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Am I the only one whose game has no graphics during development? (Forums : Development Banter : Am I the only one whose game has no graphics during development?) Locked
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Dec 18 2013 Anchor

I'm talking to those who are making games solo. If you have an artist in your team, then your game would have graphics as it's being built, I'm sure, but my games are done by me alone. I don't have someone to do graphics for me. Programming is my strongest point and because of that, no pretty graphics for my games during the building process. All of the graphics at this point are placeholders with only the characters actually mimicking what they are going to look like when the game is finished, everything else is either a block or silhouette of what I want to make.

The reason why I'm asking this is because I go to this site to see everyone's games and they all have nice looking graphics. I don't know if the games are almost complete, halfway done, or just starting, but they all have nice looking screenshots to show their work. I rather concentrate on building the game first and then work on graphics because if I build the game first, then I'll have a good idea of what kind of graphics I should draw.

I remember back in like 2010, I was working on a puzzle game and when I was developing the core of the game, all I had was solid colors. I showed screenshots of my game and I got a response saying that I should improve the graphics. That person did not realize that it was merely development screenshots and it wasn't near to what it could possibly look like when it was complete, making me believe that perhaps graphics during development are as important as letting people know you are still working on the game.

I am curious about this. Should I have some graphics done in the middle of my game development or keep building the game first, and then draw the graphics? I do it this way because when I entered the world of indie game making, I would work on both and never succeeded in accomplishing anything. That's why I don't do graphics first.

Kyou. Mornin.
Dec 18 2013 Anchor

I float in the same boat as you in alot of ways, where I have focused on getting the core all working and have nothing but coloured placeholders where the artwork would go. I don't have my projects displayed on this website but I think most people who do view peoples mods , games etc don't understand the workings of games and would rather see graphics displayed instead. A working game is better than good looking assets in a non working game.

I going down the path of getting the game near completion (90%) then maybe I'll start working on replacing the placeholder along side of the last 10%.

Dec 18 2013 Anchor

I like your approach, imho it is the most effective one. Succesful people apply that in on organized way, e.g. 'Quick and Dirty Prototyping'. Maybe the point is to make evident that the graphics are not definitive.

Dec 18 2013 Anchor

I ALWAYS do things the 'code and programmer art first, at the end put some effort in good looking content' way on my solo projects. Mainly because I don't have much of a choice, I am a programmer, not an artist, for a reason ;) So I just hope to get my gameplay interesting enough to attract an artist (even if it's 'just a friend') that is willing to invest some time and effort in creating quality assets. (which makes it a non-solo project at that point, but me trying to create quality visual assets would simply be a waste of time)

Dec 18 2013 Anchor

This is an awesome topic, and I've questioned my approach to game development.

On my current game, It Never Ends, I decided to put out demos every two weeks so that I could collect feedback and gain exposure for the game. For a few demos, I only had diamonds and circles. It hasn't changed much. You can view the game at its various stages here:

The amount of feedback was poor. From the small amount of feedback that I did receive, I have to say that they were helpful, and rarely commented on graphics. Then again, I often make it a point to mention that I have not put effort into graphics yet, and I don't need that type of feedback.

On the other hand, I feel like I get very little feedback because the graphics are rough. Actually, I'm sure of it. If I had a dedicated artist, I would develop both art and code at the same time to gather interest.

Btw, I discussed this weeks ago with my friend who programs at Riot (LOL) and he says that they don't put graphics in until they have something functional.

Kyou. Mornin.
Dec 19 2013 Anchor

Metalspy wrote: Mainly because I don't have much of a choice, I am a programmer, not an artist, for a reason ;)

Hit the nail on that one for me its one of the reasons why I pushed back all the artwork towards the end. But even if I was skilled at producing art I think it would still be closer to the end of the development cycle when I would start replacing placeholders. Maybe if I was posting my works here I would focus on trying to get some art assets going for presentation purposes.

Dec 19 2013 Anchor

My games have nothing but graphics through development. Overstatement - but the answer to your question is yes some other people does have graphics in their games from the beginning. Others from mid. And others might be more like you and actually concentrate on what's important for a game. Gameplay, mechanics, interaction. etc.

And gameplay is what you need, then screw gfx. I'm an animator and graphical artist, and have very weak programming skills. This leads me to get stuck very quickly with stupid obstacles.
Then I can sooth that pain by making something that at least looks nice. However I've realized that if I only make graphics, then there will never be a game, so the last couple of projects I've started to just code, and then put in simple gfx - but not as placeholder though , I just choose to make it simple from the get go. I can't concentrate on just coding for weeks upon end. So usually I'll be procrastinating with the gfx production from time to time.

