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What I learned about game development while making A-Mazing Enigmas

Through my experience of creating my final year project at university and my journey throughout, there were many things that I learnt and also things I wish i had known at the start of my degree.

Throughout the creation of A-Mazing Enigmas there were many challenges that I faced and many problems to overcome. Making this game on my own set me up for extra hardships along the way but the results at the end were most definitely worth it.

There’s no doubt that one of the things the I learnt the most was about self-discipline. This meant that ensuring I continued on and didn’t give up no matter how hard things got. Like I said, making a game on my own set me up for more of these and there were group members that I could turn to, who knew exactly what I was working on, to assist me right away.

Now this wasn’t always a bad thing, as someone who has worked in group projects throughout my degree, and not always had it go well, I learnt to be independent and work through these problems on my own, however this didn’t always work, especially at the start of this project.

This is where the self-discipline came in.

As the project went on and I came face to face with harder problems, I learnt to build on my weaknesses and not give in. For example, one of my bigger problems through this project was the art side of things, yes I enjoy pixel art but in the past it hasn’t been a strong suit compared to my other skills. There were times when new art assets needed to be added and I wasn’t sure I had the confidence to add them into my game. However, I decided that I had to keep pushing forward even if I didn’t have a lot of confidence as it would enable me to build on that, and it paid off, one of my weaker areas were built up and now at the end of it, I have much more confidence in that skill, I went from being able to make a simple character (Figure 1) to making whole backdrops. (Figure 2)

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Figure 1: Character design in A-Mazing Enigmas

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Figure 2: A backdrop from A-Mazing Enigmas

The development of A-Mazing Enigmas and also my degree has shown me a few things that I wish I knew and put into action more when I started in Year 1.

If I had taken on board and sought out more feedback for my work I feel that it would have made a big difference to the work that I created and ended up with. I now know just how important this is and the big effect that it can have to my work. During the time of developing A-Mazing Enigmas, I received a lot of feedback from tutors, play testers and my peers for improvements and even little QOL (quality of life) elements that would help my game and the experience it created.

Taking on this advice enabled me to really push my game forward and it can easily be seen how much the game has changed through the different versions that I created. (Figure 3, Figure 4, Figure 5, Figure 6) The difference between the game that I pitched to create and the game that I finished up with are almost like two different games.

Not only would knowing this have assisted me in my degree but also set me up for further knowledge of the industry. When it comes to working with people in the industry there is no doubt that there will be feedback that I don’t always agree with for different reasons and being able to know to take this on board and give it a try will enable be to push myself further in my career path. It could turn out that some feedback that someone gave me, that I’m not too sure on, could help the project prosper, and it was because I had that knowledge and that ability to take advice and constructive criticism on board.

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Figure 3:One of the first levels from the A-Mazing Enigmas Prototype

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Figure 4:The first main puzzle level from the A-Mazing Enigmas Prototype

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Figure 5:The start screen for the latest A-Mazing Enigmas build

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Figure 6:One of the new puzzles from the latest A-Mazing Enigma build

As well as wanting to give myself the advice about feedback, another element of game design I would tell myself is constraint. This is in relation to both myself as well as the games I’m creating and pitching.

Constraining myself when it comes to my own abilities and limits is something I could have done with considering from the start of my degree. As my skills have improved throughout the 3 years of the course, as have my goals for creating better and more successful games.

Upon starting the degree one of the first assignments was to pitch a game and I can look back now and know that at that point, I wouldn’t have been able to make that game. Even though it was a pitch, the idea for my skill set was a bit out of reach. As well as this, another assignment was making a first game in unreal, and I hadn’t had prior knowledge to this program. I got ahead of myself and confused myself with what I was doing during the creation of the game. If I had knowledge of constraint during these areas, I could have pitched a game that I knew I could actually create and also waited instead of trying to go too fast in creating my first game.

Only constraining myself wouldn’t have helped me half as much if I also applied it to the games I was making. Not only in a literal sense but also following the game design principle. There have been times that the games I am working on have been too big for me, the team I’m on and the time that it needed to be completed in.

One instance of this was my second-year final project, the game I was working on had a slow start and because of that me and my team found that we wouldn’t have enough time to complete the game to the standard that we wanted and so we had to constrain it to make it more possible to make. The final game didn’t look exactly like how we wanted it and there were any areas in which could have been improved if we had considered constraining our scope. (Figure 7)

Originally the idea for A-Mazing Enigmas had a lot to it, in the sense that players would have had to remember a lot of information and a lot would have been occurring on the screen at one time. Even one section in the game had to be majorly altered and constrained not only for myself creating it but also for the player. This was the special walls that could be destroyed with buttons. In the current build there are doors that open by each player with keys and the only breakable wall is by the pink character. (Figure 8) In the original pitch there were 4, which was too many even without the confusing way I was going to show it to the player. This was one area that right away needed to be constrained and it’s a good thing it did, as it worked out so much for the better. (Figure 9)

When it comes the the industry, constraint is a big thing, I will need to know when what I am doing is too big and consider if it needs to be minimized and how I would go about doing this. Its not always an easy project but its definitely something that is vital to game design and as a game design principle.

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Figure 7:Second Year final project

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Figure 8:A-Mazing Enigmas prototype confusing buttons

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Figure 9:A-Mazing Enigmas latest build, easier to understand

What I learned about game development while creating A-Mazing Enigmas spans a lot of development areas and also personal areas. I am sure that I will continue learning about these through my further development of this game and future ones, as well as during my career in the industry.

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