So, you’re interested in what it takes to produce a video game. Maybe you’ve had the perfect idea for a video game planned out in your head ever since you were a kid and you want to see it become a reality, or perhaps you have a creative vision for something and bringing that work into an interactive environment might be the best way for the experience you have in mind to take shape.
No matter if you’re a solo developer or a smaller piece of a larger video game production company, ALL games need to be planned out carefully and thoughtfully.
In this article, we’ll be listing five easy-to-follow steps on how you can create the perfect game.
Every story has its beginning, and planning is the first part of how your game is going to eventually become a reality. You don’t need to follow all of your plans, in fact, it’s extremely normal for the final version of a game to be radically different from how it was initially planned, but you definitely need to start with some idea of what you want.
The first steps should be obvious depending on what sort of project you’re working on. Let’s say you’re an independent developer and you want to make your first game.
This should go without saying, but you absolutely need to know what KIND of a game you want to make. This can always change later if you find a better idea during production, but you need to start with some sort of focus.
Video games, like other forms of media, can have an emotional impact on the player, and it’s possible to make the player feel a variety of different feelings in different ways. If you want a horror game, maybe you’ll consider a game with lots of dark areas and controls that make the player feel helpless. Or if you want an adventure game, maybe you’ll consider a world with lots of bright colors and a gameplay system that allows the player to discover new places in a fun and interesting ways. The possibilities are basically as vast as your imagination will allow.
In addition to gameplay considerations, nearly all games need an answer to these basic questions:
- What platform is this game going to be for? (PC, consoles, mobile, etc.)
- Who is the target audience for this game?
- What engine will the game be built with? (Or, you could create an engine too if you’d like)
- How will the player control this game? (touchscreen, controller, motion controls, etc.)
- How will we charge customers in order to monetize this product?
- Will the game be 2D or 3D, or a mix of both?
You can consider the pre-production step to basically be a more advanced version of planning. I know, lots of planning so far, but it really is an important step to crafting a truly great video game and it should basically never be overlooked.
Pre-production involves creating things from the initial ideas you came up with during the planning phase. By now you should have a decent understanding of where you want your project to go. However, even if you feel like you can see your vision clearly in your head, trust me, you can’t. Not until it actually exists somewhere in real life.
There’s often a pretty huge disconnect between what we imagine and what actually ends up coming out in execution, which is why getting your ideas down on paper is so important.
Here are some easy ways you could get started:
- Create rough storyboards for any narrative sequences you might have in mind
- Produce concept art for any of the game’s characters/locations/important objects
- Create a rough playable prototype of your game that demonstrates how the final game might feel when it’s played
- Create concept art for the game’s menus, HUD elements, fonts, color palettes, etc.
So you’re settled with a cohesive vision for your game as a complete package and you’re ready to get started actually creating real stuff within your game.
Imagine if you tried to start your game creation journey from here! Sadly lots of aspiring game developers make this mistake: not planning sufficiently in advance. Things can fall apart in production if you’ve skipped important steps. But if you’ve followed the steps so far, this part should be easy!
Well, maybe easy isn’t the right word. It will still be challenging of course, but it’ll be easier to know where you should go with your project.
In the production phase, you and your team will create the bulk of the game’s assets and systems. This can include the creation of things like:
- 3D or 2D assets/props/environments
- Controllable systems for the player, like programming for player movement
- Producing music and sound effects
- Programming and testing any online or multiplayer systems you may have in mind
Testing your game for fun and functionality should be a part of this step as well, and problems will come up at this point. As a game developer, you’ll sometimes need to implement creative decisions in order to deal with these problems.
This could come in the form of a technical problem, like an environment being too hard for a computer to render properly, or it could be something more abstract, like having a gameplay element that ends up not being very fun.
There’s no clear-cut answer to the more abstract problems, but it is very important to be communicative and open with your team, as the creative input of your co-workers can often be a valuable resource.
So you’ve worked on your game for a long time now. You’ve tested it extensively, and you’re not only satisfied with its quality, but you are running out of ideas on how you could possibly improve the experience from here. Everything has been pushed to its absolute limit. It’s time to finally launch.
Full-cycle game development and marketing can sometimes overlap, but oftentimes these are two separate departments. For the sake of this article, I’ll be assuming that you’ve been advertising your game sufficiently and that people are excited about it. Otherwise, you might end up with an amazing game that just never finds an audience big enough to carry it, and nobody wants to see that happen.
Once your game releases you might be tempted to take a huge break and relax. You should definitely celebrate for sure, but you absolutely cannot walk away from your game at this critical point.
You need to have at least some people managing your game’s community and listening to feedback. Some players may have cases where they can’t play your game at all due to technical problems, and if you can’t resolve cases like these you will end up with angry customers and lots of refunds.
Short-term post-launch support is basically mandatory for modern games, and they can include doing things like:
- Fixing any major bugs that players of your game found
- Optimizing your game to run better on certain systems
- Polishing already existing mechanics to feel or perform better
So the game’s already out, isn’t that enough? Well, in some cases yes, there are certain types of games where you would be just fine moving on to the next project afterward. But you should at the very least consider what else you could add to the game after it’s already come out. Creating additional content for an already existing game will always be easier than trying to create a completely new game from scratch.
Bugs will continue to show up, and there will always be an expectation to deal with them. Depending on the size of your team, maybe not all bugs will be fixed, but you should definitely aim to fix the ones that affect the most players first.
Here are some good ideas for ways you can contribute to a game after it’s already been released:
- Include balance patches that change the gameplay in slight ways to make it more fair or fun
- Continue to fix any major or minor bugs that show up
- Add additional content in order to bring in more players
- Create larger amounts of content that players might need to pay to access, almost like a sequel
- Add new or novel gameplay systems that players might be interested in
- Add even more polish, stuff like cleaner UI elements, better translations, better sound mixing, etc.
Those are the five basic steps to creating a truly great game that can stand the test of time. These steps will not guarantee a perfect game, but if you follow these basic planning rules you will instantly be in a better spot than about 90% of game developers who just try to wing it. Games are big, complex projects, and it’s very important to think about every part of it critically, one step at a time.
Best of luck to you on your game development adventures!
Yuriy Denisyuk is Game Production Lead at Pingle Studio. He’s responsible for successfully managing the Game Production pipeline. Yuriy is this lucky person who plays the best games for work in order to keep up with trends and create new ones. He likes writing, reading Manga, fantasy, and professional literature in his free time.
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