Posts Tagged ‘game’

Nov 09

Randomness and Video Game Design

Randomness in games is a recipe for disaster. There are some games like snakes and ladders in which everything is random. The roll of the dice is random, the placement of both the snakes an ladders are random and the winner is random. The game requires no skill and has a level playing field. This is one of the reasons it is a great family game, as a child of four playing for the first time has just as much chance of winning as their experience father, who has played many times. However, if you are creating a game for those over the age of six then randomness should be kept to a minimum.

In most cases, games need set rules and laws to govern play. These rules allow players to learn and get better at the game. If you think of tennis for example, the rules are set and anyone can play. However, only those willing to put the effort in truly excel. If randomness is introduced players would not seek to become professionals as they could never truly control the game. In some cases, such as XCOM the randomness is introduced at the very beginning in the placement of the enemy aliens. This randomness works well as it changes the game from memorizing where the aliens are, to a more strategic game where the act of playing requires skill.

Games like the original Mario and Sonic games required the user to play the levels and memorise the layout in order to achieve the best outcome. Whilst fun, it left little playability after the levels had been completed. More recently, games have introduced additional elements to extend playability such as three different star achievements which are achieved when certain criteria is met. This feature does extend the game but only by a factor of three.

One such random occurrence in modern games is the infamous winged blue shell in Mario Kart. The blue shell is a power up given to the last place player and pretty much instantly, takes out the player in first place. The game itself is fantastic and has spawned a slew of clones but one thing that does stop it from being a fully playable game is the blue shell. I know it is part of a range of balancing measures to keep the game fun for all players but it ultimately punishes good players and those who have attempted to master the game. When you see gamers play Mario Kart at a competitive level you will notice that a tactic has emerged where played actively try NOT to be in first place and that by sitting in the middle of the pack is the best strategy when competing.

I don’t think I have explained myself fully here but the moral of the story is that if you intend your game to last, and tempt players to really invest time and effort in your game, then keep randomness to the absolute minimum. It will just turn players off and pigeon hole your game with many others in the ‘good fun for five minutes’ bracket and lose players who will follow and promote your game. Obviously, some exceptions to the rule exist but trust me; my logic is sound.

Related articles Get ready to waste your life: ‘Super Mario Bros.’ is now playable on your Web browser Designer: Elements of Replayability Indie Showcase: FTL (Faster Than Light) Algorithms to play randomized game Get on board

Sep 27

Indie Games With Simple Graphic Styles

Making games is hard, finishing games is near impossible. Indie developers know that bringing a game to market is fraught with so many hurdles that include time, technology and cost. Graphics tend to tug at the latter as hiring an artist to produce ALL the graphics from menu GUI to animated sprites can be expensive. So for some developers and studios a good option is to adopt a ‘simple graphics’ stance where the art style is kept purposely simplistic in order to keep down costs whilst giving the game a unique feel. There are so many indie games that cover a myriad of art styles but I just wanted to pick a handful that took a ‘less is more’ approach to their game graphics.

 

Limbo

Limbo is the first game by Playdead and uses stylized silhouettes and a great use of lighting to create an eerie atmosphere. The game, which is a puzzle based platform game is all done in black and white tones, using lighting effects and minimal use of ambient sounds reminiscent of  film noir. The nameless boy protagonist is in search of his missing sister and travels through the forest until he reaches a kind of ‘post-apocalyptic’ city. It’s very weird and the end is abrupt leaving you wondering if you actually won but the journey is a lot of fun.

Dawn of the Ronin

Though still in development, this game has teased us with videos and images for a while now. Like Limbo, this side scrolling slice-em-up uses shadows and lighting effects to create an unusual style of game forcing the player to focus on gameplay instead of graphics.

Airsupply

Created by Quantum Sheep this run and jump indie game is proud of its 1Bit graphic style and mixes the style of retro two color video games with the speed and achievements of a modern mobile game. This pick up and play game is a lot of fun is constantly being updated.

Cannanbalt

What started originally as a flash game, has now been ported to multiple formats uses a very simple color palette and pixel style to create a fun infinite runner following the exploits of a suited hero as he escapes an alien invasion.

Journey

That Game Company’s latest release is beautifully simple and follows a hooded figures journey to a light at the top of a mountain after ‘waking up’ in the middle of the desolate and baron desert. Being an online game it means that you can meet other players on their own journey to the mountain (only one at a time) and join forces on your mission.

Related articles The 25 best indie games of all time LIMBO: First Impressions HUGE: Get a free game from IndieGameStand Indie Showcase: FTL (Faster Than Light) The Importance of the Independent Developer

Aug 12

How influential are graphics to the success of a game?

