Prototyping with Graphs

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Before we start a process of prototyping the location in 3D, ussualy using tools from chosen engine it’s good to illustrate our idea with graphs. Of course, it’s possible to draw only a simple scheme on paper (what I personally practice) but that way we might miss mistakes we would find by making graphs. Why? Because graphs give us a specific pattern with which we have a detailed overview on our project. It is because we include all the events which have to happen during the gameplay. It allows us to check if everything works fine like moving through locations and playing certain events. 

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Picture above shows a simple graph made in program called yEDIt is a sample level with arrangement of locations and events for a simple platform game with collecting items and fighting monsters.

At this moment, I have to be honest and describe what this graph shows us step by step. Game starts in a green circle, which is a START point. Yellow rectangles symbolize rooms or separate locations, arrows – how we can move between them. As you can see, in “Library” player has to decide which way he wants to go: through “Demonic Tower” or “Library2″. If he chooses the first location, he can visit “Library2”, but not the other way. Next to “Demonic Tower2″ we can see two additional fields: orange trapeze, which shows the moment when enemy spawns, and a violet circle – an item to pick up. There is also one another element worth your attention, located at the end of this episode of the game. It is a conditional statement, based on a simple mechanics “if player make A, then do B”. In this case, in location “Bridge2″ the game will check if player got a book from “Demonic Tower” location. If he did, an additional enemy spawns and a text is displayed on the screen. If not, nothing happens.

Constructing this kind of graphs is useful because we define how many and what type of blocks we use.  In a moment I’ll tell you about methods of creating such concept. But first, I want to show the same graph as above but modified and expanded for a First Person Perspective game.

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As you might noticed, it is very similar to the previous one but contains extra elements. Because of huge possibilities in edition of graphs, it was simple to insert them. 

What is new? I added a script for closing a door (“C_door”, marked in blue) when player moves to a specific location. Also, you can see a “Key” in the white rhombus which informs player that he needs an adequate item to go on. Finally, we spawn main boss (“Bridge Boss”) at the end who player has to defeat to end this level. While fighting, new “Undead_monster” spawns every twenty seconds.

As you can see, such graph gives us a good overview to estimate things like: time needed to end an episode, amount of resources needed to create these levels or what player can or can’t do.

Making a graph at the beginning of a project has the advantage of not leaving any unanswered questions, especially if it’s detailed. We can put there some very complicated conditions or extra events. Furthermore, if we want or need to, we can add things like “play something now” event in a specific time. With one glance we know entire structure of our location what allows us to modify our project easily or slap ourselves for some reckless ideas.

I hope I was able to show you, dear reader, what prototyping with graphs is and you would try using those techniques on your own. But if you mastered this weapon, share your thoughts, please. Or maybe you use other methods? 

2 thoughts on “Prototyping with Graphs

  1. To start , this was a very well written Article and presentation of work , also i believe that using a flowchart is a very good tool when designing games , because it allows you to create somewhat of the framework for the story line ( if the game has one at all) and also because it makes planning and editing the sequence of events before the construction much easier. Flow charts also are good for prototyping games because you can add-on to what you already have made and have a easier way of organizing how the games levels should run , and also it makes designing the game much easier , because you will already have a rough copy of what the game should be like in front of you. And Finally The use of a graph can make scripting the game somewhat easier because if you were to have a detailed flowchart of the game you could signify when the door should open or close etc. and example would be in a game i am developing , in which i could signify when the system would go online or offline or when the Facility ventilation should be accessible as a Hidden Passage , and thus i conclude my comment. – NARWALL23 , Owner and Head Developer of Dual Fire Interactive

  2. First off great article very informative to the beginner like me. I will definitely be referencing this for help. Flow charts are a great prototype. They give you the first look into what a video game or any visualization would look like. Flow charts help you get a looking down onto the game perspective. While the player has only a liner view of the game. Flow charts help out when you have an idea in your head but don’t know how the game would look like.

    When you finish the game or near finish you could use the flow chart as a map. The flow chart could lead the player where they need to go. For example player walks down hall take left or right door, player takes left door, player is attacked. Flow charts can work to a limited extent as a map. An extension to the maps they could also work out as where special items are ect… .

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