Stages of game development
Well mines anyway. The funny thing is that I’m still learning about them.
#1 – The idea
Well I guess it all starts there. People have ideas every day but for some reason few seems to actually try to do something to make them more than an idea. Lack of money, don’t know how, pessimism, … All of the above?
I have never worked on a game in the perfect setting. There’s always something to make this goes wrong yet I still try. I guess the first step is to accept that there’s a possibility you might fail at delivering your idea. One thing for sure is that it can’t remain an idea forever.
#2 – Prototyping
There’s no such thing as a prototype. I guess we often end up working with the prototype code to deliver the end result but as long as it’s a prototype in your head it’s like you don’t actually have to deliver anything. You don’t make any promises (not to yourself first) and you are just fooling around.
Prototyping is actually way deeper than I thought it was. Took me some time to figure out what prototyping meant. Well what it meant to me at least. To me it’s to strip everything from your idea and figuring out what are the 2-3 things that are the core of your idea and making it playable. It’s not starting to code in an intelligent way or to start making art concept. It’s just getting to the “meat”. Assuming you know what the “meat” is and it’s not always that obvious.
“I want to make a steampunk MMO” is not the meat. It’s the icing. At that point you hit a wall. The wall is “I have a cool idea but I have no clue how to make it really cool”. I guess that’s where most people give up.
#3 – Making it fun for more than 5 minutes
So you have a prototype that works. So what’s next … It would be much more simple if it would end here. That’s where I dropped the ball most of the time I think. I got something but fail to expand it. It doesn’t mean I don’t get further but missing that part ain’t good.
It’s not a part that you need to do consciously. Maybe your idea included that step. It all depends on the idea. A “bad” example would be : the reason why Minecraft is fun for more than 5 minutes is not because it was schemed as an addictive sandbox but because the idea itself already took care of this step.
So it’s really tricky. Why is it that Call of Duty can keep players interested for a few hours while the concept of a shooter is nothing new? Well because it plays like an action movie, because of the in-character cutscenes, because of the paste, because of … Well you get it. Just having the idea of making some first person shooter (or any other genre) is not enough. That’s when you need to work on your idea. It means (at least for me) stepping away from your prototype and start all over again on your idea. Not to reinvent it but to dig deeper into what you really had in mind. Again it’s not that easy.
For example I’m sure we all have some cool idea for a novel yet very few of us will actually write this novel because it’s so much better in our deep mind. It comes a time when we need to put words on that idea. Mechanics, narration, art, whatever. We need to be able to translate what our mind saw into something real. If you haven’t given up yet I guess you might at that step. I have many times even if I shipped a few games already.
#4 – Doing the really hard work
It doesn’t mean you are 100% sure about the previous steps but at least you are now trying. It’s when you realize that it cost a lot of money to pay for an artist. It’s when you realize that it requires a lot of work to make your game a professional project instead of some basement project. It’s when you realize that even the most simple idea is way bigger than you ever thought.
“How do I make that nice big explosion I wanted to have in my game?”. So far it wasn’t a problem because that big explosion was just a red circle. That’s when you realize that you will have to learn stuff that maybe you have no interest in learning. If you can pay others to do it for you then good. It’s not often the case for indie devs though. We have to wear many hats.
#5 – Making it a product
That I don’t master so that what follows for what it’s worth. It doesn’t matter if you have the most amazing game getting ready if you can’t get it out there. And there’s more than one way to get it out there.
Maybe people already know you. Maybe you worked in a great team. Maybe you got involved in some project. Maybe you are just nice and people like you. Maybe you know the right people. Maybe you are a marketing genius. Maybe you have a big mouth. Maybe your game is just gold. Maybe you shit gold. Maybe you run some Twitter bot I don’t know. It’s something along these examples.
There’s no recipe. You just have to do stuff, learn a bit maybe and find out what happens. It’s easier for some and it’s impossible for others. Sometimes you’re just out of luck. It’s not true that “if your game is “good” that it will succeed no matter what”. I don’t even have to talk about my own games to prove my point. Even what we call “AAA” games sometime fail miserably.
If you got here however it’s the difference between a shipped project and a project that remains some dream. It’s already a step in the right direction. I say it’s better to fail and move on than getting stuck into some hopes.
#6 – Starting to think about the next project
The one thing that is worst than failure is the “one-hit wonder” thing or even worst the “project of my life” thing. That’s why at one point I accepted that Golemizer was a thing of the past. I needed to try other things. I needed to remind me that I was enjoying to “make games” and not that I was enjoying to work on “that one project”.
You need to keep in mind that maybe it won’t work. Worst. You need to keep in mind that even if it works that you’ll have to do something next otherwise you’ll just be some nostalgic of your past success. It means that once again you have to take risks. Once again you have to feel insecure. Once again you have to remember that you love doing this otherwise there’s no point to it… Well unless you plan on dying at a very young age right after you have succeeded once ….