The Butterfly Effect
Updated: May 31, 2020
Today has very much been a day that was focussed on decisions…
If we want to offer the players more opportunities to strategize - should we expand the level map and make it more complex or should we stick to a simple map but expand on the realm of enemies or even add items? How much additional work could one or the other decision create for the other teammates? A seemingly “simple” decision like a more complex level map, for example, can easily snowball into more questions when it comes to enemy-pathfinding, the creation of an environment that looks reasonable instead of deserted and - most of all - the dreaded assassin of gameplay and level design - the CAMERA.
In the end we decided to focus more on the realm of enemies and now we have introduced two more variants: a weak but fast Sprinter-type and a slow but strong and tanky Elite-type. But we also scrapped our initial level topography and recreated a new one that would work better with a fixed camera. The whole design process reminds me a bit of knitting, especially when it comes to changing aspects: you can try to pull on a specific thread but since everything is interwoven the rest of your knittwork will follow.
The second big decision of this day was concerned with priorities: we only have one single Programmer and even though he is fast and efficient he can only work on one task at a time. So should he concentrate on refining the pathfinding of the enemy AI or should he rather work on the creation of a wave system for our newly established enemy variants? Even better - what will we do if the two designers have opposing opinions of which task to prioritize? Personally, I found the establishment of waves more sensible because it would give the designers something to playtest and balance for the following days - so I voted for this one as the first task. My co-designer reminded me that we have to present our alpha-version on Monday so his preference was a fluid pathfinding for the enemies so it would look more polished in the presentation. In the end, he agreed on the wave mechanic, but I really hope he did it because he found my arguments convincing and not because he wanted to avoid a discussion.
I think what stayed with me the most when it comes to today is the impact and the consequences my decision as a designer can have for others. To be clear - it was something I already knew in theory, but seeing it play out in the project has made it so much more palpable for me. I hope I will grow in this area and learn how to make wise and well-informed decisions in the future.