In this post I will go back through the last 1-2 months of work I have put into this project and say what went well and what didn’t. I will also reflect on any area I think I need improvement in.
Mood board Character and 2D Game: Game Idea and Them Mood-board are the first two blog posts when I first started to plan what the game was going to be about and what the character was going to be like. I didn’t really use these ideas, because it was an overshot of a game design relating to my abilities and was just a starting point. I will take this error into account for any further game designing I am going to do.
I had an amazing idea for a character in my head and that would be great for a AAA game, but this was more of an indie short deadline game, so it wasn’t a great idea. I made a bad 16 by 16 bit version of him, but I had to take out the chain. I wanted him to do massive fluent combos mixing his dagger or sword with a long chain that mixed up gameplay, but this probably would have been to difficult for me at this stage and definitely for the time-span; I had of 3, 4 or 5 weeks I think?
The look to me didn’t really matter too much, I just wanted it to have very cool mechanics. I decided to just use a sword, take out the sword transformation and simplify the character.
If I did this again, I would first start with very simplistic characters and move sets, then add more if I had time.
The level was designed around just the sword attacks and jumping. I kept 3x jump, because I already had it programmed in. The level designed was inspired by Mario, in that letting the player learn slowly through the level mechanics and not just rush everything in.
The problem with the level design is the same with the character; too many functions. I will also start off simplistic and then add in functions later on with the level design.
Change to plan
After realizing I didn’t have much time left, I took my teacher’s advice and stop trying to make mechanics that would work with my character and just make a level that utilises the mechanics I had already and try to squeeze every aspect I can out of them. Here is a link to the blog post for more detail: 2D Game: New Plan
Part of me thought this would make the game dull, boring and not worth playing, but it seemed to be the opposite, because people and myself actually enjoyed playing the game more. I guess it is true what someone said to me, even for games, “People want the same but different,” this meaning just re-skins and altered slightly. You really do learn a lot through experience.
I sat down and started to make use out of two mechanics in the most ways possible; mines and jump-through platforms.
Even though this was great, I still needed to add some mechanics later on to get things working correctly. Now I realise that is better than working on the mechanics before the level, because after you’ve finished all the mechanics they could become useless and leave you without a level.
When going through this again, I now know the following:
- Simplicity first – First start off with a simple concept and once that is achieved, then expand.
- Squeeze a mechanics functionality: Use a mechanic to all it’s use and then add more and start combining them.
- Not all mechanics are technical – You can make a great game without knowing how to program in depth, if you are a great game designer and artists. You can use colours, sounds and videos to influence a game. A great example of this is The Witness.
- More mechanics does not mean better – No matter how many mechanics are in a game, the game will be bad if it doesn’t use them well.
The size of the game might be big seeming I made the level layouts in a day, but it could have been bigger and better, if I didn’t spend time making the laser.
I thought a game was about functionality and then level designs, but I couldn’t have been further from the truth, it is level design and then functionality, well it isn’t that black and white, because you need some functionality before level design.
From now on I am thinking of making a levels that makes use of a mechanic and then the following level introduces a new mechanic. Aka mechanics will be introduced one by one and then a finally of all them at once, instead of jumping straight from point A to point Z and hoping the player understands what each mechanic does. I also learnt that reusing sections of a level, but making them slightly different will make a player feel accomplished or not punished for figuring it or not figuring it out. For example: A 2x pit fall. The player may think it is a secret passage, but when they realise it is a trap, they can use this knowledge in later sections.
Overall results and what I have learnt
The overall result does seem a bit rushed, because it mostly was, but I have learnt so much throughout this project. This is what I’ve learnt:
- Good level design – I’ve learnt what makes a good level design and what makes a bad level design. A good level design makes use of all tools and brings back challenges, but normally with a twist, while a bad one doesn’t.
- Simplicity over complexity – If you can’t follow what is going on, there is no way an average player will.
- Multiple small thrills are better than one big one – Don’t waste the player’s or your time making only one gigantic thing, work in small steps and that will eventually come, granted maybe not as spectacular, but it could have more impact.
- Let players use just learnt knowledge – There is no point in teaching players something they aren’t going to reuse and just felt their time has been wasted.
- Trick players into thinking they figured something out – Putting small obstacles in and a way to get past it all by using learnt knowledge that you deliberately put in there but not in clear sight, will make the player feel like they figure something out that was not apart of the game. Example: Wall jump to jump over enemies, but not deliberately telling them that’s how you get passed.
- Some mechanics need other mechanics – Some mechanics need other mechanics to work, but you shouldn’t really stress about it until you get to that point.
- Concepts before continuing – A good game development needs you to sketch out ideas of how to use mechanics before continuing, otherwise you will waste more time later on. Look at all the trendy games for examples. Quite a few have a very simple mechanic or/and feature, but they utilise it in it’s entirety. The next most popular game is not necessarily a fast action, heavy develop game, it could just be very simplistic, but addictive and fun game, example: Flappy Bird; stupidly simplistic, but boy was it popular.
I now know what makes a good game and what doesn’t and I now know what I shouldn’t and should do during development. From what I’ve learnt these are the order from most to least important parts of a game development:
- Level Design
- Particle effects
- Voice actors
Note: These are interpretations and not facts. All games have different development needs.
Something I can say for sure is, focusing on just 1 or 2 of these areas and building it up like it was your baby and going through all the crucial stages will make a game that will leave an impact on at least one player in the world as long as you put in the effort and emotions into making the game come alive. Think of game development as a journey and everyday is a whole new journey and it will no longer be chore to finish it, it will be an accomplishment and an end to the road, you will then struggle to just let go and with some games you won’t need to for a while, for example: WoW (World of Warcraft).