Graphics have moved on since the days when I was a kid. The high-end, graphics-card-melting PC titles and the previews of the PS4 and Xbox One games show just how far we’ve come in terms of creating beautiful virtual visuals. The current games are so far removed from the early Sega releases and even the Playstation 2 games that it’s hard to imagine how we could have ever enjoyed them; but enjoy them we did. So, it begs the question: is it all relative or are graphics really not that important?

Minecraft is a great example to bring up early in the debate. In 2011, only a month after entering its beta phase, the game sold one million copies and by 2012 it was the 6th best-selling PC game of all time (It now ranks at number 5). All this, despite its having blocky graphics (not without their charm) that seemed in direct opposition to the more realistic game worlds offered by blockbuster titles. It shows that graphics come second to gameplay and propelled a game with low production values past the likes of Battlefield Two and Starcraft. Good gameplay can definitely make up for relatively poor graphics.

The converse cannot be said to be true. Graphics are important at initially attracting players to a game and their level of realism can help provide an immersive experience, especially in First Person Shooters and horror titles. But graphics don’t give a game longevity. What makes players come back to a game five or ten years on is the gameplay. Quake III, Counter Strike and World of Warcraft will stand the tests of time without having the most mind-blowing graphics for this simple reason. Multiplayer and socially orientated games will win loyal followers because they provide the essentials of what gaming is really about: not escapism but competition. Pitting yourself against other real opponents is always preferable to single-player modes with dubious computer AI, which partly explains the popularity of the Call of Duty franchise.

And of course it all depends on what you’re aiming to get out of the game. Not everybody plays games for the conviviality and competition of multiplayer modes or the narrative of a single-player campaign; others play games because there’s a possibility to win money. If you want to gamble online, whether it’s playing poker or blackjack, or just hitting the slots, there’s an enormous choice these days. And because the gameplay is effectively the same across all Texas Hold ‘Em games, for example, graphics can really make a difference to your enjoyment. Also if you’re going to be spending an hour or more on a virtual poker table then a good-looking backdrop is going to enhance the gameplay ever so slightly. Take the graphics of CasinoEuro games as an example: they pay a lot of attention to detail, especially in slots games where the action can be quite repetitive, from the striking simplicity of Starbust to the colourful artwork of Hall of Gods.

This age old debate will no doubt rage on with the uptake of 3D graphics and virtual reality devices. However, there will always be those of us who will dust of the old games console and play those classic games whether they’ve got great graphics or not.

Related articles Minecraft-Inspired Shooter Pixlgun 3D Becomes the Top Selling App on iTunes New Battlefield 4 gameplay video showcases PC Ultra graphics Best Boat Racing Games to Play On-the-Go

May 24

The Wow Factor on the World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft was the most played online game. It’s suffering from recession for now so it’s currently sitting in the number 2 spot. Playing this is like having a romantic relationship. First of all, there’s the seduction. It offers free registration so the new players can experience the epic world of magic, mystery, and limitless adventure beyond the real world that we’re used to. The user-friendly interface, the fancy characters, the unique spells and abilities, the arenas, and friends you meet along the way hooks you up right away –like going steady in a relationship. Then you get bored, you become a swinger and move to another MMO. Then you miss all the fun on WoW, you beg to go back and it forgave your betrayal and accepted you with open arms. Finally, you complete the game, you once again lose interest, getting sick and tired of everything and about to quit what you’ve worked hard for. But all of a sudden, an expansion is released and before you know it, you’re happily playing the game again, holding hands while walking giddily. Wow, what a feeling in WoW, better than the real world. As your lover might ask, “There are lots of options out there, why me among the others?

Optimized Codes

The coding of WoW is optimized so it can be played on older machines. It can play as fast as 60 frames per second in an old laptop. Other MMOs are too heavy. It takes ages to log in and can’t even select a character because it’s all frozen up or just crashes. Loading time on WoW is just 5 seconds or less than that on an ultrafast computer. 200 people can play in one arena without a hitch. It’s very smooth despite the human traffic. Imagine the famous Shinjuku in Japan where people cross the street smoothly.

Massive Realm

As this role-playing game promotes, it’s indeed correct for it to have limitless adventure. It’s truly another world created by the game gods. If you are a traveler and constantly seeks adventure, no need to bring out a big backpack, the adventure is right at your fingertips –literally. Other MMOs would require teleportation or portals from point A to B. But unlike them, this entire enormous continent is connected. A lot of places to go to: from forests to mountains to deserts to underwater –it’s not just made for the heck of it, it’s actually beautiful.

