The process of developing always starts from an idea. Everyone in the world has ideas, but the ability to refine those ideas into something more concrete is what matters the most when it comes to creating a clear vision for a project. Designers are the people that maintain this vision, but what even is a vision? How do you as a designer approach such a thing? One way to do this is to create a vision statement for the game.
The purpose of a vision statement is to go through what you want to accomplish in the future. It's more common to see companies make vision statements for themselves instead of making a new one for each product. For many games, a vision statement serves a very similar purpose as an elevator pitch. It briefly covers all the primary goals of the game, the main mechanics, gameplay elements, and a basic story outline.
Most importantly, a vision statement answers the following questions:
Too many design decisions and adjustments made outside the scope of the initial vision could lead your game in a completely different direction. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, since it can often lead to games becoming something greater than what was originally planned. These changes should be made intentionally, though, and the vision statement updated accordingly. Otherwise, your game might end up having a clear division between different areas of its design.
In a nutshell, a vision statement…
We're now going to go over the vision statement of a game called Grim Fandango. This is a long and detailed vision statement, however, which is not always necessary. There are many teams and games that have only used a couple of sentences or keywords as their vision statement instead of a detailed document.
Read through the statement carefully. What can you learn by reading it?
"Meet Manny Calavera, travel agent at the Department of Death. But there is trouble in paradise. Help Manny untangle himself from a conspiracy that threatens his very salvation. Manny, a true working stiff, is stuck in his own personal purgatory with the ultimate dead-end job. Employed by the Department of Death, Manny must pick up people in the Land of the Living, bring them to the Land of the Dead, and set them off on a four-year journey across the underworld–an excursion that all souls must make before they come to their eternal resting place. Manny cannot move on until he meets his sales quota, but what he does not know is that the cards are stacked against him. He is caught in the middle of an embezzlement ring that is preventing him from getting the right clients. Manny soon finds this out and steals a prime prospect, setting in motion a chain of events that not only threaten his job but also the eternal destiny of his soul. At the heart of Grim Fandango is a gripping story about one man’s journey in a dark underworld fraught with mystery and intrigue."
What do you think? How would you describe your own vision, if you currently have one? Next, let’s look at creating such statements.
Keep in mind, that there isn't a single correct way of creating vision statements. There are many ways you could approach them, and all of us come up with ideas differently, so a creation process that works for someone else may not work for you. You should always pay attention to what other developers are doing, though. Are there currently any trends that are on the rise, or is a genre getting oversaturated right now? If your idea closely resembles 10,000 other games currently being developed, you may wish to hold on to that for now.
We're going to show you one way that you can use to plan out the vision for your game. This can be done by separating the process into three parts: idea, concept, and vision. For reference, we'll use the game Horizon: Zero Dawn. The developers of that game (Guerilla Games) have hosted many talks all around the world about how this game came to be. Their GDC talks can easily be found online if you wish to find out more.
Everything starts with an idea that can be quite simple or very expansive. Many ideas start off very ambitious since there hasn't yet been a reason to think about everything realistically. The original idea for Horizon was an open-world game in which the player would explore a beautiful post-apocalyptic world, filled with robot dinosaurs.
When you turn an idea into a concept, you need to start putting things into perspective. Scale things down, go into specifics. How is the game going to work? What is the gameplay like? What kind of story is it telling? Start planning the overall scope of the game. Prototyping and testing are very important while refining a concept.
The goals for a game should be clear. What are you trying to accomplish? You need to have a clear vision of what the combat will be like, what type of story you wish to tell, what is the overall scope of the game like, and so on.
Answer the following question.
How do you feel so far? Excited? Confused? Either way, take a little break before moving on to a crucial part of the course – communication.