Questions for Successful Game Creators

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llirium
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Questions for Successful Game Creators

#1 Post by llirium » Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:12 am

Just some general questions to those who have completed at least one game to get me started on what I'll have to watch out for in creating my own game, I guess. ^_^;

How many of you had the stories created even before the idea of making it a game came into play? How many created a story only for the purposes of making a game from it?

When you have a single-person project, does focusing only on one aspect at a time help? Or does variety of tasks (ie. draw some, program some, compose/music search some) help keep your creativity flowing?

How did you find others to help you on your game if it turned into a collaboration?

.. Um, that's about all I can think of. *shysmile* Thanks muchly in advance for any input you feel comfortable offering. :)

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#2 Post by papillon » Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:48 am

I've never tried to adapt a game from an existing story. I'm all about branching plots and alternate routes, it wouldn't feel right to me to work from a single story. Adding options to it would make them feel half-hearted in my opinion. Obviously that doesn't apply if you're making a non-branching game.

I work on a variety of tasks and find that it helps to keep me from getting stuck. :) If I had to write the WHOLE DIALOG for the game before coding any of it, it would never work out for me. I often find in the process of transcribing from my initial writing to the game that something needs to be changed. I have a general plot outline for the whole game, but I'm only writing the actual text in little bits and pieces.

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#3 Post by mikey » Wed Nov 15, 2006 10:27 am

llirium wrote:How many of you had the stories created even before the idea of making it a game came into play? How many created a story only for the purposes of making a game from it?
I never really have the story (the series of events) planned. But I do have the topic - the point, or the conflict, or the message, whatever you may call it - usually before.

So with Black Pencil, for instance, I knew I wanted to create a game that deals with loneliness. But I haven't had the story (what happens) designed, that came afterwards. Often I am inspired by a certain place, take pictures and decide to set the game topic in that place. Then comes the scope of the game (length), the gameplay system (linear, multichoice, branching or variable-based), character count (often just one or two) - and THEN I try to fit a story into that concept. Often I have several settings that I want to work with (river&bridges, park, city) and a pool of topics (loneliness, first love, regret), and I pick whatever suits me the most, or what I feel like I'm comfortable doing - for instance, having a game about loneliness set in a city for Black Pencil.

As for the specific story and the events that take place, I let it come as it comes, the characters usually evolve from the topic, and the plot from the setting.

I especially NEVER design any characters or invent persons and personalities and then create an environment (and a conflict) for them. Most people however do choose to create a powerful character first, complete with a biography and treat them more or less like actors in their story. But even though I'm a bit different in this aspect, in the end, it gets me the script.
llirium wrote:When you have a single-person project, does focusing only on one aspect at a time help? Or does variety of tasks (ie. draw some, program some, compose/music search some) help keep your creativity flowing?
Despite what papillon said, I still wouldn't recommend working on multiple elements at the same time. You will have to be very disciplined and focused to spot the point when variety stops being motivation and starts being a distraction, which it is, for most of the time. Remember the statistic - the overwhelming majority of games that had demos were never completed.

I'd also advise (even more strongly) against parallel creation of the game's elements when collaborating with others, ESPECIALLY through e-mail/internet. While I see the point of parallel game development brought up by Andrew, this works only in a professional environment. I have the same experiences, but I need to stress this, it was in a professional situation where bosses have had the leverage to enforce and coordinate parallel element creation. For the freeware game-maker teams, actually, parallel development is usually the death.

You can see the result on these forums, as most of the people have generally already acknowledged this by suggesting a working full script in an engine, without art or music as the milestone one should aim for, because from there, you can start to ask for assistance and collaboration - and the artists who will do the most work will have not only an assurance that their efforts will not be in vain (because the game only needs art and then it's basically finished - music isn't such a hard element to acquire), but also they will now the exact scope of the project, not only through a design document and an internet promise, but through real proof.

Of course, there are exceptions, but as a rule, avoid parallel game element creation. This doesn't mean you can't have placeholders or quick sketches helping you.
llirium wrote:How did you find others to help you on your game if it turned into a collaboration?
Either I contact them personally, or they contact me. Usually I look for commitment. Reliability is top priority, skill isn't so important. The worst thing in the world is an artist walking away in the middle of the project.