Skill Above Time

According to surveys, the active players of WoW decreased. It’s not that people became weary of playing, it’s just WoW doesn’t encourage the players to spend time playing for days on end. It’s about the skill. Well, players that are in the battle grounds for one whole day gets new gears before the others who spends less time. On the other hand, he can’t get the best gears –the person who is more skillful will get them. It’s about playing well not playing like the Chinese guy for 7 straight days. Nobody wants to end up twitching in front of the computer and slipping down on the monitor.

Human Connection

Playing with people on a server frequently would make you feel that you know them, get attached, build friendship and community. Who says there’s no human connection on cyberspace? WoW has Blizz Con almost every year where you meet real people in the real world. You can give them a real handshake and a real hug. Friends, Community and Guilds are all real.

Arenas

Arenas are the best thing in MMO world. My heart is jumping out just talking about it. Pounding the keyboard and the mouse and as the same time the heart pounds. This is music to the gamers. I’ll stop right here, I’m gonna get a heart attack.

Bottom Line

If you haven’t played the game yet, you’re missing out on lots of things. Sign up for free and let a romantic or platonic relationship flourish.

This guest post is brought to you by Max Royale of loopport.com, a site that offers savings and current information on free sound effects.

May 15

Tips for Video Game Developers

If you’re a creative games developer who is keen to enhance their skills then you have come to the right place because we are going to show you a few handy tips for you to bare in mind when you make your next game.

Keep creative

Firstly do not fall into the trap of letting the software determine the outcome of your game. Ensure you keep your creative juices flowing and keep the control in your hands. You’ll want to concentrate while you build your game as this will reduce your chances of making any silly mistakes and having to correct them later on. Draw inspiration from successful games. Apart from the creative web design and well programmed casino games, the site also features gaming options that increases its functionality. Promotions for topping up the first time, referral programs and “How to Play” links for every game make it a popular choice for first time players and long time gamers as well. Studying the features and functions that make games successful is one of the simplest ways to ensure that your game will appeal and entice your target customers. More than brilliant programming, you will need to make sure that your work will appeal to a wide range of users and not just a specific set of people.

Note your ideas down on paper

Sometimes it’s easier to convey your ideas in sketches, drawings or even in spider diagrams. Keep a notebook at hand so when you spontaneously think of a brilliant idea, you can write it down. In addition , it’s good to analyse other people’s games so you can get some inspiration and a few ideas which you can then apply to your game.

Mood and ambience

Besides the excitement of fighting enemies and unearthing treasures, a good game should also have a good atmosphere. Think about what you want the overall mood and tone of your game to be and use the background music to better portray this.

Rewarding the players

It’s much more effective to have lots of small rewards rather than one big prize at the end of a level. The players will be constantly seeking the next small reward to add to their pot which will keep them interested in the game. A player is more likely to give up if they have not received any prizes and have to complete a whole level to get one. Interest is quickly lost when there are no rewards which is why keeping your players interested and motivated with small prizes as they go along is a more effective method.

munchkin

Apr 08

Great Design Tips for your Card Game

Card games are part of all our history, a much loved selection of games that have been enjoyed throughout the globe for centuries past. As with the majority of our much loved favourite games, they have started their movement into the online world, mixing our much loved traditional games like Poker, with more modern, thoughtful games like ‘Modern Art: The Card Game’. Whichever game you choose to pick, you will see a whole new level of design coming into play that blends the traditional symbols and graphics, with 3 dimensional cards, depicting high end imagery.

Designing your own card game has never been more free and full of the chance to get your expression and ideas across. Thinking of designing your own game? Here are our top tips to help you design the next breakthrough card game this year.

Concept

There is a wealth of competition out there for this form of game and with the current hype surrounding online casinos, getting your game seen and played will all depend on the ‘hook’ of your concept. Your concept will need to include the game play sequence; this should include strategy, the pace of play and a certain level of random chance. It is these specifics, especially the strategy, that will get players excited in your product.

Once you have this information, then you will have an idea of how the turns are conducted and what the end goal of your game will be. Each card can then be assessed to see what effect it will have on the play sequence in the game. This is also where you can get an idea of graphics, colour schemes and whether you will include static play or animated sequences.

A great example of how little tweaks to strategy and game play can create a new version of a classic card game is Matchplay 21 available at Intertops Casino. This game uses the classic rules of Blackjack, but has made small changes that have added intrigue into this classic. The graphics are beautifully realistic and even more importantly, they are easy to use/understand. This game remains faithful to the original game, but the designers have considered all the features needed for online gaming, the pace of play, what each card does and the clever use of graphics to make it feel like you are really there.

