Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
from the get-go. But when we build everything in graybox first, we can
afford to fail a few times before getting the mechanics just right. Only
after the design is proven do we invest the resources to produce it to fin-
ished audiovisual quality.
Some people worry about how grayboxing affects artists, audio engi-
neers, and other content creators. At first glance it looks like they might
get frustrated being asked to simply “art up” gray shapes. In reality, artists
usually appreciate grayboxing because it means their art gets thrown out
much less often. Without grayboxing, artists must work on unproven de-
signs, so much of their work is inevitably trashed for reasons unrelated to
the art itself. But when working over a well-tested graybox, the artist works
with commitment because he trusts that what he creates will be used.
Even better is having artists consult with designers during the graybox
stage to give input on what a box could become. This way, they've already
had a hand in every graybox that they're asked to beautify, so they already
understand and believe in it.
wHat not to gRayBox
Grayboxes let us test most of a game experience, including mechanics
and fictional meaning. But they aren't the whole experience. Grayboxes
obviously don't generate the emotions that would have been driven by the
missing art and music.
So grayboxing become less useful the more audiovisual-driven the
experience is. Games like LIMBO and Flower would suffer greatly in gray-
box since they lean so heavily on audiovisually driven emotional triggers.
However, Counter-Strike and StarCraft II would play quite well in graybox,
since they were always about the mechanics.
PRematuRe PRoDuCtion
There is always a temptation to break graybox and start using polished
assets too early. I call this premature production .
PREMATURE PRODUCTION is when a designer adds art and audio to a
graybox design before it is necessary to get the next round of test data.
In the short term, adding audiovisuals to an unfinished design feels
great. Graphics and sound can make hearts flutter, and they bring smiles
in review meetings. The problem is that this emotional benefit is short-
lived, while the cost of that art must be paid again and again through the
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