Game Development – Part I
In 2006 with the help of some friends I began to develop a video game, until that time I was sure that gamedev is an easy task that only requires you to know games, a newcomer’s mistake. My job was to do 3D models and animation and plainly spoken I really sucked at it, though my love for this side of game development hasn’t changed and I always appreciate what artists do in games.
The problem back then was that we didn’t have a plan; we just developed as we got further and further into the stages of the game. Why didn’t we have a blueprint, something to guide us and work more efficiently? The answer is easy : lack of experience. At that time the thought of making a document with concepts was inexistent, as time passed I saw that this thing called concept is a highly vital item for any successful game, sure some still look unpolished and unfinished, however this is not because the plan wasn’t clear enough more than the fact that pressure has become to cease a humongous amount of terrain in this industry.
What is a concept? Why do I need it, when I have it all in my head? Does it really make a difference? To answer these questions I would propose the most common analogy known to the tech industry.
You and your neighbor have decided to construct new homes for your families. Eager to start and all you think that it’s easy to make a house, you get some wood, some tools and voila the house is done; your neighbor on the other hand ponders a bit on the implications of building a house, he sits down in a comfortable chair at his desk and starts writing down schematics and plans: “Do I need this?”, “Can I build that?”, “What can I do to improve these thingamajigs?”, etc.
A few blocks away you are at your construction site, sweating and building your sweet home. Wait! What is this??? You forgot to make room for the pluming. Diligently you start destroying your current creation and build another one in its place; meanwhile your neighbor has finished his “concept” and gets to the building process. Technically speaking you both got a fresh start, let’s see what happens.
After several weeks of hard work both of the houses are done, the results are as we expected them to be. Your dear neighbor’s house looks something like this
while after countless rebuilds you’ve managed to build this
Now you see why planning is so important, you just don’t start off with no experience whatsoever and hope to accomplish something as you move along. You plan, study, research. The analogy wasn’t in vain due to the fact that building software or games is like building a house, every step is calculated, overlooking something can cost you dearly and set the production stages to alpha or even worse.
You need to think outside the box and make your game flexible when adding more content. Don’t stop at “I am doing this period”, what you should say “I am doing this, but I’m going to do it so that in the future I can improve it or build something on top of it”. This thinking saves a lot of crunch time, short term you don’t see it happening, but long term, when that dreaded deadline comes along you will pat yourself on the back for planning it well.
I would like to end this first part of Game Development with the following advice: there is no shame in not knowing something by heart, if you forget something, a concept, gameplay element, review your documents.
Excellent post and great advice. It always seems like a game will be no biggie until I’m knee deep in spaghetti code.