pipeline interacts with idea to have easily upgradeable system. Creating a simple test vehicle. Making of a playground for testing gameplay, car handling and physics, tracks, controls etc.
Making of first track sketches with placeholders. Testing it over and over again till it plays right.

developing game core mechanics
Taking the "sketched" game code and clean, polish, and make it solid till basic gameplay works and I have something to build further features on.

developing game art
Here starts track building from track sketches, car making from concept art, texture painting, menu creation, prop modeling, etc.

developing graphics,  sound & effects
Making of unified shading system as I plan to have every material for the game to be completely hand written. Making particle effects. Recording, mixing, and making of sound effects

putting it all together
as fun this sounds, it is actually a long process of separating directories, optimizing models (LoD), linking them to scenes, optimizing scenes, adding collision meshes, optimizing shaders. Then comes lighting, adding effects and testing & tweaking till it looks and plays right.

playable alpha version
fun part for everyone, game-testing, collecting bugs and stuff.

debugging
ensuring that bugs does not distract game experience.


INSPIRATION

Here is the list of games and artists which I consider my mentors for this project:

1. Wipeout series from developer Psygnosis is first title everyone mentions when seeing concept art. I am a big fan of Wipeout 2097 (1996, 2002 Mac), which I used to play on my old Mac a lot.
2. Sparth (Nicolas Bouvier) is my favorite concept artist since I started game-dev as an artist in 2006. The atmosphere and feel in his works is the main inspiration for environments of my game.
3. Star Wars Episode I: Racer by LucasArts (1999), awesome game. Love the race tracks, feel of speed, sound design, etc.
4. Syd Mead does not need an introduction :) or does it? he is awesome!
5. DethKarz by Melbourne House (1998) - an underrated futuristic racing game with beautiful visuals for the time. basically Wipeout + wheels.
6. John Wallin Liberto
7. Extreme G Racing series from Acclaim -  Extreme G2 (XG2) (1998) finally a game where you can break the sound barrier and it is actually shown and heard
8. Vyle (David Levy)
9. F-ZERO series
10. Goodbrush (Craig Mullins)

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day3:
just posted first version of GDD. It is awesome how much things get clear while writing a game design document. I did not put even half of my initial ideas, so that is the work for tomorrow. I feel that much of the game will form up while writing more in-depth description for each of the planets, cars and the technical details.

day4:
updated some stuff. I had a 3 day holidays, but I am back now. I got prematurely a little worried about technical stuff like getting precise relative position of each race-car on the track. But I consider this as a healthy challenge and extra experience in vector math.

day8:
added stuff in "PRESENTATION"

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