Now that you have covered the ideas of concept and themes, then designing your game can begin. Before contemplating the layout and backdrop to your game, you need to know exactly what you want to say in the simplest way possible. Start by surveying all the cards used in your game and set a top amount of words per card – if your game has wording – or how many images per card. If you can’t make the card clear with a single image, then you may need to re think your concept.

This will help you to set the right style for your context, remember to look at how your symbols will be used in your game. For example if you are creating the next online monster game, then making the symbols light and airy will not work.

The main difference in designing an online game vs. its offline alternative is that you will also need to set the scene; designing the backdrop becomes just as important as the game play itself. There are many points that you will need to consider here. If you are creating the next bog casino based game, then consider the sounds, sights and smells of a real life casino – these will need to be replicated in order to create a realistic environment. You will also need to think about how the background works from level to level, do you want animated, flash backgrounds or a simple static image that creates atmosphere through sound and game play alone.

Finally, create a short demo of your game, this is one of the most important things to do, as this will tell you whether your game is fun or not! A recent report into designing the perfect game, by gameDEV.net suggests;

“People make short demos of their game ideas and play-test those demos to see if their games are fun.  They tweak and iterate on their ideas until they’re polished and fun.”

That’s it! Once you have created a plan based on all these points, you will have a workable baseline from which to work up to creating your final game.

 

 

 

 

Related articles Tekken Card Tournament Available Now as Free-to-Play Cross-platform Card Game Galactic Council: An Interview With Sam Minnis Blizzard reveals trading card game There Is A 95% Payout On Scratchies Blizzard announces HearthStone: Heroes of Warcraft, free-to-play collectible card game
game team collaboration software

Aug 06

Game Development Team Collaboration

Indie game design and development requires you to have a range of skills which include, design, development, level composition, music/SFX creation, project management and if you are planning to make money, basic accounting. Most will have a special skill such as design or development and then just ‘get by’ with the other skills. If you are serious about creating games then you are more than likely going to need a team. We have already covered assembling an indie game team in a previous article so in this article we are looking at some collaboration software to get your team talking and working together.

The type of collaboration software you use is dependent on budget, level of detail and size and shape of team. For instance, if you are happy being a two man team of a designer and developer, then something simple such as ‘Cage App’ would be a natural option. Cage App is great for adding images online, adding comments to them, and seeing the different revisions all in one place. The project owner can have multiple projects in one account and allow certain users to see and comment on them. When an image is correct there is a handy button to mark it as approved. This ‘free’ and simple application means you can work with a designer and keep a clear log of what is happening.

For a slightly larger team I would recommend Groopt.  Another free project management application that adds many more features such as calendars, file storage, contact information and various social sharing features. This app is ideal for small teams that want a central place to plan, add milestones and deadlines, upload files, and create to do lists. The design borrows heavily from the social networks and is sometimes a little slow to load but having all that functionality for free is fantastic.

Basecamp is a much more serious project management application and can be tested for free if you only have one project running. Additional projects will mean you have to upgrade your account. Basecamp allows administrators to add to-do-lists, assign team members, add time-frames and upload files. Although it doesn’t do any more than Groopt it seems to have more support and can be accessed on mobile phones and integrate with various other 3rd party time saving apps.

For something a little lighter then you should have a look at Wunderkit. The interface is easy to use and although it doesn’t do much; what is does do, it does well. In short, you can create a project, invite team members, assign to do items and write notes. Each project can be viewable by the team alone or opened up as a development log for all to see. The video on the homepage takes you through the social features of the product and I expect this to build in popularity and functionality.

Also on the market but untested by myself is Action Method from the Behance team which has associated apps on iphone and ipad. and Things by Cultured Code which organised and breaks down your to-do lists.

So if you are in or planning to create an game team, it is useful to have a central place to keep plans, jobs, files and comments and collaboration software does just that. Disorganization can lead to broken friendships, lengthy development time and substandard games so make sure that your first to do is to get your project management software in place and strongly encourage the team to use it. In the beginning it will seem like a waste of time and energy but in the middle of the build you will be thankful that it’s all in one place.

Jun 13

Indie Game Development – Where to start?

Not since the day of the Sinclair Spectrum back in the early eighties has independent game development been so big. The advent of the smart phone meant that you didn’t need big budgets or smart 3D graphics to get your game to market. A huge user base wanted simple, fun and cheap games and indie game developers rose again to rival even the biggest of the game giants.