Edited by: andreasng

Dec 19 2013 Anchor

Glad I'm not alone in this.

Though I'm not an artist, I can indeed draw. Is it any good? I say it is but I have yet to have someone actually tell me what they think of my art. Regardless, I can draw but programming is my strongest point. I can wake up and start programing and not end until the dead of night but only because I need to go to sleep. I can spend endless hours coding away without a care in the world and the time just speeds by. Art, on the other hand, is a chore. I get easily distracted, if I'm not listening to something entertaining like a podcast then I get anxious to do something else, and it takes an entire day to draw a single background and when you got like 50 backgrounds to draw, then I find myself using shortcuts. I guess it's not just simply wanting to build the foundation first but I somewhat dread doing the art due to it's time consuming requirement. But of course I got to do it because I'm a one man team, and even though it is a chore to get through, the end result is actually satisfactory, so I do get some enjoyment in the end.

If I had a choice to have some nice art as I program, I would do it, but alas, I feel like it's better to lay the plans and then build the cosmetic part of the project later on. That is why I have come to a compromise: I'll finish the very core of the game and when that's done, I'll start drawing some art. The game is not complete but it is finished enough to be playable, but if it has extra features like minigames, I'll work on the art for the core of the game and for the minigames, I'll try to recycle as much as I can from what I have. That's what I'm planning for my free game and what I'm working on for the game that is going to be on sale.

Dec 20 2013 Anchor

I'm the same way, but since I'm almost always working alone I see it as a chance to learn some art skills. I've gotten way better at making sprites over the years.


All posts are phase shifted and routed through the main deflector dish for quality assurance purposes.

Dec 20 2013 Anchor

This thread has kind of wandered into skill sets. You keep talking about how you're doing this solo, and that's really the source of the problem. However, I'm okay with that! Making a game by yourself means something to me. In the early days of game design, it was very often one person who did it all, and this includes music. Granted, art in early games was fairly simplistic, but to do the coding, the art and the music always impressed me.

Personally, I would love to be one of those guys who can do it all. I have a plan in my head for the art and music, but I don't know if I can pull it off. I think the smarter move for me would be to reach out for help, but that's me.

Dec 20 2013 Anchor

I plan to do it all. I'll die trying maybe.

I've been drawing all my life, so it comes naturally, luckily my mom supported me thoroughly through my childhood, never expecting it to go anywhere maybe.
BUT in highschool we were taught HTML which completely made me realize that coding is effin interesting, and the mental demands attached to solving issues fits my mentality so well. Later on I advanced to PHP on my own, CSS, but got stuck there, since Java, Javascript, C#, C++ and above seemed too complicated to me.

However a few years ago I picked up gamemaker, and GML proved to me that I'm not done yet when it comes to coding. It is SOOO awesome to solves problems with code... with functionality and mechanics.

Edited by: andreasng

Dec 20 2013 Anchor

The rule simply is have graphics or don't post screenshots. I didn't come up with it, merely deduced it's existence. The world is rough and competition for attention is tough. And no screenshots means no attention. On the other hand artists don't team up with people who don't appear to be handling their game project. Unreleased game is hardly a reference no matter how nice pictures you draw.

This doesn't really need multiple chapters of analyzing.
1) have a great idea
2) make a prototype game
3) recruit as big a team as you need and can get
4) kick off the publicity show and screenshots when you have something to show
5) keep the train on it's track towards release, recruit more if needed, manage the workload and schedule, keep followers satisfied and updated
6) success

Try to skip anything and you won't reach 6).

Dec 21 2013 Anchor

Looks like some are mentioning teams. Well I don't have any friends I can turn to for graphics and I don't have surplus of money to hire a team. Heck, even if I did have friends to help me out, they wouldn't be as interested in working in my mad pace, so I have no choice but to do it alone. In fact, I'm making games in order to sell them so I can make money to hire help (my day job can barely pay for my bills). It's all on me to do everything.

