Making a Role Playing Game (RPG)
RPGs are one of the biggest, most immersive experiences in gaming. RPGs can be compared to reading a great book; there is a lot of time put into reading one and a great deal of deep, emotional satisfaction after completing it. Making an RPG is truly a huge undertaking and is a great case study in development.
First, the sheer amount of data created during the development process needs to be explained; there is a large amount of notes and content generated for story and character development. Depending on the style, story-directed RPGs are typically 20+ hours of game play. For open-world RPGs, add 10 times to that. The bar is high for storytelling in RPGs, so good writers are essential to making an immersive game. Here is a quick list of required story-related content:
- Characters: back story, profession, guild, race, look, class, reputation, etc.
- World and character back story: history, relationships, associations, battles, discoveries, etc.
- Cutscenes: creative briefs, storyboards, scripts, etc.
- Quests: variety of challenges, tie-ins with story and characters
- Locations: descriptions, art direction
- World: detailed descriptions of the locations, history, local people, resources, etc.
- Narrative: What story are you telling, and what are the goals/motivations?
- Game dialog: What are characters saying in the game?
This list doesn't even touch on the game development part. Now that we know a lot of details about what kind of tale we are telling, who is in our world, and what the environment is like, we need to organize the interactivity.
- Design treatment: short summary of product features, game mechanics,
target market, and platforms
- Design doc: long-form design documentation
- Technical spec: detailed technical analysis and risk mitigation plan
- QA bugbase: bug tracker
- Project management: milestone list, task tracking system
- Asset management: docs, code, and art asset management
- Build system: process and technology to build iterative versions of the game
- Asset lists: detailed lists of assets tracked for both programmers and artists
- Interface development: mock-ups, comps, interactive interface, and final interface
And, of course, there is publishing and marketing. Whether you are doing this yourself or providing content to a publisher, there is a lot of work here. The list will become twice as long if your are self-publishing.
In summary, the scale of a project is a major point of analysis that should be taken seriously. Platform, genre, art quality, and team talent should all be evaluated early and often to join the small club of shipped products. Planning, documentation, producing, and coordinating become more important the larger the project. Hopefully, this blog is helping you estimate the scope of your project.