I am by no means an expert in indie game development and nor am I a fully trained game programmer with an education in game theory, level mechanics or usability. Each indie dev’s journey is different and the following article will share with you my advice based on my experiences over the past few years.

First off you need to really want to make games for the joy of making games as game development is not a ‘get rich scheme’ and you can’t just knock out a poor Angry Birds clone and expect the millions to come rolling in. Creating a good game takes time and you would be looking at an absolute minimum of three months from concept to testing.

If you decide to take the plunge then start small and come up with a simple game idea and build on it. Mario was originally called ‘Jump Man’ for a reason and his debut was a simple but addictive game and Pac-Man employs quite a clever enemy logic. In order to stop early disappointment you should think about ‘shelving’ your big game idea until your second, third or fourth game in order for you to get a grasp on all the elements of game design and development.

I don’t know how to code? When it comes to game development you have the choice of learning code or using a drag and drop approach; either way you have options. I am a graphic designer by trade so the drag and drop approach appealed to me first. If this avenue appeals to you then I would strongly recommend starting with either Gamesalad or Stencyl and if you want additional functionality and are willing to put in the leg work then Corona.

Choose Your Weapon Gamesalad is the more established game creation engine and has a great community within its forums. There are plenty of people willing to help you throughout your journey and you have many people from fresh meat to seasoned professionals to chew the fat with. This engine uses .png graphics and has an easy to use drag and drop functionality with allows you to see exactly what you are creating in real time. There are plenty of free templates to help you muddle through and further premium templates to help you understand the more complicated actions. This is a great starter engine as it uses ‘behaviors’ to tell the graphic what to do such as ‘when the graphic is touched, move 300px left’.

The Stencyl game engine uses similar functions such as scenes, behaviours and physics but is more based around drawing directly into the scene with spritesheets instead of placing the pre-made individual game graphics. The addition of an image editor built in also means this is more of an ‘all-in-one’ solution but if you are happy to use illustrator, photoshop, gimp or inkscape to create your elements then you might find the image editor limiting. Unlike Gamesalad the Stencyl engine uses spritesheets to handle images which is more like the more complex engines.

Moving on to the aforementioned ‘more complex engines’ I would suggest looking at Corona if you fancy trying your hand at learning code. The learning curve is steeper but the reward is much greater as this skill can be transferred as it uses OpenAL, OpenGL, Box2D, and Lua, meaning Corona uses the same industry-standard architecture as the larger companies such as Electronic Arts, and ngmoco. As this engine has greater access to the native phone functions as well as greater social connections this is a powerful starter engine. Many that start on Gamesalad or stencyl move on to corona when their games become more intensive.

Finally, if 2D is one dimension short for your liking then take a look at Unity 3D as this is what the big boys tend to use that work within the third dimension. This option is the most expensive and would require the largest commitment of time and energy. Sadly I could not advise you on this one as it would only be based on research and not actual experience. If you have any experience with program’s such as the free blender, or the more expensive maya 3D.

With any of the above engines, the one thing you need to do is give it time to learn. Make a simple game to learn the basics and build up from there as with each game you create you learn something new.

Over the next few weeks we will cover various topics to do with game design and development and hopefully help a few budding developers realise their dream to create the next big thing.

About the author

Ian Garstang is a budding indie game designer who is a graphic designer by day for the top 100 creative agency Kingsland Linassi. By night he is game designer and graphic peddler to other like minded souls. Ian currently has designed graphics for well over 50 games and has three titles currently on the app store as well as many in development. In order to aid his community Ian runs an online game graphic store called Graphic-Buffet.com

Links:

http://gamesalad.com/ http://www.anscamobile.com/corona/ http://www.stencyl.com/ http://unity3d.com/unity/publishing/ios

Jun 07

Was Minecraft thе Best Indie Game оf 2011?

I’m nоt оnе tо beat аrоund thе bush, sо tо thе answer thе title question, уеs, іn mу opinion іt іs. Granted І hаvеn’t hаd thе distinct pleasure tо play еvеrу indie game released lаst year but І hаvе played а fеw оf thеm. Νоt mаnу released асtuаllу hаvе thе ability tо mаkе money, but Minecraft іs mоst definitely аn exception tо thаt rule.

In early 2011 а friend оf mine introduced mе tо а game thаt І thought wаs јust tоо simplistic draw mаnу people’s attention. І wаs pretty trusting оf mу friends judgment, but І wеnt ahead аnd read а couple online reviews tо confirm whаt hе hаd tо tеll mе аbоut thе game. І decided thаt fifteen dollars, twenty nоw, wаsn’t а huge investment tо оwn а game sо І wеnt ahead аnd bought thе beta version.

