Game development is a puzzle game

Rebecca will help you train to keep in shape…! (from Planet Stronghold 2)

Game development feels like a puzzle game to me. How? Simple, let’s consider one of my games. How many roles/elements are needed to make one?

Let’s try to make a list:

  1. gameplay/rules = work of the game designer
  2. programming/coding = work of the coder
  3. artwork = work of the artist (in many cases, 2 or more for backgrounds and GUI)
  4. story/text = work of the writer
  5. music/sfx = work of the musician
  6. marketing/promotion = work of the PR guy
  7. hosting/demo/support = support / web dev guy

So as you can see, for each of my games there should be the need of 8 people. In reality, I almost always do point 1,2,6,7 myself, and sometimes I also do some GUI and write storyboards for the texts!

In the past I used to to really EVERYTHING on my own (using Poser 3d and royalty free music tracks) but luckily I realized that was much better to hire other people to help 🙂

The main problem when working with external people, is that since to finish a game you need all those roles/elements, often happens that I have some areas covered/completed, while others not. Some people work fast in an aspect of a game, others slow downs in different aspects.

In the end that’s why I say it’s like a puzzle game. You need all the pieces to finish and release the product. Unfortunately very often that takes a lot of effort 😀 but like all things in life, nothing comes easy, you have to sweat and work hard.

Another thing I often have to decide is the scope of the game. For example now I am playing with the great freeware tilemap editor Tiled, trying to make isometric tilemaps. For which game? well for Planet Stronghold 2, but also thinking if to make them for Seasons Of The Wolf.

The idea was to have a big map like Loren, that once clicked would let you zoom-in and explore the areas in more details, rendered as isometric map. I think the idea is great and I’m sure that I can make it, the only problem is: how long will take me? will I need extra tiles, so contact artist to make more?

When making those decisions I need to consider that there are two types of fans: those who wants the games fast and pressure you to finish them, and others that say “take as much time as you need”. But besides what fans say, I need to keep releasing games at regular intervals to survive in the competitive world of indie games, so right now, I am unsure if to use this system.

I set myself a deadline – if I can have the isometric map thing working in 2 weeks I’ll use it, otherwise not. Also because in theory very shortly Roommates public beta should start, and then will have even less time to make tests… 🙂

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5 Responses to Game development is a puzzle game

  1. Lua Games says:

    You resumed well a game developer situation, making a game is difficult and take time, but I love to produce dreams and share them with the game fans and wouldn’t exchange that for anything else.

  2. Callista says:

    This is quite an informative entry. I knew that developing a game requires a lot of hard work but you’ve broken it down quite well. ^^

    I see that you tend to rely on others to help with game development and I can understand why. It can be difficult managing those employed to help with the work and make sure that they contribute well and in a timely manner. I have some experience working in a group and am currently helping with an indie game as well so here’s what I think:

    It’s important to set deadlines for those who are hired to do the writing, artwork, etc., but it’s as important to make sure that the deadlines are realistic. I work as a proofreader so whenever I’m working on a project, I’ll give it my all. However, I would want a realistic deadline, seeing that I have other projects to work on at the same time. Also, it’s a good idea to give motivation-more positive than negative, I think-to those helping out, as a way to encourage them.

    Now as to the dilemma of those who want games quickly…well, I’m one of those who’d rather that the developer take the time to make a good game than one that’s rushed. If it’s rushed, there’s bound to be errors or something that I don’t like. For me at least, when it comes to games, I really love one that has a good, engaging storyline and that’s even more important than art. So if a game has a terrible storyline or one that I feel that I can’t connect with the playable character whatsoever, I won’t even consider purchasing it.

    Gosh, I made a longer comment than I meant to but yeah, those are my initial thoughts and all that. XD

    • admin says:

      Oh believe me, my deadlines are always very realistic. I have also postponed them many times 😉
      And when I’m talking about “quickly”, I mean more like “in the next year” 😀 I don’t rush games, but I don’t want also to be stuck for months on an aspect when everything else is ready. Sadly there’s not much I can do, so that’s why I start many games. Eventually all pieces of the puzzle come together!

  3. Lonestar51 says:

    I believe you are missing the eight role: The one of the producer.

    Basically, someone who gets an idea from the designer, analyses how much work of what type is needed (e.g. x character pics, y CG, z personmonths programming) and talks with the programmer, artist, writer etc. when the stuff can be ready. And who makes weekly (or monthly or daily) meetings to get the status, who interferes when two people start bickering (“no, the girl has red hair” “Thats awful, give her green hair!”) and who checks regulary how the deadlines can be met. (OK, in your case deadlines are a bit relaxed, as you do not really promise anything before the game is in the finishing stage. Still, you would not want the artist finish his/her part, pay him/her, and then loose a few years waiting for the writer…) Of course, speaking of deadlines, the producer would be the first one to get the blame in case of delays.

    I know you are already doing this role, but I this should point out it is a valid role, and an important role. (OK, not if you are doing everything yourself, but as you have now a dozen or so games on your roadmap, and lots of people working for you…)

    So you are wearing one more hat, in addition to designer, programmer, user support,… There is a lot of stuff to do, and I am amazed of how much you do! In this vein: keep up the good work.

    • admin says:

      Haha yes you’re right. I’m so used to do the producer role myself that I don’t even take that role into account but is true, that’s an important role 🙂

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