Playing games is important!
Yes you heard me well: is important to play games! Especially if you are a game developer like me 🙂
I have less and less free time now (in particular in recent times with everything happening all at once, Steam, iOS ports, etc) and as you can imagine, when I have some I prefer to spend it with my wife, pets and doing outdoor activities.
However, I still try to find the time to play for a few hours a week the new games. Because that’s the equivalent of “research & development” of other industries.
Some practical examples and games that inspired me while I designed and coded my latest RPG ToA: Seasons Of the Wolf:
– Guild Wars 2: from this game I grabbed the ideas of “solve all quest in an area” and “discover all locations” and so on, to get bonus EXP. From this game I also wanted to implement the idea of stat-derived enemies (no matter your level, all enemies would be a challenge) but after a week of testing I realized that it wasn’t a good idea 😀
– Diablo 3: it’s nothing new, the random items I mean, but still while playing this game I thought that would have been cool to use random items with tiers even in my games, alongside manually created ones.
– Everquest 2 and another MMORPG I can’t remember now, the idea of offering items as reward for quests. Again it was nothing new, but just playing those games reminded me of this feature.
And by playing Hearthstone I had the idea to change PSCD from a tower defense game to a collectible card game. So if you’re a game designer, try to find the time to play a few games. Your own games will benefit from it!
Speaking of SOTW, this week I made more progress on the DLC. I was a bit stuck with all the other titles for various reasons, so I thought that instead of waiting for the SOTW missing art, I could code all the remaining things using placeholder art, so I don’t waste time.
Another thing that many indies should learn is to optimize your time. You don’t necessarily need to do things in order. So like in my example above, you can finish coding something even if the art is not ready using placeholders. Or if you’re tired/burned you can do some trivial tasks. I often do that when I’m too tired to code. Trivial tasks could be:
– webpage design: sooner or later you’ll have to do it, right? so why not create the page already? you can always tweak/adjust the texts or images a few days before the release, but at least most of the work is already done!
– product setup: doesn’t matter if you sell only through Steam, or direct, or mobile. There are a lot of steps to do to setup a new game. Screenshots, box-shots, icons, description texts, etc etc (every platform is different but you need to do them for all). This is another thing I do in advance.
– testing: I now do open-betas to test, since 10-50 people testing are better than 1 or a small team of friends. However, I always do some preliminary testing to make sure that at least the most obvious bugs are fixed. Sometimes when I am too tired to code I just start the game and play a bit to see if there’s something that I missed.
– create banner-ads: assuming you do some form of advertising, another thing you can do is designing the banners for the game ads (unless you outsource it to an artist).
– write blog posts like this one or other marketing stuff: writing is easier than coding, so I always do the blog posts one week in advance. I think that never miss a blog helped overall, on each blog post I get several views and many comments. Other things you can do is forum polls to see what people think of your next crazy idea, or anything else really, an interview, a tumblr post, or other social marketing stuff.
So as you can see there are many things you can do, even when you’re tired from coding 😉