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What I Learnt about game development while making 'Forever Labs'

This blog is an overview of what I learnt during my University course on games design, with focus on my final major project during the final year.

Having the opportunity to show some of the knowledge I have developed over the last 3 years within the Final Major Project was both exciting and daunting. When I first started the Games Design course, I did not have a wide understanding of how the both the industry and game design as a whole works. The past three years have really been an eye-opening experience and one I am glad I have continued onto this point although, I might not pursue a job in industry straight away I am still interested in learning new skills in the areas I find most interesting which may lead to employment further down the line. The course as a whole has helped me get an understanding of many of the various aspects of game design and showed me the multitude of different avenues to consider when thinking about getting into the industry.

This blog aims to address the highs and lows in my journey into game development over the past three years studying Games Design at Canterbury Christ Church University. Specifically, focussing on what I have learnt from the Final Major Project modules about the discipline of Games Design along with how this has changed from previous years.

The first module for the Final Major Project was the Pre-Production module. For this module we had to make a thirty second pitch video for the idea we each individually had in the hope to either join forces with other people on the course or progress with production solo. The game I originally pitched was a 2d pixel art endless runner to be developed in Game Maker Studio 2. I created the ‘prototype’ animation (Video Below) for what I wanted the game to look like using Photoshop as I am not confident enough with coding myself.

2d pixel art pitch video without audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODLTUNjwoOg

I had hoped that someone with coding skills would want to join the production team for my game however, that did not end up happening. After watching everyone else’s pitches, I reached out to one of my classmates to ask if they would like me to join their project as from the pitch, I could see that they were good at the coding side of the project, and I could help on the artistic side. Thankfully, he agreed to work together on his game idea which was originally called ‘Farm to Table.’ I knew throughout this process that I did not want to work alone as the Final Major Project was going to be a lot of work and working as a group can help lessen the workload and overall stress of the process. This being said, I was sceptical going into working in a group as we had previously worked in groups throughout the last 2 years on the course and this had not always so easy per say. Specifically, in the first year when working on a mini game project in a pair I felt as if I produced a lot more of the work for that project and did not want to go into this project with the same outcome. Along with this I had also completed a project solo within the Games Design Project 2 module which I slightly regret doing as that put a lot of pressure on my mental health and wellbeing at the time. However, I feel as though I did this as I did not want to risk being let down or constantly chasing up work when it would be easier just to work solo.

The game I worked on for the Final Major Project ended up being called ‘Forever Labs.’ This change came about after the pre-production phase of the project where we initially were working on the game in its ‘Farm to Table’ state. The change came about as we received feedback regarding how the game came across to mean for what the premise of the game was. We quickly reworked the idea at the start of the Development phase of the project into a stealth strategy game using some assets already made.

This was a big test of how we were able to adapt ourselves in such a brief period of time especially considering the upcoming deadlines for the modules. Without the use of any of the pre-production materials we had to focus on our communication to make any kind of progress in the project. The first few weeks of development were tough as we were still discussing the idea but as weeks progressed and feedback was given, we were able to focus our skill sets better on the project. The entire process of development for the game would have been a lot more successful and less stressful if we had the use of the pre-production material we made. The weekly step by step goals which had been set out would have been incredibly helpful and I can see why we did this in the module as it would be a standard in industry. Having weekly or bi-weekly goals set out before the development of the game not only would have helped with the consistency of workflow but also allowed us to potentially reach goals early and then work on stretch goals for example.

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Forever Labs menu screens and gameplay screenshots

Link to Forever Labs Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbkJskx9gPI

Link to Forever Labs Itch.io page: https://imrmillsy.itch.io/forever-labs

Although what I have covered and discussed is a brief overview of some of the challenges I have personally faced when on my journey through the Game Design course, some of the key points would be apparent for others. A big part of Game Design is collaboration and how people can work together utilizing their skill sets to contribute to a larger project. Time management, communication, preparation, and the ability to take on and respond to feedback would be the key factors I have learnt over my time learning Game Design so far. Games Design contains a wide variety of different avenues to pursue its about testing the waters of different disciplines and finding what works for you the most.

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