Balance balls make better games? Tips from Swery65

The always-spirited Swery65 offered a bevy of surprising and insightful development tips on everything from making better motion controls and creating more empathy to getting along with your team.

The aim of Hidetaka "Swery65" Suehiro's latest game, D4, was to give players the feeling they were watching a relaxing drama. While he feels the team failed at that, they managed an interesting success: Getting players who ordinarily don't enjoy motion controls to have fun, for one. And D4 fans also enjoyed a unique emotional experience. 

Swery gave an hour's worth of quick game development tips in a spirited, funny GDC session, and we wrote some of them down. For one, he says he studied basic actions like eating a burger or opening a door, vocalizing each stage of the behavior.

It helps create a map of what each behavior "is" on a deeper level, he suggests. Rather than thinking of a person as "tired", observe their clothes or signs like scattered coffee cans or stubble. There are many different types of tired. 

"By becoming the characters you're making, you're able to understand what the player is watching and going through," he suggests. Watch how other people act: "Everyone drinks coffee slightly differently, and by watching how people drink, you find similarities between them." 

When it comes to games with motion controls, symbolization is important, but don't have the player perform so many gestures they can never relax and enjoy the experience. And by keeping the gestures simple through as few motions as possible, the player's experience isn't disrupted. When users fail at something in D4, a comedy scene happens, rather than a penalty -- Swery feels it's important to avoid frustrating players who perform a command wrong by accident.

You should forecast moments of movement for players so that they can prepare to perform a command, he suggests, and when users are moving in the right direction, there should be some kind of feedback and reward for the game. Lots of trial and error is necessary for the UI, too. 

But devices aren't everything, he says: Rather than planning a game that matches the input or tech, start with the idea.

The unnecessary is actually necessary, Swery believes. Tiny quirks, and things on the screen that don't serve any particular point, make the game's world more immersive to players. Characters need quirks too, rather than being blandly likeable. Game characters with evident flaws tend to be more memorable to players. Create the world first, and then fill it with characters that make sense in the place -- the end result will feel more believable that way. 

And don't create a "dream team," he warns. It's hard for a team of all industry veterans to challenge themselves, he advises. "Put hope into the recklessness of younger members," he says. A mix of experience levels will create better ideas.

Teams should surround themselves with visuals from the game to help them get invested, and watch films together -- especially ones that are influential on the game -- and discuss. People should also play the game they're making together and talk about it. But don't play the game you're making every day, or else your opinions become stale. This is especially true for games about emotion, he says. 

Other items of advice: Write things down the moment you think of them, or else you'll forget -- "lollipops are friends," providing sugar to motivate you when you're developing, and have plenty of coffee nearby, too. Be prepared to occasionally spend your own money to buy treats for the office, as kind gestures don't get forgotten. 

Make sure your smiles mean something. Enjoy bugs, don't stress about them. Balance balls are good to sit on and cause meetings to end faster. And definitely have one drinking party for every build you complete. 

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