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Planning a game – finding your way

A post about planning your games and managing motivation, especially for those who don't like to plan.

Game design document? Pssht I don't need it.

 

I had been operating without plans for a few years before I realised how much time is wasted without a plan. I had a dream to make fun games for my friends, and maybe make a bunch of money in the process, but I struggled to make this dream come true. At times, I knew exactly what I was going to do, and at times, I sat in front of my computer hoping for inspiration. In those periods I wasted a lot of a time. I could have saved myself so much time if I had planned my game. If I had clearly thought of each element in the game and most importantly what the completed product would look like. But it required, at least for me, a certain change in mindset that took a few years to develop.

 

I never enjoyed planning and relied on inspiration but I must admit that this did not work for me. At times we are inspired and at times we have no inspiration. In those times we need a concrete plan to keep us productive. To sit without knowing what to do is not good for morale. For many days I would develop systems here and there but I never allowed myself to be specific. My game's plan would be ever changing and I would create whatever systems and mechanics I felt interested in at the time. I was afraid to commit to fewer ideas and reduce the possibilities of creating something unique and fun. By committing to specific mechanics, styles, etc. I would be forced to acknowledge the risk of creating these things. But the risk is much greater if I do not manage to create something playable and finished. It is difficult to be honest with yourself. To say to yourself "I am going to write a specific plan for a game that I think people will enjoy/that I would like to see made/that will teach people a lesson/(your reason here) and I am going to commit to creating it because I believe it will be successful/communicated an important idea/(your goal)." Thinking this way will also force you to acknowledge what you subconsciously think are good ideas and what you think are bad ideas and will allow you to filter only that which you think will be most successful/appropriate to your goals.

 

To prevent myself from entering these periods of low productivity I started to plan my games in greater detail. When I finally decided to write a plan with more specific details, choosing a single genre and specific features, I felt liberated. I knew exactly what to do day to day and I knew when the game would be finished. If you do not feel freed perhaps you have defined a game you are not truly interested in making. I have done this before when I defined a game that I was making to be a hit on the app stores. Instead of making something I felt strongly about, I tried to make a big seller. Building that game felt like a chore and in the end it wasn't worth the effort. If you don't feel good about the plan you have made, think about starting again from a clean slate. Ask yourself why you don't feel good about it and use those insights to make your next move.

 

Planning this way takes practice. Don't be afraid to plan badly. My advice is to try to be as specific as possible. Try to imagine what the finished game will be. Perhaps the most important decision is: What genre will the game be? This question hints at which mechanics and features will be in the final game. Write down every feature and mechanic that you want in your game. Write down exactly what the art style will be. Write down what lesson the story will tell your players. I believe that if the final product is not clear to you and written down, you are not ready to start developing.

 

It is true that plans change over time. You might have to cut features and narrow the scope. You might think of something new that will make the game even better. But by having a specific plan, at least you will have a game that satisfies your ambition.

 

I hope this article saves you time. It might not be right for you. Everyone functions differently, but then again this may give you the guidance you need to be more productive. Try to find the way that works best for you.

 

When I started creating Superior Wizard, I wanted to make something light-hearted, vibrant, challenging, relaxing at times and with an enjoyable story. Superior Wizards is available on Steam, so check it out! https://store.steampowered.com/app/926610/Superior_Wizards/

 

Regards,

Joel

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