by Philipp Schäfer
Slowly we are beginning to see empty spaces on the horizon that was once so full of Schein and we can begin to look out for new shores. Already last year in my SUBOTRON talk last year, I mentioned that we are in a brainstorming phase. This is what that typically looked like last year:
Travelling – a perfect time to let ones thoughts wander. Vacation is even better, but unfortunately not always available. In the end where brainstorming works best depends very much on the type of person. And finally there is no other option but to order your thoughts, put them down on paper and present them to other people. Hereby you can quickly see which ideas people respond to and which might still be too theoretical.
The next step is to jointly create a complete draft of the idea. We’ve found that a presentation – effectively a mini-GDD – is a good way to do this. You are forced to phrase everything precisely and a small business section with SWOT analysis serves to highlight weaknesses. Sending the presentation back and forth also helps to keep all involved team members on the same level, that way everybody is up to date when an idea arrives at a breakthrough.
It is difficult to know when it’s time for the next step on the way to the prototype. A rule of thumb is the complexity of the game. The more minimalistic its core is, the sooner you should have a playable version to find out if the main concept works, or if it needs to be changed. On the other hand games with focus on puzzles and story might develop better in pictures and sketches.
Once you begin with the implementation, there are a couple of pitfalls – especially when you are little rusty. Number on is perfection: while it is proudly achieved at the end of a project to get everything just right, it needs to mercilessly run off a cliff here. Is the motion blur a little off? Could the controls be better? Does the simple animation have some little kinks? …don’t touch it! Take a break. Breathe normally and get started on the next big chunk.
In one of our game ideas a technical issue stood in the foreground, so we needed a technical prototype. No sooner said than done and the problem was solved in two days. Unfortunately it was very tempting to use the prototype to also test the gameplay right away. This was a bad idea, because after two days we had to concede: a technical prototype is a technical prototype – nothing more will become of it. The effort to adapt the game idea to the technology for a first gameplay test was simply too great.
After emphasizing twice how important it is to save time, I want to add an argument to the contrary: prototypes and game jams are the perfect situations to familiarize yourself with new tools. So don’t get stuck with your old tools, no matter how smooth your workflows are already – check out what the world has brought forth recently and give it a go. Perhaps a new tool will find its way into your heart.