There a lot said about getting stuff done, scoping, and picking the right idea. But there are some dangerous hazards in game development that don’t get talked about as much. Here’s a few that I have run into working on Cannon Brawl and talking with fellow developers.
You Don’t Get What I’m Going For
Players don’t get what we’re going for? That’s our problem, not theirs. There are two sides to this:
First, designers throw this up purely as a shield against negative feedback. Playtest feedback can be harsh. It hurts to find out that someone thinks our game is bad. It especially hurts because it’s probably true. We have to separate ourselves from the results of our work so we can appropriately evaluate criticism. Tie yourself to the process of game design, not the resulting game.
Second, sometimes we actually do have some intention we’re going for that people aren’t getting. In that case, it’s our job to signal and communicate it better.
Not Having a Playable Build
If your game isn’t playable, that is now your most critical problem. You need to be able to fire it up and actually play it through for some amount of time. Even for just a few minutes. Working away on giant systems for a long time without connecting them into an actual game experience is a bad idea.
You should always be to play it at 30fps at every point in the project. As performance and load times degrades so does your ability to judge what’s working about the design and what’s not.
Fix those quick little broken things that are impeding the game experience. These can add up to make your game unplayable.
You’re going to have scary open ended problems with no clear solution and more technical problems that do have a clear solution. It’s easy to shy away from the scary problems to refactor code for the tenth time, add another lighting model, tweak tuning numbers again, and spend more time rendering buttons on the main character’s outfit.
These are just distractions that make you feel productive. The real problems are much bigger and have no clear solution. How do we make the first section of the game more compelling/less confusing/more engaging? How do we more fully explore the mechanics/fix this narrative problem/stop the player from losing motivation? These are the real problems.
You’ll have to try lots of stuff, remove it, try again, slowly creeping toward the goal. These problems are hard and scary because it feels like we are wasting work to solve them. But without implementing all the stuff that will get removed and re-done, you’ll be rat-holing on distractions longer than you have to be.
Think of any other less remarked upon but critically dangerous pitfalls of game development? Let’s talk about them in the comments!
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