You have your basic game loop and now you want to expand beyond that. Well, what do you do after that? Good question! You lay out the entire game in rough form as soon as possible!
The temptation is always to spend time on things like polishing up this or that specific system but the real thing is you are making a game. A game has a lot of parts and you most likely aren’t a huge team. Completeness is your weapon against forgetfulness and running out of time.
Specifically I am referring to the situation you will be in when you make a cool game loop and a few awesome little gameplay features. You might sit back and thing “All locked down now!” but you aren’t. Not even close. You’re making good progress though so stuck with it. Start laying out all the game loops you can think of. For every system. This includes all the UI potentials, all the gameplay modes, all the little things like loading and saving.
Break large areas down into smaller ones but don’t stop at any one area. “But Tim, won’t I just be skimming through a ton of important things?” Yes, my friend, and that is exactly the point. You want to get a real assessment of all the systems which are in your game. From years of experience the best way for this assessment is to just make the game. Not plan it or think about it or imagine it will all be alright later. Just make the systems and see how they work.
I do recommend you put the systems in on a first pass level. That means they are working with a UI that is not all temp art. You should always make an effort to put in good art and good code. That is also part of the exercise.
Benefits of a total first pass:
- You get a lay of the game and won’t be surprised by the scope any more. All the systems you are planning for have some sort of working code and art in.
- You will see what is an isn’t working. Many times you have an idea which works in theory but when executed the art, code or basic functionality don’t gel. This pass will shake it out.
- You flush out problems with bad thinking early. Allowing time to correct and improve ideas.
- When done the game is also done in a rough form. That is to say you can play the whole thing through, load and save, etc.
It’s a fine day to be this far along and the benefits are there for the adventurous. Common thinking tends to focus on certain areas, vertical slices and such. Those aren’t necessarily the wrong ways to do things but they bog you down and present a possible time sink.
The idea I’m presenting is to always think of the larger picture of the game. Don’t drill down too much on any one area at the expense of the larger game. At least until you see the big picture. Many times I have seen a game from this near complete position and the problems are much clearer with this perspective. If you are a small team or alone you will appreciate the breathing room this will give you. My guess is you are like me and want only the best for your project. I want you to hit your best too so consider what I’m putting down here.
And always, live your dreams!