Alright now, I'm at my computer and can type faster and more cohesively so hopefully this should be a bit more interesting. I'm also typing this at 5:30am on no sleep so I'm actually more in my mindset on which I think in terms where at least I understand. Lets get to it!
Have a plan.
When beginning development on a game or even a mod you really should have a plan or at the very least a goal or set of guidelines on what your end result will be. I'm starting to see a lot of teams have a vague idea of what they want to do and it can lead to several different things that could stop and fizzle out production. I'll go ahead and list off some quick examples that come to mind;
- People join production and realize the project is veering towards something they didn't think they were signing up for.
- Arguments occur on "I thought we were doing this".
- Idea being too vague leads to too many development ideas which can bog down production to the point of nothing actually getting done (Seen this happen WAYYY too many times, and I won't lie that is part of the problem with OPDD currently, but that is completely my fault)
- Everyone "loses focus" on production and the right things are not getting completed.
Actually in a sense not having a plan is like advertising that no one wants to lead or coordinate things. So you either have a power struggle among the developers or things just don't hold together. Nobody wants to work on something that they cannot actually see day by day improvements on.
The Artist Tend to Run the Show
I have to admit I kind of hate this fact/advice. It was given to me by a friend who goes by Vapes. Still it is very true. Programmers can do all sorts of things but unless they can produce some sort of artistic value the work isn't seen. Most people who program do so because they like the meticulous perfectionist ways that a programmer really needs to be when writing code. Creating art with that mindset is a very difficult challenge, but it is still something I want to learn to do. It's a lot easier to have an artist or a creative director direct the programmers to match the art. Still being me I love it when a game is complex, and while the art really can have an affect on how much I like the game I still like to have a system that seems intuitive and clever. However, the overall consensus in gaming kind of shows otherwise. I'm not saying games are becoming counter intuitive, but they are becoming simpler and easier to play. Part of this has to do with the expansion of the market (iPhone, Droid, Wii, etc...) which means more people are getting into video games that prefer a simple game. Angry Birds is a fairly good example. I'm not saying the physics are bad, they certainly are fantastic, but the game isn't a new concept, it's been around in the form of flash games on websites for years. Still the art for Angry Birds is so well done. The animations are fantastic and it's all an extremely clever artistic way on going about such an addictive game. It really seems run by the artists, all the levels are just begging to be toppled. I guess it comes down to consumer choice, and I think consumer tend to go for the more visually pleasing / polished game because it seems like it would be the more enjoyable.
Just Because You Have a Good Artist Doesn't Mean You Don't Need a Good Programmer.
That's one heck of a long title, but it's true as I've mentioned before you need a game team of like minded individuals. This seems to be pretty obvious to me but it still happens a bit too often. Visual appeal draws people in, but if a game has poor code and tons of bizarre game breaking bugs. It's just not going to be played much. It's hard to enjoy a game that locks up on you all the time or just doesn't work as intended. You don't buy really expensive lawnmowers to drive yourself to work. As cool as that could potentially be, after the first few trips your ears will be ringing, you'll probably have some traffic tickets, and unless you plan ahead you'll probably be late to work. That probably wasn't the best analogy but it was the first thing that came to mind. Moving on!
What Makes a Good Game?
The overall definition of a good game is a complete matter of opinion so I guess the real question is "How can I be sure people will like my game?" My favorite general rule of thumb for this is "Do you the developer love playing the game you made?" This has actually gotten a lot more popular, I know Valve kind of has that mindset in their game creation process, still some of my favorite games have come from developers who created a game they wanted to play. Battlefield 1942 in short was thought up when developers began playing their own game Codename Eagle during breaks in a competitive fashion. They decided they wanted larger scale air battles, and that grew into the concept of BF1942 a game that for its time was thought to fail due to this concept that hadn't been introduced to the market yet. When you have something come along that is that different it makes it hard to judge if people will actually buy it, and that leads to my next point.
Sometimes luck can actually be the deciding factor if a game is considered good or not. There is a lot of games that come out and don't get noticed for a long time and don't make it big, while others get picked up and become the greatest game of the decade. I'm not saying games that come to be considered the best are not, but they could have been just as easily skipped over. Half Life for example is a bizarre and downright gritty game, yet a fantastic game. Still there is still that possibility that it could have failed. It isn't all luck though Half Life came out at a time when action shooters were wanted. Still, arguably it could have been passed up for some other game. Simply because of the consumer's overall choice. Still There are games out there that I enjoy every second of that really didn't become as ground breaking as Half Life. The Thief series ironically redefined most stealth games but a lot of people don't even know about it. I probably wouldn't know anything about it if my sister hadn't of gotten Thief 3 (Still love that game even though it's also one of the hardest games for me to play). Then more recently the game Psychonauts has come to light which was a PS2 game. While the stylistic art is extremely strange and overall the game seems like it would be childish. It is actually amazingly fun and yet challenging. I felt like half the game was one game and the other was the sequel. The first half your struggling to learn and build up your powers while building up the plot. While the second half is one continued crazy story where you have to teach yourself to use all your abilities you learned at the beginning to get past ridiculous challenges and level designs. Plus the play time is double of your average game so it really feels as if it could have been 2 games. Still it's a game that was hugely overlooked, and honestly is making them more money now than the initial sales despite being only $10 now. The developer is now being funded by the community to make a sequel, which is amazing for a game that helped run its published into debt at the time of it release.
Now for a break.
Well I have much to do and the sun is beginning to rise. Feel free to post comments if you have your own personal opinions or feelings towards any of the topics I've covered. I don't know how many parts I'll be posting this in probably a total of 4 or 5, but I think about this stuff a lot and sometimes I just feel the need to get it out there. I like to hear conflicting opinions so I can second guess myself and hopefully work towards a better understanding for everyone.
`The Crazy Ivan