You’ve been playing games for as long as you can remember. You fingers wrap themselves around a controller as if you were born with one in your tiny little fist. But you’ve had enough of the passive gaming experience – now you’re ready to build one of your own.
Well, at least that’s what we wanted to do here at BlueAnt Digital. Armed with the Unity game engine, we set out on a journey to take us from gamer geeks to game development nerds.
The last couple of months have been quite a ride – it was our first time creating a game using the Unity development environment and we found that when working on a project like this – like with any other project – the devil is in the details.
To save you the time we spent on collating everything we thought we would need for a game, we’ve created a comprehensive list of all the things you might forget when you’re designing a game (but that will make your project go at warp speed if you have them sorted).
1. Know the objective: Every game has a purpose. To a gamer, that purpose is usually ‘to have a good time’. As a developer, that purpose is an end result. What does the game player have to DO to complete the game? At what point is every stage in the game – and the game as a whole – complete?
2. Plot out the challenges: OK, so you’ve got your objective sorted – but there’s no way you can give the user a clear path to it. Overcoming a series of increasingly more difficult obstacles is the entire point of the gaming experience. What are those obstacles going to be?
3. Know what it means to win (and lose): Objective – check. Obstacles – check. We know how the game ends. But wait – is there a situation in which the player does NOT manage to reach the end of the game? Is there a way to ‘die’ or ‘lose a life’? Often the adrenaline rush a game gives you is from the risk factor that comes with losing a life, running out of time or both. Define both ‘win’ and ‘lose’ situations for your game.
4. Keep it simple (stupid): For first-time game developers, we cannot emphasise this point enough. The grand designs you have at the start are no doubt admirable, but while you’re grasping the basics of your engine and code, it’s best to minimise the effort at the start and keep your game as straightforward as possible.
5. Repeat the assets: Related to the above point – don’t put yourself out creating hundreds of game objects – the more objects you have in your game, the more you have to design, and the more you have to animate. If you have the luxury of time, go nuts, but if you’re working to a deadline (even if it’s one you set yourself), be smart and create and reuse your assets wisely.
6. Define your levels: Does the player progress through a series of levels of stages? If so, how? What makes every successive level more difficult or challenging than the last? How can the player tell them apart? If your game is longer in format, these are the questions you have to keep in mind when designing its levels.
7. Organise your files: Another often-overlooked point that cannot be stressed enough. Keep your files organised – name your folders, store like-items together. A well organised game folder is one where you can recite the path to any of your game assets without having to look it up. It sounds tedious but it is going to save you hours.
8. Create a game design document: You have a game concept in mind and that’s great, but until it’s on paper (whether that’s Word or actual dead-trees), you won’t be able to spot what will work and what won’t. A game design document is what gives you (and everyone on your team) the clarity they need about the direction the game is going to take and what they need to do to achieve it.
9. Map out the user-flow: the user flow tells you where every possible interaction a player can have with a game will lead him or her. This is the document that reveals to you every other screen the game will need that is not the gameplay screen itself. This is where you make use of your ‘gamer’ identity, as you recall every possible option a good game should offer you, and where it should take you.
10. What’s the narrative? A game narrative is what ties the whole game together. Why does the player need to progress from one level to the next? Why must he/she achieve that final objective? A narrative may not always be explicitly stated, but it is what holds the entire game together.
Are you a gamer or into game design or development? If there’s anything else you feel game-developers often forget to account for, let us know in the comments!