There you are, sitting at your work space and staring blankly into the abyss that is a blank page. You’re here because you want to make a game—had that inspiration bug bite you—but now that you have cleared your schedule, maybe cleaned up your area, but the well is dry now. When it comes to game design, sometimes starting is a harder thing to do for people. There are several basic questions you should ask before even starting to help guide the process. This article should help with some initial startup process for those who need it.
Be a Detective: Sculpt Your Projects with Questions
Sometimes asking questions is the best way to start a project. Focusing your train of thought can speed up the creation process. One of my earliest articles for the blog was about asking questions, so it may be a good starting point for this article as well (which can be found here ). Below are a couple of questions to start your process of refining your concept.
- What is the current technology or time of the world you are building and how does it affect your world?
- Example: in the future (futuretech), in the past (Medieval times), or modern times (Today’s technology).
- What is the theme, genre, or message you’re wanting to send with your game?
- Example: Comedy, Horror, Action-Adventure, or “Never Give Up”, “Magic has consequences”.
- What are the basic mechanics you’re wanting in your game?
- Example: Movement, Jumping, Combat, Crafting.
- What is the combat like if there is some?
- Example: First Person, Tactical, Turn Based.
- How many players are will you game allow?
- Example: A solo adventure game or a couch crashing party game.
- What are the influences or inspirations for your game?
- Example: Everything we do is influenced by something and if you can isolate that inspiration you can then go back to it when you get stuck.
The point of this method is about creating a solid idea from your initial inspirations.
With this method, don’t simply ask random questions that comes to mind. You should be using this time to sculpt your rough idea as it moves from your head to either on paper or wherever your notes are.
Ask follow up questions, or the same question in a different way; it often results in different answers.
A Basic Project Can Still Be Called a Prototype
If you don’t like the questions approach you can use what I call the “essentials” method and simply start with what you need for your prototype.
The easiest way to do this is to think about which mechanics will the player deal with first.
If movement is a thing your game will need, develop movement first. If you think they will have some combat, which mechanics are needed, develop that as needed. Maybe crafting will come before the combat, work on that.
The problem with this method is that you can easily lose track of how things work together or how they affect each other. Movement mechanics might need to change depending on how your combat or crafting works and vice-versa.
If working on a team, each person will have their own strengths and weaknesses that you could bounce off each other. If you are not confident in something, maybe another person on the team is —this would be a great time to hand off the project. Work your strengths as a group and as individuals so that things move smoothly, or utilize them when the group starts to slow down or get stuck on things.
Creating Momentum Through Your Strengths
The last method I am offering sounds obvious, but it’s two mentalities so you should keep an open mind to both. Playing to your strengths as a designer, coder, or whatever it is you do. This as mentioned above is done in one of two ways.
You can choose to lean on your strengths when the project first starts to get a good chunk done and feel the accomplishment of that and roll on through that—or you can choose to push through the difficult things you may not be comfortable with first, knowing your strengths will make things easier in the end.
Both versions work much in the same way, but you should be aware of your time and keep a steady track on your to do lists if you choose this path.
There Are Always Things to Remember
It doesn’t matter which method you choose, but there are some universal things to consider. First, you should have a “To Do” list on hand at any given point; it can be a general one or a specific session-based one, but have one.
When it comes to making a “To Do” list don’t use vague terms like, “Complete tutorial.” Small, actionable, and measurable goals work best.
Time isn’t a friend when it comes to games: some things are faster than others, but deadlines are deadlines and those need to be met. A deadline could be something you set as a goal or paperwork for funding that just needs your initials.
Above all else, the number one rule of thumb is HAVE FUN! Why else are we doing this if not to have fun in a field we enjoy so much?