Posted by : Jameson Durall Friday, November 12, 2010

One of the Level Designers and I were going over the plan for the opening tutorial the other day with a Gameplay Programmer.  We needed him to add some functionality in order to do exactly what we needed and getting the exact plan across was crucial for minimal rework.  During the conversation, he was asking the usual "what if this, then what?" questions and it got me to thinking that a State Machine could have really come in handy here.

For those not yet familiar with State Machines, it's a way to show the current "state"(circles) of something and then what changes(arrows) will move it to another "state".  The example shown above is used for enemy AI and determining  how they can attack the player.  The Idle circle shows the initial state and the arrow shows that it will change to the Chase state when the Player is close enough.  Pretty simple to understand, but can be used for so many things in game design if applied properly.

In the case of our opening tutorial I had a very clear picture in my head of how I needed the flow to happen.  The Player will be in various states until he does the appropriate action that allows him to move into the next state of the tutorial.  Had I thought to create a simple State Machine diagram like above, I could have saved an hour long meeting where I had to describe everything.  In addition, anyone could have looked at the diagram and known exactly what the finished tutorial would look like.

This is something I need to put more thought into and figure out additional uses in Game Design where it will help out with communication.  I imagine there will be several uses in Pre-Production that I will want to try out next project.  Any suggestions you can think of?


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