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  • Stuff I Learned The Hard Way: Practical Advice For Game Devs

    - Andrii Goncharuk
  • Hello! My name is Andrii Goncharuk, but you can call me Andy. I'm a game designer working at Ubisoft. Here are some lessons that I learned the hard way during my work in the industry, specifically with regard to game development.

    1. What to consider when you work on a new feature.

    First step: Focus on problems that this feature should solve and aim to deliver. Try to outline full list of problems that this feature should handle or solve, try it several times, adjust this list according to production terms if needed. Don't forget that feature should not always solve all problems, it's a question of balance.

    Second step: Check what additional benefits this feature could create, when you have several features pick one that create more benefits. Sometimes feature can create some additional problems that can be covered by other small features but generate a lot of benefit, this is a case when you need to carefully consider benefits and check rate of investments.

    Third step: Make sure feature is interconnected with other features as well as with lore, narration, pacing, player progression, main idea, core pillars etc... There is no any good for game, from feature that make no sense and added as useless appendix (not saying that appendix are useless, it's actually important for immune system especially in early years...).

    Fourth step: Profit.

    2. Oh no! We need to cut things! How to handle that.

    First, don't panic.

    Cutting as important as adding stuff, it helps to keep everything trim and aligned, just like any evolutionary process it will help make product as whole stronger(usually).

    But all this just broad vague terms, how to handle it actually?

    My proposition: Points system and points of support of core pillars of the project.

    Give points to each element or feature, based on production time, fun factor, alignment to pillars and core, how feature is interconnected with other elements and how many other features will affect cutting this one.

    First to cut features are those:

    • Not many connections between systems and features
    • Not aligned to core pillars enough
    • Have low fun factor while having big production time

    After cutting, don't close the door and throw away keys from it, keep features in a form that some of the cut elements can be brought back, because this is what usually happening all the time during production, features get cut but soon reanimated back all the time, just like zombies.

    3. Check for feedback.

    Feedback is a most important element in each game project because of nature of games. Arguably one of the most vital elements of developing a good game. All actions, and it is important to remember that ALL actions should have some level of feedback in your game.

    Visual or auditory reaction of the game to the player's inputs. Each action that the player makes, should have a clear reaction.

    This may sound obvious but sometimes people skip some elements focusing only on "important" actions and forgetting about small things, but believe me on that, small things create all the difference. Having a good feedback for all inputs makes the experience much more better for player. The more ‘what do I do now' moments you have, the more annoyance and frustration you'll cause.

    When I talking about feedback it is not only input's as control scheme or 3C, character, camera, controls. When we are talking for example about game with have narration we need to make sure that player will see results of his own actions during game. If in 1st level he saved random NPC, it's better to have some feedback, giving some reward or making it important later during game. There must be no inputs without feedback, for every action, there is suppose to be an equal and opposite reaction, it's true not only for physics.

    4. Is it ok to "borrow" ideas and mechanics from other projects and games?

    Yes, it's ok. Re-using existing patterns and mechanics, especially well developed ones are not only not a bad thing, but actually a good thing. Here is a list of some reasons:

    • Your implementation will be different, it should be if you want to create good design.
    • It saves production time.
    • While working on something existed, you can improve it and make it better, this is how mechanics grow in quality.
    • Taking something that already worked somewhere not granting that it will work perfectly in your case, thus forcing you to rebuild it accordingly.

    If certain mechanic or system is not a main core feature of the game, it's better to reuse well developed existing one and focus on core features that make your game different and unique. You need always focus on what matter most.


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