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#4 Post by llirium » Wed Nov 15, 2006 11:24 am

mikey wrote:I never really have the story (the series of events) planned. But I do have the topic - the point, or the conflict, or the message, whatever you may call it - usually before.
Yes, I've at least gotten the 'point' down, ie. What the heck am I making a game FOR? I know that just to make a game for its own sake isn't enough, you need to actually know you have something to contribute. Having fun doing it also isn't quite right.. but if you do it to have people laugh/have fun/go crazy from puzzles.. *that*'s a better focus.

Better still to have thematic storytelling going on, as it brings disparate threads of fiction together where they might not otherwise.
mikey wrote:I especially NEVER design any characters or invent persons and personalities and then create an environment (and a conflict) for them.
My choice of environment and characters happened almost at the same time as the creative juices started flowing.. but I do see your point. I don't exactly understand why that would be difficult for you, though.. to become attached to a character and then find a good setting for them. Or is it because you believe the environment you want to place them in would help shape their character, and without that, there's less of a template for a person to be created?
mikey wrote:Despite what papillon said, I still wouldn't recommend working on multiple elements at the same time. You will have to be very disciplined and focused to spot the point when variety stops being motivation and starts being a distraction, which it is, for most of the time.
I'd disagree, because for some people only keeping to one task at a time will frustrate them. So long as you make sure that you're not developing things idealistically or poorly (ie. drawing Character A when you don't even know if you'll *have* Character A in the story), I think it could help the story develop and grow in a different way.

Just keeping consistent with what you've planned is important if you work like that. I've got a 'Final Verdict' on most of the ideas I came up with in earlier brainstorming in type sessions, so that I keep track of what I've already discarded as a viable idea or not.

As for parallel creation with other people, it probably isn't going to happen, but thanks for the tip. :) Being the artist *and* the storyteller *and* programmer isn't easy.. but in the end, it will likely lead to fewer headaches.

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#5 Post by llirium » Wed Nov 15, 2006 11:27 am

papillon wrote:I work on a variety of tasks and find that it helps to keep me from getting stuck. :) If I had to write the WHOLE DIALOG for the game before coding any of it, it would never work out for me.
Yes, I feel the same way about tasks. :D

But as the only person working on it, as I work on different parts, the limits of my story, writing, coding and artistic ability all become more apparent.

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#6 Post by mikey » Wed Nov 15, 2006 3:13 pm

llirium wrote:Being the artist *and* the storyteller *and* programmer isn't easy.. but in the end, it will likely lead to fewer headaches.
Definitely. Especially as you won't have to answer to anyone in case you decide to change large portions of the game. It also helps when you want to create something very specific and can't trust the task to external collaborators. In the end, the games usually come out very rounded.

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#7 Post by DaFool » Thu Nov 16, 2006 4:42 am

I wish there had been more topics like this, thanks for asking ilirium.

I was one of the people who had to learn the hard way by releasing a demo (which at least is more or less standalone or complete enough as a little slice of a bigger universe).

I still learned by doing, though, so taking on a sacrificial project is worth it to get the feel of a bigger scope project, as well as to demonstrate to others whom you might be collaborating with in the future.

Some of the Nanoreno2005 games have been one-person projects...and it's amazing how they were able to make such good projects doing near everything in a short amount of time. But the irony is that you would have thought these same gamemakers would become juggernauts with their subsequent projects, and you learn that even they have projects still stuck in development. The most recent completed games have been either short, or collaborations, or both.

I wanted a more epic scope project, that's why I chose a collaboration. I'm used to real school projects where you design things to meet certain specifications. I'm a bit fickle with what I want, so I don't like creating those specs myself. So it's a welcome relief to have a writer / director whom you can just ask and what you get is a very reassuring decision of yes / no / up to you - but I prefer it this way. Although the project is insanely graphically-intensive, an experienced writer provides the firm backbone.

So I'm still for one-person projects, but am realistic that the actual development time (for a medium to long-scope project) may be very long, unless it was a low-budget one.

