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The game designer's problem.

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by RJ-MacReady, Oct 27, 2014.

  1. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    Imagine the most unique, fun game you can think of... it has it all. Action, replay value, a mind blowing story that advances the mediums of games and storytelling at the same time. It will win awards, set records and melt faces. We've all got one in our head.

    There's only one problem: you can't make it.

    The 3D graphics needed for your heroine requires modeling skills you'll never have. The music you can almost hear requires composition that you can't even understand. Let alone create with instruments and record. And the programming of all those complex dynamic story events and real time battle mechanics? Face it... unless Bethesda is just going to say, "We're out of ideas, we'll make the first game someone sends us." It's Never. Going. To. Happen.

    So you make a flappy bird clone. At least you're kind of living your dream.

    The problem is that as the quality and scope of the idea increases, the difficulty of realizing it increases. And conversely, nothing is easier than making a really bad game.

    How is a person supposed to deal with this dissonance between imagination and cold reality?
     
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  2. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    First option that pops in my head is to not worry about the graphics, sounds and music and make the game anyway. Focus on bringing the game to life even though it may look and sound like crap. It will be a good acid test of the game play at the very least. If it is truly fun and engaging in its current state then it will be worth spending the time/money to create high quality graphics, sounds and music.

    Alternately, linking up with some like-minded people (perhaps via the Collaboration Forum here at Unity although it provided no value for me some people must have luck there I'd guess) to provide the skills you personally lack seems like the ideal way to go. I think still going ahead and knocking out as much as you can on your own is valuable though even if you plan to form a team. It will let people better understand what you want to build and if the game play is truly golden it will be obvious even with low quality graphics, sounds and music.
     
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  3. AndrewGrayGames

    AndrewGrayGames

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    First, this is well-known: The Law of Conservation of Detail. Given infinite resources, you could make an infinitely detailed work; however you don't.

    Thus, it's necessary to willingly trim your work down to the essentials. This is the part where you trade some of the artist's discipline - perfect projection of a vision - for the engineer's discipline - creating something that people wind up actually using that works, but is built with margin for error. Ultimately, a complete game is a union of both disciplines. How good a game is, depends on how well the two were married.
     
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  4. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    I agree. Pick some part of the project you can do, and ruthlessly scale back the rest. At the very least, it will give you a much better idea of where the real fun is in your game.

    And, don't forget about the Asset Store. You can probably buy a very good stand-in, at least, for your heroine and other characters. You can get a good dialog system with a graphical editor. And so on. You'll have to glue it all together, but still, there's a ton of good stuff there that can give your project a boost.
     
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  5. Teila

    Teila

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    I gave my young concept artist the parameters for a picture I wanted. I laid it out, told her what to draw, where to set the character, and pictures of what the character should be drawing. She struggled with it and ended up with a nice but not so great picture. So I then told her to take that character and draw her how she wanted to see her. She did and her finished digital piece is wonderful and has been noticed on Deviant Art. She told me she loved drawing this picture compared to the other. It was easy to see this in the final picture.

    I believe the same is true of games. If you love what you are producing, it will show. It might have only prototype characters and props, but it will be better than something you feel "blah" about. Besides, if you break down the project and do one thing at a time, you might be surprised at how far you can go. It will take time though.

    What is your desired outcome? Do you want to make a game that will get you money quickly? Then go with something simple, retro, and fun. Do you want something that illustrates some new concept you think might work? It might take a while and it might not turn out exactly as you want, but you will be able to test your concept and try again.

    As GarBenjamin says, you can always add the better graphics, sound, etc. later.
     
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  6. BeefSupreme

    BeefSupreme

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    It's pretty tough I think. Like others have said, your options are either to find people that can fill in skill wise, or adjust your goals and do something you can complete. I'd love to make an awesome 3D mech game, but I can't, so I'm doing a simpler 2D overhead shooter instead. And even lowering the bar so much, it's still been a challenge...but doable at least.

    Maybe the projects you work on don't have to be THE project, but can used as stepping stones to get there.
     
