Planning a game

Here’s a quick post about planning things that you want to make.

My advice: do it. Do enough, then spend some more time on it anyway.

Really, I know that sounds simple, but it makes it so much easier to make something if you have sat down with a pen and paper for a little while and sketched out the main features of levels, ideas about how things work, the way the player progresses.

I’ve got myself a little bit of work from a charity group to make a game for them (I’ll let you know when it goes online), and the process was going very smoothly until I hit a snag this afternoon… And guess what? That snag was precisely the point at which my plan had become a little vague. It’s nothing major, just presentation work, but it just demonstrates how useful it is to have a solid idea of how you are going to proceed with a piece.

Things to consider:

How are things controlled? Mouse? Keyboard? Getting this worked out first is important because it is the first point of contact for the player.

Keep it simple: you don’t want to make a game so damn complicated that people have to spend all day working out how to play it. There is a difference between complexity of interface and complexity of design. You want people to think as little as possible about how they are interacting with your game so that any complexity and subltly in the design of the game isn’t clouded by the interface.

How do things move? That sounds simple, but the movement around the screen really gives the game it’s feel. Do you want to add in intertia? If you have a character that jumps then how will this effect the way it responds to its environment?

Bear in mind your current experience: don’t expect to be able to make a scrolling 3D platform game on your first try. By all means work your way up to that, but try for something more easily achievable first.

Who is your target audience? Is it computer literate people or do you want this playable by anyone? If it’s the former then this changes some of your design decisions. I would suggest always aiming for the latter group when possible because if it’s a good game then those with experience will come and play too anyway.

Graphics are among the least important of components in some ways, but they do give a sense of style to a piece. Likewise with the music.

Don’t punish your players. There’s no fun in playing a game that doesn’t work in a way that isn’t suitable for it’s media. In my case I make games for the web, so I want a player to be able to see a decent section of the game within three minutes. If the game is not going to be finished within this space of time then give people a way of returning to the spot they left, such as a level password.

That’s enough tips for the moment. Is anyone interested in some of the design processes behind animations and games? This is a bit of a jumbled post because I’ve been in the world of code and in the sweltering heat for the last six hours and now my brain is frying, usually they would be a little better organised than this, but the question stands: are you interested in hearing about the design decisions made when creating an animation/game?

3 thoughts on “Planning a game”

  1. Embedded fonts = evil, but I’ll do my best.

    Generally I try to avoid them, I’ve never become too adept at using them myself, but I have used them a couple of times in the past.

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