Starting a game is easy. It’s really easy – so easy that we often jump in before we’ve thought about it. But we’ve already covered thinking about it beforehand, so assuming you paid some attention back there, we’re ready to look at the next step.

There are probably a million things running through my head when I sit down to create those first few resources for a game – whether it be how I want to write the lines, a great new puzzle idea that I can’t wait to try or a new drawing style I’ve just been itching to put into a game. However, before we jump in and work on that really cool thing, it’s best to have a quick analysis of what is the most important thing to focus on first.

Sharing the load: If you’re like me, you’ll probably be wearing most of the hats yourself when it comes to building a game. However, I still get help – in my case mainly with music and sound – and therefore I need to consider getting that other person up and running before I get too far ahead of myself.

It’s easy when most of the ideas come from your own head to know what you should be working on and what it should feel like, however for someone who is not right there seeing your thoughts firsthand, it is not nearly as easy to know what to work on and how it should sound/feel/look. Before you get too carried away working on any one aspect, consider what that other person will need to get working on the game. In my case Sebastian always likes to make the music while looking at screenshots of the game and thinking about the general atmosphere of the game, so I always try to get a few rooms built and send them off to him so that he can have plenty of time to start working on his music. If I can’t manage this, I’ll send him a bunch of screenshots and a synopsis of the story. Waiting until your game is at beta stage and then sending it through to someone so that they can start working on their part is going to mean that they’re either going to be super rushed to get it done in time or they’re going to be holding you up. Possibly both.

Upcoming Chandler - IWWHIIWWHITOMIROTPG: The Game!

Upcoming Chandler - IWWHIIWWHITOMIROTPG: The Game!

Wouldn’t it be cool if?: We all have conventions we’d like to challenge at some point. Sometimes it might be something small – writing a character outside of the norm or creating a visual style nobody else has done – but sometimes it can be a major idea. Yeah, innovation is great, and super important to keep yourself interested in designing games, but don’t let it be the only thing you spend your time on. I’ve seen so many friend’s projects (and it seems to me that everyone falls for this at some point) fall over before they even get off the starting blocks because the designer was so consumed by getting their innovations right that after weeks of work they still didn’t have anything that resembled a game. The key is to balance your time – don’t spend all of your time on scripting up the most incredible personality attributes system that influences the dialog options available to you based on how you treat npcs in the game straight away. Build a little bit, then focus on building some actual game. Once you’ve got a bit of game done, go back and do a bit more on your innovation. Get together a one room demo for your friends to check out with limited functionality rather than putting all your energy into getting every aspect of it right before you’ve even started the rest of the game.

Chandler Classic - Shifter's Box

Chandler Classic - Shifter's Box

Know your strengths: We all have things we’re better at and things we’re not so good at. As with everything else, I find it very important to balance your attention between these things to make sure the game proceeds at a steady pace. If you’re an awesome scripter, but not so great with doing graphics, make sure you don’t spend all your time doing scripting and think “I’ll get around to the graphics once I’ve got the puzzles all in place”. Usually the thing you are most proficient at is what you have spent the most time doing, and therefore the aspect of creation you enjoy the most. Therefore, it is fairly safe to assume that you’re going to need less motivation to get these parts done. When you’ve got a ton of motivation (which is generally right at the start of the game creation process), use it to get in there and work on the stuff you don’t really like doing that much. For me, I hate writing code but enjoy doing the graphics, so I try to force myself to go and get a whole heap of code done. Once I’ve done a whole bunch of this for the day, I wind down by putting some extra polish on a background or putting together an animation or two – stuff that I can happily put on some music while doing and relax without getting frustrated with. This ensures that every aspect of the game gets worked on each time you sit down to get some work done, so the game is constructed fairly evenly.

Keeping it consistent: Consistency is key. You might be an awesome musician, a coding genius, a fantastic illustrator and animator and a superb writer. This doesn’t mean that you’re automatically going to produce an amazing game! If you make sure all of the elements you are putting together work well together right at the start, you will save yourself major reworking later on in the development process. And reworking is a major motivation killer.


"Motivation Killer" by Ben Chandler


Chapter End


Go to Chapter 3: The Long Haul

About The Author:

Ben Chandler (aka Ben304) is a prolific creator of freeware adventure games specializing in Adventure Game Studio. He is best known for: Awakener; HeedMan Boy vs Doctor Sock; Annie Android: Automated Affection; Shifter’s Box: Outside In; Trance-Pacific (in collaboration with paolo); and Shoot, I Got Abducted!. You can visit Ben Chandler’s own blog full of writings on gaming, game design, and creating graphic art here.