And low-budget is hard thing to master, especially when you're doing the arts yourself. You think of drawing a low-budget (i.e. low-effort) drawing, then you just itch to improve it. Anything I do becomes high-budget, its just an obsessive-compulsive nature to do the best with everything.

Sorry, I'm not really qualified to comment on this thread, oh well...

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#8 Post by mikey » Thu Nov 16, 2006 6:02 am

DaFool wrote:Some of the Nanoreno2005 games have been one-person projects...and it's amazing how they were able to make such good projects doing near everything in a short amount of time. But the irony is that you would have thought these same gamemakers would become juggernauts with their subsequent projects, and you learn that even they have projects still stuck in development.
This brings me to another point. I've advocated that serial/layer way of producing instead of parallel/episodic for just this reason.

For a smaller project, it doesn't really matter how you structure your work and whether you jump from element to element whenever you feel bored with something.

However, come something bigger and such way of working really slows things down. That's why the jump from smaller to bigger is so difficult. You can make three-four small games and you'll still get stuck with a larger one, simply because for a larger effort you need a well-thought-out working system.

You can remember ToL2 - after ToL1 you'd have thought we (the community) had this cracked, starting small and getting bigger. But I actually found out the hard way in River Trap (after Black Pencil), and it was a game that we made almost scene-by-scene. We had to go through it a lot of times, often replacing all of the visuals, rephrasing things, because the writing style changed and so on - it ended up being 6 months.

That's why the work on Kaori was so important. Kaori was the first VN we did that had a good plan, layer-style procedure, to test this way of making a game - it turned out to be a huge success, being finished in record time. I learned valuable lessons with this, and it enabled us to plan NaNoReno's TT, which was in a similar length (if not graphical complexity) as River Trap, and we could do it, basically in 1/6 of the time. Even with additional graphics to match RT's bells and whistles, if it was 2 months in dev, we would still have done it in 1/3 of the time it took RT.

In many ways Kaori was our most important project, as it defined the way of work for the next games. It also helped us in breaking the rule that any subsequent project must be bigger and more complex - because somehow bigger means progress :?

I am tempted to think that "start small" isn't everything. I tried to point out in my older gamedev article the importance of sandbox creating - defining your limits, knowing your options and technologies and trying to make a game WITHIN that frame (as opposed to designing a game and hoping to find people with sufficient skills), and I'm also thinking that good planning is also extremely important - in fact, I'd put both of these before starting small. As with planning, it doesn't have to be very detailed, PyTom can probably confirm that many of our games had their plan scribbled on my green notepad - but it's the procedure and framework that's important to establish here.

Not to say starting small isn't good - I would definitely recommend it. But I think it's easy to be lured into thinking that the methods of work for small scale will bring result in large scale, EVEN with a one-man dev team. If you're lucky, the big project will be finished, like RT, but more often than not, the variety and motivation of the episodic creation system will not outweigh the huge increase of dev time - and many projects simply die because of a lack of interest. I realize that there are exceptions, but I dare say this is actually the prevailing case.

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#9 Post by llirium » Thu Nov 16, 2006 11:51 pm

DaFool wrote:I'm a bit fickle with what I want, so I don't like creating those specs myself. So it's a welcome relief to have a writer / director whom you can just ask and what you get is a very reassuring decision of yes / no / up to you - but I prefer it this way. Although the project is insanely graphically-intensive, an experienced writer provides the firm backbone.
Ahhh.. that's also a good idea. :) It's best to have a collaboration where you can have at least one person to say 'that's ok' or 'no can do' or 'work on this part a little more'. That's why there's a director of a movie, to keep the overall vision and cogs spinning.
DaFool wrote:Anything I do becomes high-budget, its just an obsessive-compulsive nature to do the best with everything.

Sorry, I'm not really qualified to comment on this thread, oh well...
No, not at all. To be honest, I'm a bit sorry that I limited the topic right in the subject title... :oops:

Can relate to the perfectionsit attitude as well. ;) In my own game, I plan on doing things half-assed as little as possible. If it's within my abilities.. or something I can learn from others in time.. I'll try my best to do it.

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