So you’ve got your game look going (that is to say you can start up your game, play a typical round, finish and return to the beginning) and your grateful at how far you have gotten. Now what?
You start layering in the systems. A lot of people will give you a lot of advice about the best way to make a game. There are tons of books, plenty of GDC talks and all that. Some of them are excellent, some not so much. I’m going to give you one idea that might save you a ton of time and give you a clear path to success. Roughly speaking, it’s called “letting the game become itself”.
The idea here is you have your plan for the game (RPG, FPS, etc) and you have an idea of how you want this or that to happen. You probably know you want “a mission with a jeep” for instance or a “boss character to have a flamethrower”, you might even have a favorite level in Metroid that you just have to put your spin on. I get it. It’s all good. That is great.
What you probably don’t have is any idea of how exactly all that will really feel like until you start making and playing the game. That is why the game loop is important and that is why you will want to get to the process of playing and moving around in the game world lickety-split. A game is not a movie, nor a book. Those are fixed things shown to a person in linear fashion. Sure, a person can interpret the event of a book or movie in different ways (hence people’s differing tastes) but for the most part, these are passive experiences you just absorb. This is not what a game is at all. It’s active and you will want to allow for that nature to shine through as you work.
I am getting at the idea of letting your game (within reason, budget and do-ability) design itself. You will end up with a far better game and it will actually save you a ton of time. An issue I want to address is our general desire to make our ideas work if we just ‘put in enough effort’ or if we just ‘stay up a little longer and work it out’. Sure, sure that does work on occasion but a lot of times the reason an idea isn’t flowing is that it’s a bad idea. Simple as that.
Many times I can recall seeing a designer’s idea implemented and the whole thing just didn’t work as expected. The game systems weren’t quite up to it, the designer forgot about the ways the player character interacted with objects, there was an animation missing, etc. A lot of times someone would suggest “well, we could just do this other thing and it would effectively get us the same result!” You know how often we would follow that wise man’s advice? Almost never! We would then spend a ton of time trying to force a square peg in a round hole and finally after a couple days or weeks give up. We’d either drop the idea or do what the wise man said. What a huge waste of time.
My point here is if you are an independent game maker you are in a rare position to just let serendipity happen. You can and you should. Play your game, start rolling in systems and let the magic happen. The game will start pointing you in directions you didn’t think about and you should follow them, especially if they are fun. Sometimes it’s obvious things are better down a new path, sometimes the path you want is just so ornery you feel there must be a better way. Regardless you should be ready to go with the flow.
A general rule of thumb is to start layering in your major systems, and play. Letting things that feel good stay and scrutinizing things that don’t feel good right. You don’t want to end up polishing a turd of an idea cause no one wants a polished turd. No one will care your new water system took you half a year to devise if the water gun you use it with isn’t fun. No one cares about physics unless there is some fun to it. Well, I should say some people will care about those things but I am guessing there is more word of mouth to be gained from people thinking your game is really fun than how awesome your physics for snowflakes are.
Please, when you read the above, read for the spirit of what I am getting at. Games evolve as they are made and they rules change and evolve along with them. Chess and checkers didn’t just materialize with all their pieces and rules at once. It took a long time to get them to where they are now. I’m asking you to give your games a chance to show you the best way. They will if you let them!
Talk with you soon and remember to LIVE YOUR DREAMS!