Many game developers dream of creating a massive sandbox game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto V, World of Warcraft or Skyrim. But those games require millions of lines of code, tens of thousands of art and sound assets and hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and market. But what if you don’t have $500 million and thousands of employees? Do you just throw your hands in the air and give up on your dream of making awesome games?
Of course not. As a professional game developer, your projects should have a scope that fits your budget, resources and limitations. If you don’t think this is important, you can ask the creators of Daikatana and Duke Nukem Forever exactly what happens when the scope of your project gets too big.
The most important factor in having a realistic scope for your project is to start small and have a mentality of “good enough”. By starting small, you start by doing one thing, like make one character model, one level or put out one piece of music. Then do several small things in a row. Try to get a small portion of the game playable. It can be as little as one level, one battle, or one mechanic. Work on that mechanic until you’ve ironed out all the flaws, then release it.
Congratulations, you’ve just made a playable game. It might not be the next World of Warcraft but it’s something that people can play. So where does “good enough” come in? “Good enough” is important because what many developers do is finish half of a feature and then begin work on a new and exciting feature. This practice frequently results in a project that’s not ready for release because there are a bunch of half finished items and no playable game at its center.
So if you find yourself with a project that has a ton of half finished features, declare that you will release a “good enough” game and work on finishing the most important features before shipping. It’s fine if you don’t release with 100% of the features fully implemented, just a few features that are “good enough” will do. You can always go back and finish the rest of the game to your satisfaction.
The most difficult thing to do is to say that any given feature set is good enough, before focusing on polishing the game to make it as perfect as possible. But remember that starting the game creation process is trivial compared to actually finishing something playable and fun, and as a game developer, no one will ever remember or purchase your half-finished and unpolished works in progress. Start small and you will succeed, for every journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
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