Welcome to the 4th part of our “Creating a game” series. You can read older articles here.
If you’re creating your first ever game and you don’t know programming or you can’t draw… don’t look for someone that will help you in it. If you’re an artist download GameMaker or Stencyl and with some English knowledge (if you are reading this I think that there’s no problem with it) along with your own willingness to spend time on it, you CAN handle it on your own. Same goes for programmers. To develop prototype you do not need god knows how many top notch sprites. Placeholders such as squares, stars, circles, free sprites (try Opengameart.com) will do just fine to give the feel of gameplay. Designers will have tougher time as they need to grab a little from both coding and graphics. After finishing playable prototype with polished gfx or placeholders you can finally look for some people to help you in project. Remember though – the less, the better.
Why not earlier?
- Experience and some actual knowledge about other team members’ work will come in handy
- Maybe you will find your hidden talent?
- If your idea won’t look so awesome anymore after you create prototype, you won’t waste other people’s time
- There’s higher chance that someone will join your project if they see your own contribution
- If in the middle of the project you will start to get lazy and somewhere lose motivation (and trust me, it happens quite often even if you feel like there’s no way at the start) again: you won’t waste other people’s time
- There’s no point in committing too much time to work with random volunteers
- It will turn out what sprites and sounds are needed for 100% (will save other artists’ time)
- There’s very little chance that someone will want to join you seeing only scratches of idea. Or you will only get not serious offers, which will only waste your precious time.
I’m writing this from my very own experience. I’ve started many different projects and one I can tell for sure – if you have something to show, people will want to join your project more willingly and sometimes they even might be asking you to recruit them. I’ve made this mistake several times myself too… Posting threads on forums “Looking for artists, writers and translators” before even project was created in Visual Studio or GameMaker.
However, when I started working on Puzzle Masters I didn’t spend time on making any threads, asked nobody for help. Half of assets I took from the Internet, half did myself even though lacking experience and skills. I’ve been sitting on this all on my own for over a month coding and taking care of graphics. After that I released alpha version and most people enjoyed it. That’s how I found great musician (Chris Sinnott), talented visual artist (Toxotes) and programmer (waxx) that has more experience than me and rewrote whole engine from zero. From programming side I’m only doing what I’m best at – AI and GUI. Doing that I’ve gained some valuable experience in coding and graphics and formed a great team that I can work with to finish high quality game. For me – there are only pros :p
While writing your advertisement and offer where you look for new team members, you need to bear in mind few things:
- Include short description of your project with the most essential info: genre of game, art style (vector graphics, 3d, isometric, top-down or something else?), short gameplay overview
- Targeted platforms
- Estimated time in which you want to finish project
- Who you’re looking for and what you demand from them
- ContactScreens and prototype download
- What you can bring into the project
- Show your portfolio if you got one
About organizing your work, assuming that your prototype is finished and you have all other people needed (remember: the more people you’ve got, the bigger stress is and you can easily lose control of them) you have found. There are many approaches to work on project, but I’ll present you mine. First, if everyone has already looked through prototype, group yourself and start a conference on skype or any other favored communicator. Or just meet IRL if you don’t live that far away from each other. During that ‘brain storm’ everyone should give his own ideas, remarks and comments about project. Even if idea might seem at first meh for them, someone might be able to modify it little bit so never be afraid to share with your thoughts. Someone that is working as designer in your team should be collecting those ideas and writing them all down. After ‘brain storm’ he should sit alone and separate good from bad ideas and of course somehow limit them. Surely there might be many great features you would like to see in game, but you have to be realistic – someone will have to do them and in optimal time. Pick what you’re capable of implementing, you don’t want to sit on your first project for two years.
After that designer shows more detailed vision of game to other team members. And again – discussion. Now without that big ideas, just do the small changes if needed and you’re ready to go. Keep in mind that you don’t have to plan all maps, missions, vehicles, enemies or anything like that at the start. Those things you can always do further in your development cycle. Programmers and your artists should know from start what to expect from game and what is needed (it sucks when you realize in middle of your work that half of code is trash as someone just thought of changing one feature).
Someone who is handling organization in your project should write down all needed assets (sprites, sounds) and create some sort of milestones for programmers. Sure, you can just update todo list day by day, but seeing as you achieve something bigger and can ‘untick’ more tasks at once is better motivator. You will always know what is done, work is divided into portions so it’s just clearer as well.
Here is list of some tools that might help you in your work:
- Dropbox – for assets, design documents, you can also store here todo lists, assets list, some other project files etc.
- SVN – for programmers specifically as for example Visual and Dropbox hate each other. When you and others work on same project opened several times on Dropbox, it will start to create some crappy database files or other shit that takes quite a lot of space. It’s just irritating.
- Forums – can work same way as Dropbox, surely brings better organization of files and looks better but isn’t so convenient
- Wiki – project documentation, not everyone needs it though, for some forums work just as fine
- Skype/MSN – for chatting & conferences.
- Google Docs - "dropbox for documents" in a browser
Whilst using Dropbox it’s good to spend a moment on creating proper folder structure as after some time without any form of order, you will start to waste more time on looking for some files than actually doing anything with them.And that’s it in today’s article. As always – if you’ve got any questions or feedback, feel free to post in comments. I think you can now start your work on prototype. Remember – small but interesting idea is the key!
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