Planning

AuthorTopic: Planning
Apprentice
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I have read in many articles on this, as well as other sites related to programming, that one needs to "plan" before starting to actually design. What I want to ask is how "thoroughly" one ought to plan?

Like, should I just make a note of all the quests, side quests, sdfs, etc. that are relevant to a certain town or go deeper and even note down what characters are there in the town, with their character nos and what they say, etc. before I begin ?

I tried to do the latter and soon realised that it was too much of a work. So I decided to quit that practice. But that only resulted in me getting totally confused.

What do other designers do? How exactly o you guys go about planning? Maybe, if I could get some order into my venture, I could one day hope of creating something I can release to the community.
Posts: 6 | Registered: Saturday, June 17 2006 07:00
The Establishment
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Before you start, you should have a very good idea of where you are going. There is no need to have every detail worked out; in fact, I'd say that's couterproductive as then it becomes a mechanical process, no room left for fun creativity along the way.

Before even beginning anything, write a short paragraph (no more than 4 sentences) about what the player is going to do in your scenario from beginning to end. It is very important to consider the scenario setting as well as motivation for the adventure.

When I start designing I have a good idea of the general flow, major characters, and how they interact. I leave the details of minor quests and NPCs to when I actually get there. This keeps the adventure fresh enough and it's not like I'm designing off a script.

Finally, I would caution to avoid too much detail. Get the general thing fleshed out and work on the minor NPCs later. This way, if you run out of time, you can release it. It may not be as good as if you did all the work, but at least you will have something playable.

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Posts: 3726 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
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As a bare minimum, I make a hand-drawn map of every town and dungeon with notes on it describing important people, places and events. It doesn't have to be completely precise, and you don't need to worry about things like character numbers or SDFs until you actually start designing. but it should be enough that you know where everything is in relation to everything else. You don't necessarily need to have every town designed before you start designing the scenario, but you should know what you're going to put in a town before you start on that town. Nothing sucks more than having to redesign an entire town because you realise one house needs an extra room and you haven't left any space for it.

[ Saturday, June 17, 2006 20:13: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
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I envision what the party will do and where they will go. I envision what characters the party will meet and where. Basically, what is important to me and ONLY what is important to me, I will know what I am doing before I start designing. Everything else, I can figure out along the way.

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Posts: 6936 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
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Thanx for the advice.

Yes, it would perhaps help me if I first designed the main thing first and then the minor quests. Though, I don't have too many side quests in my scenario, it would help if I wrote the main thing first and then other not-so-important stuff like dialogue for characters not related to the main quest.

I have been doing things the other way uptil now. That is, focusing on completing a town thoroughly before moving onto the next. And also trying to plan everything on paper beforehand. (which was partly having to go through the nightmarish situations like the one Thuryl mentioned) That was practically getting me nowhere.

Hopefully, will now be able to strike a balance between too-much-planning and inadequate planning.
Will try the tactics suggested here and will get back to you, hopefully with news of progress.
Posts: 6 | Registered: Saturday, June 17 2006 07:00
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Posts: 6936 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
Off With Their Heads
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Be sure to take notes as you design, too. There's no need to plan out which SDFs you're going to use before you use them, but there is a definite need to mark down which SDFs you've used after you've used them.

I've never been one for designing on paper before I go to the editor. I like to have a general overview of the plot in my head (not on paper) before I start on a scenario (and a good idea of the major characters and how the party plays into it all, as well as some sense of what the towns and outdoors are going to be shaped like), and I like to have a general sense in my head of what a town will look like before I start work on it, but I also find it useful to let a town grow as I think.

My results with this technique have been mixed, but so have my results with anything else I've tried.

[ Saturday, June 17, 2006 22:18: Message edited by: Kelandon ]

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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
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Yes Kelandon, I do take notes as I design. I can't imagine using sdfs all over the scenario without keeping track of them, after making that mistake in my last unfinished scenario. :(
Posts: 6 | Registered: Saturday, June 17 2006 07:00
Master
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Its very good that you ask this, you know. I had planned my scenario's plot into the detail. I had planned how the quests should be, who gave them, etc. Then I started designing. About 5% of what I planned actually came into the scenario, the rest got erased altogether. What I just want to say with this, is that its good to plan everything, but it isn't very necessary, strictly speaking. Of course it makes eferything just a bit harder and it will take a bit more time, but it will also make everything nicer, and give you more in fun during the process of designing, in my opinion.

During designing I carefully note all SDFs, and also any hidden groups. Quests and such are already documented in the scenario script, so that won't be very necessary. Of Towns I usually have a very clear picture in my head, which I then rebuild in the editor.

The only thing you must be very careful with (which I wasn't able to resist) when you follow the mthod of "planning while designing," is that you might get very anxious to make everything bigger and more elaborate. That's what happened to me. True, I finished the scenario and its now in beta, but at what cost? Whole vacations of slaving away at scripting all my "good" ideas. Please, don't let it happen to you.

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Posts: 3029 | Registered: Saturday, June 18 2005 07:00
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quote:
Originally written by Mc 'mini' Thralni:

Of course it makes eferything just a bit harder and it will take a bit more time, but it will also make everything nicer, and give you more in fun during the process of designing, in my opinion.
I find exactly the opposite to be true for me; if I don't have a plan on paper to work to, once I open the editor I just get blocked and spend a few hours staring at a blank screen.

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Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
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i have done things like this in this fashion all my life. once i start, i see what happens. Some people can do that, and some people can't. I just hate to be bound to ideas, rules and laws which i set for myself, not enabling me to give my creativity its own life. of course I do have to know to some extent what i want to do, but for the largest part I don't really know what I'm going to do.

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Posts: 3029 | Registered: Saturday, June 18 2005 07:00
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Something I've found effective for keeping me on target (and the same for Sicarius) is having a scenario outline or flowchart written out before I even begin design, covering the plot and noting key events and characters (extremely useful for mapping how the plot changes if "Choices" need to be made). I use this as a core for my scenario, almost like a mission statement. When in doubt or conflict, I refer back to this core diagram.
Granted, I have allotted for the ability to change the core process, if I have a really good idea or something.
I also use the same concept for side quests.

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Posts: 735 | Registered: Monday, January 16 2006 08:00
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When it comes to planning (though the advice has already been given), I subscribe to the "let it design itself" method. I just try to get a good fix on what I'm doing beforehand (as *i suggests), then let all the details work themselves out as I code and design. Lately, it's created overly-complex situations where I'm trying to keep track of way too many things, but a way to deal with that usually evolves.

And as for notes, I find that it's just helpful to keep TextEdit open with a running list of used SDFs and what they do (sorted by the town they're used in), quests, and special items. And sticky notes, be they virtual or physical, help a lot.

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Posts: 4130 | Registered: Friday, March 26 2004 08:00
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With the small scenario I'm working on right now, I was able to plan nearly all of it beforehand. After I had decided on the plot, I began fleshing out details by working on a 'projected' SDF list. I highly doubt this will work for a large scenario. My next one will be highly linear, so I'll probably try off-the-cuff designing.

One thing that wasn't mentioned was the importance of releasing the documentation with the scenario. This isn't just for yourself, but for others. For instance, it would have been nigh impossible for me to weed out some of the bugs in Thralni's scenario in the initial beta if he didn't include a SDF list and numbered his town scripts.

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Posts: 1509 | Registered: Tuesday, January 10 2006 08:00