It may be advantageous to take the focus technique to another level by including sub-focuses. Though not absolutely necessary, this will allow you to start to flesh out your game idea while keeping track of your overall focus. A sub-focus is distinct from the main focus, and should be designated as such when presented alongside the main focus. You can see a sub-focus as a concept that supports your main focus, and one that will help your game attain that central focus. A sub-focus alone cannot be used to design a game. It serves primarily to support your main goal, to break apart other objectives your game will strive for in an attempt to accomplish the central focus.
For an example of using sub-focuses, I will return to the Winter Carnival Whirlwind example. As you may remember, you had come up with a focus for a game that puts players in charge of a winter carnival. Now that you have the central focus for Winter Carnival Whirlwind squared away, you can consider what other goals the game may have. What other aspects of the game should the development team focus on to assure that our gameplay vision is implemented in the best way possible?
Now might be a time to explore what type of player you are thinking will want to play your game. Are you appealing more to the hard-core gaming crowd , or to people who maybe do not play computer games quite so often? This will have a direct effect on many aspects of the game, including what level of simulation will need to be created (the hard-core gamers will demand a more involved and complex gameplay experience), as well as the control system the game will use (hard- core gamers can put up with a more obtuse and convoluted control scheme if that provides a deeper play experience in the end, while more casual gamers will need something they can pick up quickly).
Perhaps it has long been your desire to make a game that all of your non-gamer friends could enjoy. Thus you decide you want to go for the more casual gaming crowd. This means you can create a sub-focus explaining what you will do to skew the game toward this audience: Winter Carnival Whirlwind appeals to more casual gamers. It makes sense to explain just what you mean by making the game appeal to casual gamers. Probably the biggest issue is control; you want Winter Carnival Whirlwind to allow people to get in and play the game quickly, without confusing them with a lot of keys to remember to control the main character. Your focus could read: The game provides the simplest control scheme possible, with a player needing to use a small number of easily remembered keys to successfully play the game. Novice players can figure out how to play the game without reading the manual or playing the tutorial, though a training mission will be provided. Note that you do not actually want to go into what the controls are at this point. Save that for the design document. Here you are just working on your goals for the game, not so much the specifics of how they will be implemented. You may also want to say something about the game s difficulty level. If you are aiming at casual gamers, you are probably going to want to make the game easier than it would be if it were aimed more at the hard-core market. You may want to specify that the game will play at various difficulty levels: Winter Carnival Whirlwind is of a relatively low overall difficulty, with the player able to specify difficulty levels in the game. Even marginally skilled, poor players will be able to play the game to completion on the easiest difficulty level, given enough attempts.
It might make sense to talk about what type of engine and graphics your game will have in one of the sub-focuses. We discussed previously whether the game should be 2D or 3D, but decided that aspect was not central to our vision of the game. Therefore it was left out of the primary focus. It may, however, fit well as a sub-focus, something that will help further define how the game s development will carry out the initial vision. Now might be a good time to explain the visual style of the game as best you can, to give your art team an idea of what direction they should pursue , as well as your programming team what sort of technology your game will need to support. Furthermore, you may want to consider our previous sub-focus here. It states that this game is supposed to appeal to the casual gaming audience, and that the game is supposed to be fairly easy to play. Thus you will want your statements about the game s graphics to support this if appropriate. Winter Carnival Whirlwind features a visually lush, high-contrast environment. Despite being set in a somewhat monochromatic snow and ice environment, specular effects will be used to clearly differentiate different types of ice. The player character along with the patrons of the winter carnival will be brightly colored in their cold weather gear in order to set them off from the environment and make them easier to see. You may decide you want to pursue a 3D engine technology that handles physics well, since that can best help capture the out-of-control nature of running around in snow and ice, and since the nature of the marketplace demands a 3D game. As part of the 3D engine, perhaps a variable-zoom third-person view is the one that will work best to allow the player to control their harried carnival manager while keeping an eye on all the attractions. So your focus statement could include: The game uses a 3D engine that allows for the player to easily zoom in and out on the micro or macro events taking place at the winter carnival, with the technology capable of rendering the entire carnival at once when necessary.
Of course, there could be numerous other sub-focuses for Winter Carnival Whirlwind , covering everything from gameplay mechanics to what sort of story line the game will have, to how long an average game should last. Always try to avoid putting in too much detail, however. That is for the design document. Here you are merely setting the project s direction, not actually implementing it. But for the purposes of our example, we have enough sub-focuses now, leaving us with a focus and sub-focuses that look like this:
Winter Carnival Whirlwind is a fast and furious character action and theme park management hybrid game. The player s experience revolves around running an ice carnival, with the player responsible for maintaining as long a season as possible, despite uncooperative weather. The game captures the excitement of playing in the snow, including the simple physics that make that fun, through a central character who must navigate a somewhat hazardous environment and keep multiple systems operating smoothly. The player s main source of conflict is the weather itself. Winter Carnival Whirlwind has a light and whimsical tone throughout.
Winter Carnival Whirlwind appeals to more casual gamers. The game provides the simplest control scheme possible, with a player needing to use a small number of easily remembered keys to successfully play the game. Novice players can figure out how to play the game without reading the manual or playing the tutorial, though a training mission will be provided. Winter Carnival Whirlwind is of a relatively low overall difficulty, with the player able to specify difficulty levels in the game. Even marginally skilled, poor players will be able to play the game to completion on the easiest difficulty level, given enough attempts.
Winter Carnival Whirlwind features a visually lush, high-contrast environment. Despite being set in a somewhat monochromatic snow and ice environment, specular effects will be used to clearly differentiate different types of ice. The player character along with the patrons of the winter carnival will be brightly colored in their cold weather gear in order to set them off from the environment. The game uses a 3D engine that allows for the player to easily zoom in and out on the micro or macro events taking place at the winter carnival, with the technology capable of rendering the entire carnival at once when necessary.
Notice how the sub-focuses are set off by separate headings from the primary focus. This way, readers of the focus can easily see the primary and most important focus and how the sub-focuses go into detail about specific parts of the game.
As you are working on your sub-focuses, it is important to always make sure that they jibe with your primary focus, as well as any other sub-focuses you may have. For instance, it makes sense that the Visuals sub-focus talks about the game providing a game-world that is simple to understand visually, since the Audience sub-focus talks about making the game easy to pick up and get into. If you are already contradicting yourself in the writing of your focus you are going to have a very hard time writing a whole design document that makes any sense at all. Keeping all the components of your focuses supporting each other should not be a problem, however, since properly written focuses should be short, concise , and easy to understand.