So you identified your who what where when and how for your video game. What’s next? Designing the document. What is this mystical document that you speak of? Allow me to clarify for those unfamiliar with the infamous GDD (Game Design Document). Long story short it’s a guideline that every developer needs if he, she or they plan on completing their video game and have all components of the game completed to match the vision as much as possible. It doesn’t matter if you are in a team or a solo developer, this document is essential. But why? Imagine you decide to build a house, and u go to Home Depot or to Lowes and get a bunch of wood, concrete base, electrical wiring, nails, tar, siding, window frames, insulation, drywall and flooring. Yes these items are necessary to build your home. But the next thing you would need to figure out is how all these pieces put a home together. Is it possible to put together a plan as you go? Of course it is. But imagine the unnecessary time and energy that you would need to put into this project to complete it.
First off, that’s great news, especially if you’re an independent game developer. Right now the indie game market grows bigger each day and the resources being developed are aiming more at the independent developer. There is so much that a single person could do now that ten years ago would have taken more time, people and resources to get done. So pat yourself
Now here’s the “Oh shit” moment
You decided you’re going to be a game developer and you even have an idea that is the best thing since sliced bread (we all had that same idea at some point) so you go to Google and type in how to make a video game. WHOA SENSORY OVERLOAD SENSORY OVERLOAD! Ok so I exaggerated. But seriously you could literally be in your chair all day panning through the endless websites and half assed YouTube tutorials on game development which actually turn out to be how to make a FPS like COD or some crap. Not to bash any bodies work because I applaud any work that people put into game development. The point I’m making is that you would have to go here ,there, and everywhere to get complete answers to your questions as you either learn to develop your game or want to expand on your current skill set.
The more you read And scan through tutorials, the more you get closer to the oh shit moment. The more you read the harder it seems and you may find yourself overwhelmed and begin to realize that you didn’t know as much as you thought you knew about game development. OH SHIT, now what?
Who, What, When, Where, and How
We all remember the who what when where and how from the second grade. If you ever have to tackle any large task, always address these essential identifiers before you step off the ledge. I’ve listed each word with a description on how to apply them to your game development:
Who : This should be a plain no brainer here. Who will be working on the game with you? Will it be just you, or do you have a buddy that’s just as ambitious as you and wants to make cool games like you? If you want to recruit later on, who will you need to work with? What are their skillsets? Personal advice here, it would be more of a benefit if your buddy or team of guys or whoever has some knowledge about something in the game dev pipeline (ie, 3d modeling, programming, etc). Identifying the who puts prospective on the amount of work needed to put together your game.
What : The what identifies what game you want to create and what you need to make this game a reality. This is to me the most important of the five, because you have to make sure this is all in order before you head down this road. Don’t rush anything here because you will crash if you do. Ask yourself a few questions. Is my game a 3D game or a 2D game? Do I want to release for mobile, pc, or console**? What game engine would suit my needs for now as well as future projects? What hardware specs do I need? What is my game about? Does it captivate? Is it a clone of another game? If it is, what can I do to make it different?
When : When, identifies your timetable. When are you going to start, and when are you going to finish. Its always a good habit to vision the end before you imagine the beginning. The reason for this is you want to be able to moderate your pace when you’re developing your game so you are always on track. You don’t want to turn your development into a marathon and then you find yourself lost with no ending. This usually produces a rushed ending to a game that wasn’t the greatest to begin with. And how your game ends has the greatest impact on your players.
Where : The where defines a few things. first you need to make sure you have a dedicated space to do your development. I stress this as a need over an option because it is important to constantly be productive when working on your game. You don’t want to really develop you game in the same space you relax or enjoy your leisure time. The reason is that you don’t want to become lax at any time. Every moment that you can spend actually building your game is important. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to cough up money for an office space or a shared work space. You can go to Starbucks and sit there with your laptop and work on your game. If you are working from a desktop, then your desktop should be in the most boring part of your house or at another location where you know you will be focused on the task at hand. If you have access to a garage this would be ideal as its not an entertaining space at all and your most likely not to be interrupted while you work.
How : This whole list is not listed in the order of how it should be done. However, your how should be your last pot stop. This will detail how you plan on bringing attention your game. How you plan to market it. How can you engage an audience? It also has its own combination of who, what, when, where, and how. Who do you want to play this game? Target an audience. Do some research and find your audience. Hopefully you have a working prototype. Use it to get your audience engaged throughout the rest of your development. Its also a great motivator. We are inclined to finish tasks when others are watching, or we are encouraged to continue. As human beings its how we are made. What channels will you use to distribute your game? Steam? Unity forums? UDK forums? Facebook? (I do not recommend Facebook, and I will explain why in another blog). These are some examples as this list is vast and grows everyday. When Should you employ certain promotion tactics? When should you release new builds and how often? Its important that if you build a following you must maintain that following by feeding the appetite of your audience. I have seen too many time talented guys go through the trouble of putting up YouTube videos and game dev blogs and never finishing them and leaving their audience disappointed. Identify where you will focus most of your promotion efforts. Where is the best place to gain the most attention with those you want to play your game? If you need extra money, then where can you find your financing? Once you piece all of these elements together, the you will have a clear vision on how you can make your game the successful game you envisioned when you was sitting on your couch stuffing your face with pizza and chugging a beer.
What’s the next blog gonna be about?
I will cover a basic template for a simple GDD, as well as identify and review some game engines that are commonly used for indie game developers today. If there are any questions comments or concerns please feel free to share. Any suggestions? Please feel to let me know. Blogging is new for me so I will be interested in all criticism from folks. You can direct your comments here or contact me via twitter. Don’t forget to follow me on here and twitter @arcthefuture.
**If you are just starting out as a game developer don’t have a goal of a console release for your first game. Save yourself the unnecessary disappointment. Console companies look for established companies with at least one or two titles before approving sdk use for a release on one of their systems.