  7. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    So refusing to compromise on your vision is not only stupid and arrogant but also counterproductive?

    It seems like what people are saying is where detail exceeds available resources, one does well to reduce complexity in the original design.

    However, this means necessarily leaving out things you wanted in. The idea already makes me depressed. How do you continue with a project that is no longer the same project you fell in love with?
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2014
  8. NickHaldon

    NickHaldon

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    Maybe you'll fall in love with the new project? Or maybe look at what you don't like in the new one and see how you can make it more fun or add some of the original back into it. I wouldn't say to lose sight of the original completely. Keep trying and keep working on making it more similar to the original. And if you don't have it exactly as you would want, maybe take a break, work on something else and come back to see if you can make it more into what you want.
     
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  9. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Well I'm looking at it more like go ahead and do your grand vision in a grand way as much as you can. If your thing is programming then get it all programmed using simple placeholder graphics, sounds and music. If you're main skill is in art then get all of the graphics done. If you're a wizard at sound scaping then get all of the sound effects done. If a music maestro them compose the awesome tunes. Put your effort into the things you are best at. Do the other things as little as necessary. Then when you have that part all done you can decide if you want to tackle learning and mastering another area and doing all of that work too or partner with someone who is already skilled in that area.

    That all said, there is a lot of value in breaking your giant masterpiece of a game down into pieces / sub systems. And then you could build a game for each piece. After several games you'll have your full system built and tested and can possibly plug n play connecting it all together.
     
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  10. BeefSupreme

    BeefSupreme

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    I think every game probably ends up with cut features, that's just the reality of working with limited time/resources. Maybe it can be mitigated a bit by prioritizing what features are essential.
     
  11. dreamlarp

    dreamlarp

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    Also have you written it all out in a GDD? Planned every tiny aspect? You will cut the original concept down when it comes to developing. That is not really a bad thing. But at least plan out your vision and write it all down.

    Then like many here have said do as much as you can in your area of expertise.

    Now many developers quit after posting once in these collaboration forums. Once you have all you can do finished do not limit yourself to one source. There are many places to find the experts you need and I know from experience do not give up keep asking. You will find others who will love your vision if you thought it out and presented it well (GDD).

    The main thing I have found when asking others to join you is they need to see that you did all that you could that's how much you loved your vision.

    The best advice I can give is do not give up. Your passion is what will inspire others to join you.
     
  12. TheSniperFan

    TheSniperFan

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    Stop complaining and start learning. No one is born a game developer and there are no shortcuts to success.
    I'd you want to be a game developer, but have no intention to put in the work, go away and stop wasting your time.

    That's all there is to say.
     
  13. dreamlarp

    dreamlarp

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    Haha in the immortal words of one of my mentors "We work before we play."
    And his second most favorite saying "Most people will tell you work smart not hard. But I say do both and you cannot help but succeed."
     
  14. Ricks

    Ricks

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    Interesting topic, which fits to my experiences. The solution I decided for myself is this: either stay at very very small games, where you could create all assets by your own in a consistent style, or invest the skills into game modding or game recreation projects. At least you already got the assets on the latter one.

    The assets yeah... the best game principle is not enjoyable if you can't deliver appropriate assets. Of course, one could say: "What a waste of time! Why make something you can never sell? Just purchase from the Asset Store and make your own dream game!". Well... yeaaah... :rolleyes:
     
  15. Teila

    Teila

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    Here is what we did. We reduced the complexity by working on a smaller version of the project first. Once that is finished and in testing, we will add more complexity. The base will be there and it will be modular enough to allow us to grow the game but it won't be so overwhelming that a small team won't be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

    I worked on an Indie game that was so complex that it simply overwhelmed the resources of the team. When that happens, the dream never happens. So better to start small and grow. You can still do your project, just do it in steps. Write it out in a design document in phases. It truly does help.
     
