Slates! is a tool for game design! In our search for a tool to help us collaboratively design and document our projects, we came up pretty empty-handed. Rather than forcing square-pegged office apps into our round-hole needs, we looked for products specific to game-desgin and there only seemed to be a couple of potential solutions.  And, while those products are nice, they didn’t really meet our small-time-studio needs. We still felt like we were forcing our workflow into their concept mold. We couldn’t justify the costs associated with making ourselves use a workflow we didn’t like. So, we decided to write our own game design, planning, and documentation app.

We are notably a small team and do not live near each other (one in California, the other in Texas) and we’re pretty confident this is the way a lot of Indie game studios work. From what we’ve seen, much of this collaboration is with freelance partners if not with studio members. That being said, remote collaboration is the name of the game. Adding to the distance problem is operating system diversity. Indies use whatever system they’re comfortable with (Linux, Mac, or PC). Therefore, we’re putting together an environment that brings teams together no matter where they are or what platform they’re using. We’re bringing the co-op game experience to a productivity application!

The creative juices behind “Slates!” have set forth the following basic requirements:

  • Co-op means working together, so we need tools to do just that:

    • A real-time environment that allows you and your teammates to contribute at the same time.

    • A grease or chalk pencil so you can draw your point and get that numbskull on the other side to understand the images inside your head.

    • Partner cursors so you can see what they’re doing and even just sit back and watch them in action.

    • And more!
  • Decentralized data storage to eliminate the need for a server to be online and reachable at all times.

  • An environment that’s clean, simple, and consistent (don’t you just hate those apps that require you to left-click here, but right-click there, to do the same thing — the goal is, if you feel like you should be able to do something, you should be able to do it)

In our first reveal image, you can see a mocked up game called, “My Cool Game Project”. The main viewport has what looks like some sort of flow-chart called “level01”. This is a flow slate and is the basic building block of a project (hence the name, “Slates!“). We’re using the term “slate” to describe a layer of related data or design information. We plan on including several different types of slates for specific duties. The “flow” slate is the most generic and the most versatile. With it, we can represent the “flow” of any concept, such as: a story, a stream of dialog, a menu design, or even level designs…and much, much more. In the image, you can also see some of my lovely, mouse-drawn handwriting, mocking up some interesting points on the slate and demonstrating the grease pencil layer. Completing the tour, since slates are potentially pretty grand in size, a little navigational map in the lower, right-hand corner shows your relative viewport position with respect to the whole slate.

As we move forward with the project, we’ll be educating and updating on the many additional features and design progress. And soon enough, we plan on taking the project to the crowd-funding level and offering alpha and beta access to those who want to participate in the applications development direction. As with all things new and shiny, a lot of what you see is subject to change at the aesthetic level. Stay tuned here and send us your questions and comments. We’re looking for feedback, so bring it!