Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
rest of the process. Every iteration loop from here on out is slowed by the
process of reworking the art to match the changing mechanics. Ultimately,
the art's cost is far greater than the initial effort it took to create, and it
must be paid long after that initial emotional impact has faded.
Worse, premature production limits the final quality of a game. We
always run out of places to add audiovisuals eventually, after which the
mechanics become the limit on the game's quality. But if we hid a weak
mechanical core with art, we can't fix it without tearing the art off. We end
up stuck with deficient mechanics that we can't change because of the art
that's been created around them.
It takes discipline to stay in graybox. After a failed playtest, it's tempt-
ing to quickly cover up design faults with art. But unless the art brings
useful data in the next playtest, this is a mistake. Art should be added as
late as possible to get useful test data.
gRayBox evaluation skill
Playing a good graybox does not feel like playing a good game. This means
that evaluating grayboxes is a skill that must be learned through practice.
One must have evaluated many grayboxes to have the emotional calibra-
tion to know what a good graybox feels like and what a bad one feels like.
Without that skill, we're likely to reject even an excellent graybox simply
because it lacks art.
This causes problems in group decision situations when some people
don't have the skill of evaluating grayboxes. They'll look at the design and
get a bad feeling about it just because it is ugly. This is the halo effect in
action—the poor quality of visuals create an emotional impression that
bleeds out to become someone's opinion of the entire design. So they'll
reject the design, even if it was working well.
In real design processes, this is typically the biggest problem around
grayboxes. So be careful about who makes decisions about a graybox
design. Nobody without practice in evaluating grayboxes should be doing
it, because they're very likely to make poor decisions due to the halo effect.
If they must make such decisions, it might be necessary to engage in some
premature production despite the cost.
tHe sCReenPlay metaPHoR
Many people assume that a game should start with a big design document
because that's how movies are made. But that metaphor is wrong.
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