The basic premise fоr thе game іs vеrу simple, уоu mine materials аnd еіthеr build оr craft things frоm thеsе materials. Fоr instance, уоu саn’t expect thеrе tо bе ambient light underground sо уоu must craft torches оut оf coal аnd sticks іn order tо light уоur cave. Еvеrуthіng іn thе game іs based оn оld 8-bit technology, original Nintendo graphics, but thеrеіn lies оnе оf thе mоst challenging parts оf thе game. Ноw саn уоu gеt blocky graphics tо lооk аs smooth аs роssіblе? Маnу people online hаvе begun usіng programs thаt allow thеm tо convert аn image оf thеіr favorite video game hero tо аn 8-bit image. Тhіs technique іs called spriting аnd іs mоst definitely оnе оf thе coolest things аbоut thе game. Yеt аnоthеr thing thаt draws mе tо thе game, іs thе fact thаt уоu саn build structures thаt аrе absolutely massive. Еvеrу block іn Minecraft equals 1 meter squared іn real life terms. Ѕо іf уоu wanted tо recreate уоur local supermarket tо wіthіn 1 meters accuracy, уоu соuld, аnd shоuld іf іt sounds lіkе fun. Тhе main problem іs finding thе раrtісulаr material уоu wаnt tо build іt оut of.

As а time sink, thіs game іs absolutely а 10. Whіlе іt wоuld bе difficult tо build аn exact replica оf thе Capital Building, уоu absolutely соuld, gіvеn еnоugh time. Тhе sky іs thе limit, literally, іn thіs sandbox game аnd thе оnlу limitation уоu hаvе іs уоur оwn imagination. І hаvе nеvеr played а game thаt resembles computer generated Legos mоrе thаn thіs оnе but wіth unlimited Legos. Тhіs оnе gеts а 9/10. It’s оnlу flaw іs аll thе bugs. Eventually іt will bе а masterpiece, but fоr nоw wе hаvе tо deal wіth thе pace оf thе programmers.

Jan 29

Finishing a game

Whilst having trouble completing yet another game (I have 3 in development now, a physics puzzler, a jetpack game AND a top down racer) I decided to ask the Twittersphere for help andadvice and was inundated with links to this article.

See below for more details:

Finishing a Game

As I work towards completing my own game, I’ve been thinking a lot about finishing projects in general. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of really talented developers out there that have trouble finishing games. Truthfully, I’ve left a long trail of unfinished games in my wake… I think everyone has. Not every project is going to pan out, for whatever reason. But if you find yourself consistently backing out of game projects that have a lot of potential, it could be worth taking a step back and examining why this happens.

 

We’ve all had that feeling about at least one game, comic book, movie, etc., that comes out: “Gee, I could do better than this! This is overrated.” But it’s important to take a step back and realize that, hey, they put in the time to finish a project and I haven’t. That’s at least one thing they might be better than me at, and it’s probably why they have the recognition I don’t! If you treat finishing like a skill, rather than simply a step in the process, you can acknowledge not only that it’s something you can get better at, but also what habits and thought processes get in your way.

I don’t believe that there’s a right way to make games. It’s a creative endeavor, so there are no hard and fast rules that can’t be broken at some point. But as a game developer who has discussed this problem with other game developers, I feel like there are some mental traps that we all fall into at some point, especially when we’re starting out. Being aware of these traps is a great first step towards finishing something. (Between you and me, codifying these ideas is partly my way of staying on top of them, too!)

So without further ado, here is a list of 15 tips for finishing a game:

1. CHOOSE AN IDEA WITH POTENTIAL

I’ve found that there are three types of games that pique my interest: games I want to make, games I want to have made, and games I’m good at making.

Games I want to make are games where the process itself seems really fun. Maybe the mechanic seems really fun to experiment with, or maybe there’s a character I really want to animate.

Games I want to have made are games where I’m more interested in the result than in getting there. Maybe it’s a “no-limits” concept (“OMG, GTA meets Final Fantasy meets Starcraft meets…”) or just a really neat idea that’s not necessarily any fun to implement.

Games I’m good at making are games that are suited to my personality and which I have experience in making. Perhaps there’s a certain genre that you naturally gravitate towards and which you understand the rhythm and flow of very well.

In my opinion, the ideas with the most potential (to be finished, at least) fall into all three categories and also satisfy the requirement “I have the time and resources to actually make this”.

