I'm working on a Beat Chart to show the flow of Red Faction: Armageddon which is forcing me to step back and look at the game as a whole. The main focus of this beat chart is to show the combat encounters through our entire game so we can ensure that there's a proper ebb and flow to the player experience.
It's really easy to focus on each encounter or even each mission to tune in the experience, especially when you have a group of several Level Designers who focus on 2-3 levels a piece. Each designer has his own impression of what the intensity of the encounters should be, so it's up to me as the Lead Level Designer in this case to make sure that the player experience is consistent across the levels. Sometimes you'll find when you take a step back and look at the broad picture that there will be long stretches of exhausting action or maybe a lull that could cause someone to get bored and quit playing. It's also great for tracking how often the player is getting something new or being shown special in game moments.
I'm attempting something new this time...I'm using Mind Manager 8 to create the Beat Chart. I normally would use something like Excel, but I've become a huge fan of brainstorming in pre-production with Mind Manager 8 so I thought I'd give it a try and see how it pans out at the end of a project as well. It will allow me to export the beat chart into a flash type that everyone on the team will be able to use. Anything that encourages the rest of the team to actually read the designs is a win. I'll have another post in the future about my love for Mind Manager and how it changes the way I do brainstorming!