Series Info...Break Somthin’

by Sam Witt
January 17, 2001

I hope you know I pack a chainsaw, what? I hope you know I pack a chainsaw, a [expletive deleted] chainsaw, what? So come and get it Break Stuff — Limp Bizkit

That little snippet's been running through my head all day for a couple of reasons: First, I watched 'Way of the Gun' not long ago, and second, I've been breaking stuff with Horizon Station all day.

See, when I sit down to design something, I always look at the scope of it first. Scope as in, "How big is this thing going to be?" In the case of Horizon Station, the answer was "Pretty darned big. We gotcher asteroid belt, yer space station, and then all that space beyond...."

But the idea was also deep, because I wanted the players to have a real hand in guiding the development of the game after it went live. Which is, as near as I can tell, something of a first in a world where most games have their entire development cycle laid out three years in advance and the players matter only in as much as they continue sending in their ten bucks a month.

Today, I realized that I was only going to get one of the two. With the time I have available, Horizon Station could be deep, or it could be big, but no way could it be both. And so out came the chainsaw.

First off, everything beyond the asteroid belt went away in a multicolored spray of thinky bits. All of it. Thirty pages of notes went from the 'to do' pile into the 'not until after launch, little man' briefcase.

Next up, I took the chainsaw to three-quarters of the space station itself. I could practically hear the metal screaming as I penciled in a half-dozen new asteroid impacts. Overall, it was very cathartic, and the sound effects I made seem to have a strangely soothing effect on the monkeys – I mean children – in my house.

The asteroid belt should have gotten smaller with all the rocks I was tossing at the space station, but it appears that I won't have to change it. It's big, really big, and it'll always be big. Which is good, because it's hard to hide... nope, not going to talk about that yet.

The whole experience taught me something about game design that I shouldn't have needed a refresher on – to think deep, not wide. To any storybuilders reading this, remember that it is not the size of an area that makes it interesting, but rather the number of options that area presents. Today, I decreased the size of the game world for Horizon Station, but I greatly increased the density of options available in the new, more compact version of the game universe.

Now it will really be the players who drive the expansion and growth of the game, by deciding where they will focus their efforts. Depending on which parts of the ship get repaired, I'll flesh out the skeletons of the Station, growing the world around the characters so that their actions are the prime motivators within the game universe. I learned a lot today - most importantly, I was reminded to put chainsaws into the combat system. We'll talk about that next week.

I hope you know I pack a chainsaw, what? I hope you know I pack a chainsaw, a [expletive deleted] chainsaw, what? So come and get it Break Stuff — Limp Bizkit

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