2. ACTUALLY START THE DAMN GAME

Writing your idea down is not starting the damn game. Writing a design document is not starting the damn game. Assembling a team is not starting the damn game. Even doing graphics or music is not starting the damn game. It’s easy to confuse “preparing to start the damn game” with “starting the damn game”. Just remember: a damn game can be played, and if you have not created something that can be played, it’s not a damn game!

So dammit, even creating a game engine is not necessarily starting the damn game. Which brings me to the next tip…

3. DON’T ROLL YOUR OWN TECH IF YOU DON’T HAVE TO

There are pros and cons to writing your own engine. But ask yourself, do you really have to? Is what you want to do impossible to do with what’s already out there or would you be reinventing the wheel? Of course, if you write your own engine you can make it just perfect the way you like it. But be honest, how often do you ever get past the engine to the game itself? Do you find yourself making game engines more often than you do games?

I made the original version of Spelunky in Game Maker, and it’s that “finished” game that eventually gave me the opportunity to work on an Xbox 360 version. So don’t ever feel that game-making software or other simplified tools are somehow illegitimate. The important thing is the game.

Link: The Independent Gaming Forums Technical Forums

4. PROTOTYPE

This goes with #2: prototype first with whatever you have available. Sometimes you find out right off the bat that it’s a bad idea. Sometimes you stumble upon an even BETTER idea. Either way, I usually find it really hard to figure out what I want to commit to until I actually start making something. So make something!

5. MAKE SURE THE CORE MECHANICS ARE FUN

Find core mechanics that are just fun to play around with. It should be fun to execute the most basic interactions, because that’s what players will be doing the most when they play your game. Ultimately, you want this core to drive your development. This will make it a lot easier for you later on when you have to cut out parts of the game (#13) – you’ll always have this core to fall back to.

It’s possible, while prototyping, that you discover a mechanic that’s MORE fun than what you originally thought the core mechanic was – consider making that the new core mechanic!

6. CHOOSE GOOD PARTNERS (OR WORK ALONE AS LONG AS YOU CAN)

Finding a good game-making partner is like dating in a lot of ways. You may think that all that matters is skill: “Oh cool, I’m a programmer, and this guy’s an artist… let’s DO THIS!” But no, there are other things to consider, like personality, experience, timing, and mutual interest. Like a romantic relationship, you don’t want to be in a position where either you or the other person is far less dedicated. Test each other out a bit with some smaller projects, because it can really be devastating when a key person drops out after months or years of development.

Another great thing about having finished projects is that your partners will know what you’re capable of and will feel more comfortable working with you. It’s really hard to convince anyone experienced to work with you on an idea alone, considering how few ideas actually see the light of day (and how hard it is to see the value in some ideas until they’ve been executed). Good partners will want to see your finished games. So finish them!

Alternatively, find free graphics and music to use online, at least as placeholders (at The Independent Gaming Source we had a competitionin which a lot of free art and music was created). Use ASCII if you have to. As an artist, I know I’d much rather contribute to a project that is already done but just missing art. And if you need a coder… consider learning to code yourself (if I can do it, you can, too!) or picking up some game-making software (see #3).

7. GRIND IS NORMAL – FACTOR IT INTO YOUR PLAN

A lot of game-making is tedious and downright unfun. It’s not play, it’s work (and this is why you should choke out ANYONE when they joke about you “playing games all day”). At some point you’ll suddenly realize that there’s all this stuff you never thought about when you were planning your project and prototyping – stuff like menus, screen transitions, saving and loading, etc. “Shoot! I was imagining this amazing world I was going to create, or this fun mechanic I was going to play with… I didn’t think I’d be spending weeks making functional menus that don’t look like crap!” Or, you know, there’s stuff that’s fun in small doses, like animating characters, that becomes nightmarish when you realize you’ve set yourself up for 100 different characters.

Once you go through it a couple of times, you’ll realize how important it is to scale your project so that you don’t spend too much time in this inevitable quagmire (“too much time” being however long it takes before you quit). You’ll also realize that a lot of this boring stuff is what makes the game feel complete! A nice title screen, for example, does wonders to make a game feel legitimate.

8. USE AWARDS, COMPETITIONS, AND OTHER EVENTS AS REAL DEADLINES

When Alec and I were working on Aquaria, the Independent Games Festival submission deadline forced us to make hard decisions about the direction we were taking and it also forced us to look at our schedule more realistically. Had we not had that deadline, I’m not entirely certain we would have finished! Competitions are great to participate in because the deadlines are very real and because the rewards (recognition, awards, possibly money) are very real. Also, they can give you a way to connect with a community of like-minded people.

