Sunday, 27 July 2008

Mind Mapping: Succinct Ideas made Incomprehensible

I haven't worked on K2 for a while, mainly because I really wasn't sure where I was going with it. It's hard to get excited about an idea which doesn't get you motivated. As a result, I decided that today's work would be about defining what I wanted from the game, which in turn might bring me to a better understanding of the actual tasks I'm facing.

Friend Leigh Ashton introduced me to the concept of Mind Mapping. Through this process, you essentially unload your thoughts onto the page. By starting at a root, and filling outwards, you eventually get a more and more detail picture than you ever would if you kept it in your noggin all at once. The human mind can only deal with 5-7 concepts at once, so this mind map becomes a kind of augmented RAM as you channel the ideas onto the page.

It occurs to me that since a lot of the time, developers don't like to read high level design documents*, the act of writing the design document is often far more important than creating the artifact for others to read.

While ideas remain in your mind, they are unreal - indisctinct platonic ideals. The gulfs of reality that they must cross are vast, but your brain always seems agile enough to distort reality, and make you feel like the idea is a coherent one. The act forces you to think these ideas through - to birth them into something which isn't using reality distortion as a crutch. In other words, writing documentation is just a tool which will hopefully hold up a mirror to your ideas, and show their flaws early on.

Here's the results of my Mind Mapping for K2. I've used a program called "FreeMind" which is nice and easy to use to generate this kind of brain-dump.

I doubt it is anything close to coherent upon first viewing, but the process has certainly helped me understand what I want from this game, and has made me super excited to get started.

It's a completely over ambitious project, but my hope is that by working outward from the core gameplay, toward the lofty goal of Social Mechanics and self harmonizing persistant universes, I'll be able to tackle the project bite by bite.

I'm inspired by Mount & Blade who seem to be doing the same thing. Each new release results in deeper gameplay, giving the core mechanics more and more context and depth.

*Obviously, a well written technical design is worth its weight in gold. But high level bluesky wishywashiness? Not as useful to the dev in the trenches.


Digital Media said...
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Ed said...

Hey Aubrey, I was investigating different mind-mapping software and found my new favourite: XMind.

It imports Freemind files too.

I'm struggling to write a design doc though. Maybe I just need to knuckle down to Word and force some structure, rather than just replicating the unstructured nonsense in my head :D