242 THE GAME PRODUCTION HANDBOOK, 2/E
15.2 DEFINE GAME FEATURES
During pre-production, everyone has an idea about what cool features can be in-
cluded in the game. Obviously, you can’t include every single feature request: some
won’t fit with the game’s vision; the team won’t have enough time to get everything
in; or the technology cannot support the functionality. Therefore, you need to pri-
oritize the features into different tiers for implementation. For example, tier one
features are the core features of the game; tier two features add value to the core
features; and tier three designates features that would be nice to include. Ideally,
all the tier one features are included, and you might find time to add many (or all)
of the tier two features. Usually, the tier three features are considered for the next
version of the project and will not make it into the final game.
To begin with, involve the team in a brainstorming session as to what fea-
tures should be included in the game. Conduct these sessions over the course of
two to three days. Brainstorm about multiplayer features, single-player features,
gameplay mechanics, sound, and any other aspects of the game. Gather all the
feature ideas in a single list and then categorize them by type. Doing this will
help the producer and leads to better prioritization of the features. Some catego-
ries to consider are as follows:
Process: These features revolve around improving the development pro-
cesses. This includes improving the formats of the design documentation,
establishing an approval process for multiplayer levels, and setting up mini-
tutorials to teach people how to use the development tools.
Production: These features involve improvements to the tools and technol-
ogy used to make the game. For example, adding cut and paste functional-
ity to the scripting tool, improving how destructible objects function in the
game, and adding enhanced lighting functionality to the art tools.
Gameplay: These features consist of gameplay elements that will directly
impact the player’s experience and be visible to the player. This includes the
ability of the player to control vehicles, functionality for changing options
on-the-fly, and the ability of the player to customize his avatar.
You could also create categories around specific gameplay elements, or by
discipline, or any other grouping that will help you get a better handle on the
types of features being requested. Figure 15.1 is an example of what this catego-
rized master feature list looks like.
After this list is generated and categorized, the producer sends the list to
the leads and asks them to each assign a priority to every feature on the list. The
leads should base their priorities on the known project constraints. For example,
if the game is a time to market game, the final code release deadline is the main
constraint, and all of the core features must be doable within the limited time on