And yes, this topic has gone astray. Perhaps we should get back on track. I guess I'll talk about my early days of making games and how it relates to the topic. Way back in 2001, when the family got the first computer, within months, I discovered the RPGToolkit. Back then I did it all: graphics, coding, music...well not music, I used other sources cuz I don't know how to make music. Anyways, I completed my first game, which is now lost forever, but my second game was started in 2002 or 2003 and I still have it, incomplete. Why? Because I was ambitious with this project. It was going to be a huge RPG game just like the old school console ones. I was still young with little experience so instead of planning it out first, I just built as I went along. The result became cumbersome and I quit the game. I was trying to do both coding and graphics at the same time. Because of that, it all got entwined and I had much difficulties. It wasn't till years later that I learned that programming was my strongest skill and I should concentrate on that first. So now I no longer do art until after the core of the game is finished, because that RPG that I was making is now in one (with many copies on others) of my backup disks, never to be finished (though I'm going to work on a crossover that will remedy that). So it has been years of trial and error until I got a good system on my hands to work with.

Jan 8 2014 Anchor

I've released screenshots with mere placeholders, though I've only done so in a very low key way, not least because I was too busy working on the game to really go all out with the promotion side anyway. I just popped them onto my blog in order to create a nice sense of progression.

Moon Boing six months ago when all was placeholder:

And now:

Jan 10 2014 Anchor

I usually just work programming and graphics as a side thing or when I desperately need something. I'm more of an artist but I enjoy programming as well.

Jan 15 2014 Anchor

I'm still a novice and learning to better my art, but I'm in the same boat as you. I use colored blocks, sometimes with smiley faces, until I can really sit down and focus on producing art. If my skills were a bit more balanced I think I'd do both simultaneously though.

Jan 16 2014 Anchor

Graphics help identify things in a game. If you build something like Minecraft, it's very hard to determine what is a wall, a player, a weapon, etc.
It's like Goldeneye 64 completely made with square blocks of different sizes and colors. It doesn't work.

As you finish a section of the game, such as a first level or a characters controls. You should add the graphics in.

I recommend adding graphics and then programming. The reason is because let's say you program a walking animation for an alien that is 3ft tall with 3 legs, but then you find out you can't model an alien and use a human instead, everything has to be redone. Having a visual helps with advancing the game and story as well.

Jan 17 2014 Anchor


I kinda understand your point. But as a 3D artist / graphics designer I see big part of the actual game development is graphics design as well. I've talked a lot with coders and the "coder art". Biggest problem is that it's very hard for example graphicians, musicians and writers etc to start getting other content into the game rather than the engine (code) if there's no guidelines, idea of the theme and style and no examples... I'm sure it would be easier to get people interested, to show the key ideas (code, functionality and graphics theme, maybe some sound even...).

I don't see it's a bad thing to code and make coder art, it might just scare some people off, and after the game is finished, it might be hard job to get someone do all the graphcis while "you're just waiting when it's done". So the game would basically develope "in all scopes" at the same time... Pretty much like imagine a drummer making a song ready (for drums) - and then get the guitarist in to "add the melodies on top of my song".

Jan 18 2014 Anchor

I know exactly what you mean. My current project looks TERRIBLE right now. I focus on graphics near the end. I mean hey if your game is fun with circles and squares it'll only be better when all the graphics are in place!

Jan 18 2014 Anchor

Pheidian wrote:
Biggest problem is that it's very hard for example graphicians, musicians and writers etc to start getting other content into the game rather than the engine (code) if there's no guidelines, idea of the theme and style and no examples... I'm sure it would be easier to get people interested, to show the key ideas (code, functionality and graphics theme, maybe some sound even...). may want to read the very first line of the first post.

Jan 24 2014 Anchor

So many games out there. Someone might give your game about 3 seconds to decide even if its worth clicking on your demo video. If it doesnt have professional, gorgeous graphics, then they wont bother. no matter how good the gameplay is. Looking fantastic is the bare minimum these days.

Jan 24 2014 Anchor

This topic has been marinating a while, and as my game develops, I've decided that everything is going as it should. After 28 weeks of work, I still haven't invested effort in my graphics. The bulk of my time has been spent on game essentials. Due to this, I don't get overwhelming interest/feedback in my project, and that's okay.

Because the game's graphics aren't present, the little bit of feedback that I am getting is focused on basic game design, and that's exactly what I'm looking for right now. Initially, I suppose that I had a fantasy that people would love my game's concept and create a following that would create momentum and its own publicity, but that's not realistic. When the time to advertise is right, that's when I should invest in the best art that I can make, or buy.

When that time comes, graphics will be the tool to get people's attention, but the concept and game play will be the key to success.

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