What I learned about game development while making ‘Cryptid Party’

A summary of what I learned throughout my time working on Cryptid Party within my final year at university as an independent developer.

Throughout my time studying game design at both college and university, I’ve had the opportunity to work on various kinds of projects both as part of groups and individually that have allowed me to expand upon my existing skillset.

Although primarily considering myself an artist as I frequently produce artworks both digitally and traditionally within my free time, studying game design has provided me with the opportunity to work on projects that I had initially considered out of my comfort zone, exposing me to new programs and allowing me to gain newfound passions within specific areas of game design such as such as programming and narrative.

However, over my time working on a multitude of projects and increasing my confidence within my own skills, I found that I began to enjoy not being overly tied to one role within a specific area such as the artist or narrative designer, instead positioning myself as somewhat of a generalist as to not put myself within a creative box.

Building from previous experience and skills

Within my 2nd year of studying game design, I was given the opportunity to work alongside another student to produce a short game within the unreal engine, this project was a great opportunity to practice working with the engine as a programmer and level designer.

During this, we chose to develop a walking simulator as it was a genre I was interested in at the time, although relatively simple due to the time constraints, my pleasant experience programming the game alongside the final outcome’s positive reception inspired me to consider the potential for myself to pursue the creation of another, more detailed walking simulator for my final major project within the 3rd year.

Using what I had learnt from my previous project in year 2, I spent my final year of university preparing myself for what would become my final game. After some consideration, I made the decision to work on my final project individually, pitching a concept for a walking simulator called Cryptid Party that would allow me to take what I had learnt from my previous project and build off the foundation all whilst taking inspiration from my own personal interests to be uniquely mine. Although I was initially having doubts when choosing to work on Cryptid Party individually as many other students formed groups, I was confident that I would be able use my full creative control to produce the game that I had envisioned, using the various skills I had obtained.

Figure 1 - Relics Screenshot (Year 2 walking simulator)

Reconsidering ideas and reducing scope is key

During the early weeks of development, it become apparent that although I was able to successfully produce and implement small features into the game relatively quickly, I would spend large amounts of my time primarily working on coding whilst other key areas such as the artwork and level itself were being neglected.

To counter this problem, I decided to apply a thought process I’ve previously put into practice as to not put myself into a creative box or struggle on one idea for too long that had become increasingly important to my creative process both during the project as well as within my personal works.

In short, when developing a new feature within Cryptid Party, If I felt as though it may be too complex for me to produce with the knowledge I currently had, I couldn’t convey the idea as well as I initially planned or if I was encountering a large amount of setbacks that I wouldn’t be able to figure out a fix within a timely manner, I would take a step back from its development and question whether there was a more elegant way to achieve the same thing.

Through reconsidering my ideas, I was able to effectively continue production and begin to better balance out the content I developed to ensure that I wouldn’t spend too much time overloading one area of the project with content whilst others suffer.

In addition, I would also make it a habit once I had implemented a large feature to consider where I currently was within the production of the project, If I felt as though I was falling behind my initial content plan, I would reduce the scope of the game where necessary as to not leave myself with an unrealistic amount to implement within my timeframe, something I feel is imperative when developing any kind of large project In general.

Figure 2 – Cryptid Party unused clip board item

Reaching out and seeking help where necessary

Although much of my initial progress developing Cryptid Party went relatively smoothly as I continued to build off of the knowledge I had gained whilst developing my previous walking simulator, the more the game continued to expand, the more I found myself struggling to find solutions to some of the more complex pieces of programming I was attempting to implement.

This issue would eventually come to a head when attempting to program the mechanic for picking items up, finding myself encountering numerous bugs I was unable to find a fix for both through my own testing and on online forums. After spending some additional time attempting to fix the issues, I discussed the trouble I was facing with a professor, who recommended I discuss my issues with another student from the year above who had prior experience working within the Unreal engine and would be willing to help me with my issue.

Although I initially felt hesitant to reach out and ask for help with the issues I was facing as I was stubbornly adamant on figuring everything out myself, I figured that with knowledge I possessed of Unreal up to that point, I may not be able to overcome the issue without the guidance of someone more experienced than I. Through sharing the build and running through the complication I was facing with another student; we were able to deduce the source of the problem and come up with an elegant solution. I feel as though this situation highlights the importance of seeking assistance from others around that can help as I would continue to open up and share any concerns or problems I was facing with peers, finding that my development process became a lot smoother as I could now able to consistently keep on track if an issue arose.

Figure 3 - Cryptid Party gameplay screenshot

My advice and outlook

Although choosing to work alone is a decision that comes with many risks, having a wide range of applicable skills you are confident in, prior experience developing similar ideas and a genuine drive to personally pursue its creation to the fullest will prove to be imperative the development process.

Before starting work on an individually created project for the first time, I’ve found that it would be appropriate to expect progress to move slower than you may initially expect and not set your scope too high as you may end up overestimating how much content you may be able to produce within a set timeframe. For students looking to work on a project with a similar scope to Cryptid Party, I feel that it’s key to have an open mind towards any feedback and seek help where you need it as you may end up becoming tunnel visioned with your ideas, delaying any potential for both growth in a personal sense, as well as for the project itself.

Overall, I feel that having the opportunity to develop Cryptid Party from the ground up individually, all whilst putting the knowledge and techniques I learnt from previous projects to use has been extremely gratifying for me, I feel that this has in turn given me further confidence in my skillset and only furthered drive to continue developing Cryptid Party further alongside similar projects like it beyond university.

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