Three Overlooked Keys to Making Outstanding Games
Making independent games is a fun but difficult business. There is so much to think
about: bringing together all the artwork, implementing the scripts and programming
challenges, crafting a good story and gameplay design. You have to focus on the player,
the project, your team and yourself, a juggle all of these to make a finished product.
In my many years of independent game development and watching with other independent teams,
most everyone remembers to come up with a kind of cool design. Most everyone remembers the
artwork, sound, and engineering too. However, there are three main crucial points that I
see young game developers completely miss over and over again.
But when followed correctly, these three tips dramatically increase the chances of the
project being considered a success by everyone involved. And being successful sounds
pretty exciting, doesn't it?
Crucial Key Number 1: Set Clear Goals for Your Game
When designing out your game project, it's important to be clear about your goals. This
is absolutely crucial, because your goals will impact the project, whether you are aware
of it or not. Even if you don't write out your goals, you still have them in your head.
Best to be certain and get them down on paper so that you know exactly where you're going.
The three most popular goals for independent game projects are:
Make a game that's really fun Make a game that will look good on a resume (when
applying to a game company) Make a game that will be sell and make some money There's
nothing wrong with any of these. They have their advantages and disadvantages, and you can
do two or three if you like (though that's much more difficult).
As I said before, all that's important is that you're clear - then you won't have the
problem of taking on a different goal at the last minute and getting frustrated because it
isn't working. I had this problem years ago with an indie game of mine called Jelly Wars.
While I was making the game, I was focused on goal number 1 - Make a game that's really fun.
But at the last minute I decided, "Hey, I can make money off this too, right...?" So suddenly
I tried to switch to a commercial product, and it was a miserable failure because there
was a lot more that would have needed to be done (distribution platform, advertising, more
fleshed out single-player campaign, etc).
It would have been better if I had just focused on goal number 1 and counted it as a success,
and then tried to make money off of my next project. Granted, it is possible to make the
transition from one goal to another, but it's not going to be nearly as easy as if you had
mapped it out from the start.
Crucial Key Number 2: Map Out What You Know and Don't Know
When a team of talented indie game developers get together to design a game, they are
often naive enough to think that once they design the whole game, then all they have to do
is make it exactly as designed, and they'll be done.
This isn't a jab at the implementation or design talent of these people. Rather, it's a
warning about the shifting sands of game design. Just like in professional game
development, indie game designs continue throughout the whole project. You'll learn things
that you didn't anticipate, you'll see things that do or don't work like you thought they
would, or you might just flat out change your mind.