Links: Independent Games FestivalLudum Dare

9. PUSH FORWARD

Feeling stuck? Push forward. Start working on the next level, the next enemy, the next whatever. Not only is it helpful for motivational purposes, but you want to get a sense for how your whole game will play out. Just like writing – you don’t want to go through it sentence by sentence, making sure every sentence is perfect before you move on. Get an outline down.

10. TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH

It can be surprisingly hard to take care of yourself when you’re focused on finishing a game. But honestly, you’re only doing your game-making a disservice by not sleeping, exercising, or eating right. At best, you’re preventing yourself from working at your full potential and making it more likely that you’ll quit. Having some doubt about your project is perfectly natural, but getting depression or falling into illness is not. It’s amazing how much you can not want to work on your dream project when your mind and body feels like crap!

11. STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR STARTING OVER

“My code’s a mess. And I’ve learned so much already. If I started over I could do it a lot better and faster, and then the rest of the game will go a lot faster, too!”

STOP. NO. This is true at some point during every game’s development. Your code will always be a mess. You will have learned a lot. It will never be perfect. And if you start all over, you’ll find yourself in the exact same situation when you get to this point again. It’s a terrible trap to think like this.

Here’s a joke: a man spends his entire life working on a game engine so perfect that all he has to do is press one button and the perfect game will come out of it. Actually, it’s not much of a joke, because the punchline is that he never finishes it! No such engine or game exists.

If bad organization is really slowing you down, go back and do some surgery on it so that you feel better. If it works but it’s a bit hacky, then be brave and press on!

12. SAVE IT FOR THE NEXT GAME

So partway through development you have this great new idea that’s going to blow everyone’s mind, but you’ll have to redo your whole game to implement it? Save it for the next game! Right? This won’t be the last game you ever make, hopefully. Save it for the next one… but finish this one first!

13. CUT. IT. OUT.

Oh shit, you’re way behind schedule. You have all these ideas but they’ll colonize Mars before you have a chance to implement half of them. Oh woe is you… BUT WAIT!

Well, that’s great, actually! Because now you’re forced to decide what is really important to your game, and what you could cut. The fact is, if we all had unlimited resources and unlimited time, we’d all make the same crappy, meandering everything game and there’d be no reason to play at all. It’s our limited resources and time that forces us to make tight games that feel like they have a purpose.

If you’ve been building upon some core concepts that are provably fun, just keep cutting until you get to the very edge of that core. Everything else is probably just fluff you could do without. Or worse, it’s fluff that’s preventing people from seeing the best parts of your game.

14. IF YOU DO QUIT, SCALE DOWN, NOT UP

Okay, sometimes it is time to call it quits. Maybe there’s just no way you’ll ever finish, and what you have is too big a mess to cut anything out. Maybe the rest of your team has quit already. My hope in writing this list is to help people avoid this possibility, but hey, maybe you’re just coming off of such a project. And sometimes… shit just happens.

If there’s no salvaging it, at least make sure that you scale down your next project. It’s easy to set your sights higher and higher, even as your projects become less and less finished. “My SKILLS are improving! I’m learning from my failure,” is a common excuse. But I think this is why it’s important to treat finishing as a skill, too.

So go back down, down, down, down to a point where you may even find it somewhat beneath you. For example, instead of jumping from your 4x space sim to your 4x space sim IN 3D, try making a great game that focuses on one small element of space sims. And if you can’t finish that, try something more like Asteroids. It’s very possible that it’ll still end up being a bigger struggle than you thought (and/or more fun to make than you thought)!

15. THE LAST 10 PERCENT

They say the last 10 percent is really 90 percent, and there is truth to this. It’s the details that end up taking a long time. Sure, maybe you coded a competent combat system in a week… but making it great and making it complex (and bug-free)… these things can take months. The honest truth is that you’ll probably do a “final lap” sprint many times before you get to the real final lap.

If this sounds discouraging, it shouldn’t. While the last 10 percent is harrowing, I’ve also found that is an enormously satisfying time in the development. Because more often than not, stuff really does seem to “just come together” at the end if you’ve been spending your time properly, and turning a jumble of mish-mashed ideas and content into sweet gaming manna is a magical feeling.

It’s all about the details.

AND FINALLY… RELEASE!

Holy crap, you released a game! Congratulations, you just leveled up, big time. Benefits include: increased confidence, a reputation for being able to complete projects, and an understanding of the entire process of game creation! The best part, though, is that you have a nice little game that I can play and enjoy! And I do like playing games, almost as much as I enjoy making them.

No more standing on the sidelines, friend: YOU ARE A GAME DEVELOPER.