Part 18 – Knowing what you’ve done

I am excited to finally share with you the penultimate secret of making games. I’m revealing the hidden category you will forget whenever you schedule your project. I will also tell you about all the times you did rework for no good reason. Curious? Read on!

When you are making a game, have you wondered about the work which goes into it? We have and we broke it down into four basic areas:

What You Know You’ve Done: This is work you know about. Work you have done. This would be something like the creation and animation of the player and environment sprites. This is stuff scheduled and done.

What You Know You Haven’t Done: This is stuff you know about, is scheduled and has not been done yet. Inserting sounds, finishing the cinematic movies, VFX might fall into this category.

What you Don’t Know and you Have Done: This is stuff you needed to do and by sheer luck or fortune you already did. This was not scheduled per-se but resulted from a lucky bit of earlier work. For example, you create the UI for an inventory panel a while back. When you go to make the UI for the player store you realize you already had done the base work when you did the player inventory. It was matter of re-using the designs and ideas to quickly make the new store in a fraction of the normal time.

Important note: This type of work must be recognized for what it is when the time comes or you will redo things unnecessarily. Recognizing work you already did is the way to avoid remaking things over and over.

What You Don’t Know and you Haven’t Done: This is the killer category. This is every single thing that has not been done and you just didn’t think about while putting the game together. This category exists in all games no matter how much planning happens. It’s what I call the “bottom of the iceberg”. It might be big, it might be small. I’d like to think on Boss 101 we have a pretty small amount of stuff in here but there most certainly is stuff in here.

Some examples: Medals awarded at the end of your game rounds. When those go in it is obvious they need a little something more than the method scoped out (perhaps they just appear with no VFX). Nothing was wrong with the idea planned but the execution gave you a clear picture of improvement. This is a case of the “you didn’t know and didn’t do it”. No one is to blame. Nothing is wrong. This is just game development.

Most games live and die on this category. If you want a game that is going to get great reviews and the attention fans and friends you will do well to pay special attention to this category.

The takeaway here is those last two categories are, by definition, undefined at the start of the game. You cannot schedule them exactly but you should always be on the lookout for them. Blizzard and Pixar are companies who make their income from finding, fixing and maximizing those categories. Most successful people do this also.

If I could sum it up quickly, I would tell you this based off my 20 plus years in games.

  1. Many times you will have done the groundwork for a new feature somewhere else during development. Reuse, reimagine and unify to keep all your assets and work cohesive, efficient and practical. The added benefit is you save time and money.
  2. You will always forget or not schedule something. You cannot hope to figure it all out sitting at Starbucks or a meeting room. Build what you know to the best of your abilities and then let the game tell you what you forgot. Don’t stop until you are done. You get no reward for halfhearted or shoddy work. See Nintendo for a company which will always polish a game until it’s the best it can be. That is what you should emulate to your best ability!

That’s all for the moment but we’ll be back soon with a new update!

Thank you for reading and keep living your dreams!