If you ask most developers how many unforeseen challenges they have come across during a single game project, they’ll most likely have a good number of them to share. It’s more often than not that an unexpected problem or two will rear its ugly head while making a game.
Those same developers will also admit there’s nothing worse than running into an obstacle that could have been avoided had they planned for it early. The following hints may help make your project go smoother simply because you thought ahead rather than learning the hard way late in development.
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Chances are you’ve played a game that could have been great had it not been for terrible controls. Instead of offering a comfortable and intuitive experience, controlling the game felt more like a hinderance that made having fun nearly impossible. Whether your game uses a console gamepad, keyboard and mouse, or a touchscreen, your player should never feel frustration or a desire to destroy said device due to an inability to perform simple, necessary actions.
To avoid this, consider designing the controls early in development so they grow and evolve along with your game. This will give you plenty of time to improve them as new features are implemented, which is better than adding something new that ends up being difficult to provide comfortable control inputs for. Playtesters are incredibly useful for this as they can give you an honest opinion on how good or bad the controls feel.
The User Interface and HUD Elements
Although not as terrible as having bad gameplay controls, a tedious menu system and HUD is more than enough to discourage players. A good example is the original Mass Effect, a critically acclaimed game that is beloved by fans but undoubtedly suffered from poor menu design due to limited menu space, lack of visual aid, missing information, and inconsistent button inputs.
Unfortunately most developers leave HUD and menus toward the last stages of a project, which doesn’t make sense since they’re essentially how your player will communicate with the game. Think about adding a good map early on if you’re going to have a big world to explore. If your players will spend a lot of time in menus, why not start polishing them up early so they’re both easy to navigate and provide all the necessary information? A friendly HUD and menu system won’t make a bad game into a good one but they can definitely keep a great game from becoming just a good game.
One of the worst things you can do as a developer is create the perfect game for you. We’re not saying that for you to enjoy your own game is a bad thing, but unless you’re making it just for your own personal enjoyment you’d be wise to consider what other people’s likes and preferences are. There’s nothing more enlightening than having the majority of your playtesters say they dislike a feature that you love.
The problem is that most developers don’t bring them in early enough and instead wait until later stages. Usually this is because we don’t want to show something to others until it’s somewhat polished up, has decent graphics implemented, etc.
However, there’s plenty to learn even by having other people play your paper prototypes well before any code has been written. In a nutshell: the earlier you discover that something doesn’t work well or is not favored by most players, the more headaches and frustration you’ll save yourself when you find them out late in the pipeline.
Launch and Post-Launch
It’s no surprise that most developers don’t really have any plans set for launch early in development. After all, who has time to think about a game’s release when there’s so much planning to do for the game to actually be made in the first place?
Although this mentality is understandable, it’s never a bad idea to start coming up with how you’ll actually help your game get some attention once it becomes available to the world.
It’s sad to say but your game wouldn’t be the first to receive less attention than it deserves simply because you failed to take advantage of that precious post-launch window.
Instead, come up with an early list of ideas to create buzz for your game. This can include starting an active social media page or providing YouTubers and sites a review copy so they post something on launch day. It’s also a good idea to be prepared in case you need to patch a big bug, which can be hectic if your team went into sleep mode just because the game has launched.