  16. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Ready to earn that new achievement? Through hard work, you've discovered a new achievement you can unlock - 'Enlightened!' Adding this to your collection requires some soul searching. And, if you do, it will grant you new skills like, "Finishing Is A Feature" and "Minimally Viable Product" And if you continue on that path, you may even unlock the special (said in the best Pinocchio voice) ... "I'm a Real Developer!"

    In seriousness, you've reached the fork-in-the-road. To the left is the deceptively-golden, death-march of failed dreams. To the right is the steady-path of slow-n-steady wins the race. Rovio went to the right, with 52 failed attempts before Angry Birds, and so did Michael Jordan.

    One way to unlock these advanced features is to try the game-a-week, game-a-month, or the 12-week challenge. Any of these is more likely to make you a better game developer than chasing the 'most unique, fun game' with everything.

    Gigi
     
  17. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    Inspiring and hilarious, thanks man.
     
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  18. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Quick note to share another challenge is when working on a business program for work and you write a comment for a small section of code you're about to add. Then you notice something doesn't look quite right..."has the player aborted? if yes, their"... lol yeah that should be user not player. Just thought I'd share so someone might get a tiny chuckle like I just did.
     
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  19. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    That's baaad... what about the ones you don't catch
     
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  20. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    That was it. I did a search... great feature for times like these. Besides, I have a habit of reading everything I type in code after typing it to catch bugs immediately so that helps catch craziness too. ;)
     
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  21. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    I was reading the game-a-week article on gamasutra and I found a quote. It felt perfect.

    Gigi
     
  22. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Seems solid. I do wonder... of the ones making games... let's say all of us here... are we game developers if we never finish our game(s)? I suppose while the project is still active we are game developers.
     
  23. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Ah just read the article. The author meant actually completing games. I agree with that. Make tons of stuff. Little things. Lots of things.
     
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  24. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Regarding very short term projects does anyone actually do that in Unity? Granted I first used it for a few months last winter and then again for a few months leading up to now. But it doesn't seem to be a rapid development tool. Meaning in the past I created entire games in less than a week. Yes they were on the simple side. An arkanoid/breakout clone in 5 days, a clone of an old Intellivision game called Star Strike in 7 days and so on. Many little (but fully complete games). However, with Unity game dev seems to take significantly longer. More of a learning curve is part of it combined with the quirks I need to deal with.
    It'd be interesting to see if it is possible to make a full small scale game in less than a week in Unity.
     
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  25. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    Ooh *raises hand* I know about this one.

    Getting fast is a matter of practice and repeating tasks. I create useless little projects for a while, I make a game out of seeing if I can do things with the tools. Last night, for example, I made a custom inspector script that creates a slotted inventory out of ui 4.6 elements, allows on the fly recreation, all based on parameters in the inspector... size, border, max columns, etc.

    I'll probably rewrite it and add it to a larger UI program and then export add an asset... a lot of it is just familiarizing myself with everything.

    You do these crazy mind expanding, finger numbing tasks enough and bam... before long you can work the editor/build games like you're playing your favorite game.

    Think of it like Ninja training, I think that is helpful.

    You can make an old school game in one day if you aren't fumbling around the interface. Since this forum is on the subject of analytics, record your two hour session of game development and watch how much idle time there is.

    So yes, from what I can see, Unity is pretty much greased lightning for game development, I'm getting fast already.
     
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  26. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    I get the practice part. Made lots of things in other languages and APIs. But Unity dev is just much slower for me. I think it is just using their tools, as you said, that GUI editor stuff. I actually spend as little time as possible in the editor. Last winter I was using the animator and all of that junk. Even played around with their rigid bodies and physics. I have since thrown that stuff out. Like in my current platform game I am not using Unity physics or their animation / animator systems. Because it is just far faster to code it myself.

    You're right though the key is always experience. It's just the normal Unity approach completely gets in the way of using my previous experience. Lol I am getting around it though. I might take a week sometime and see if I can knock out a little game. At this point I think I have ran into enough brick walls and found ways around them there should be nothing getting in the way.
     
  27. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Think you could do it? I mentor a dev who came in one morning and said, "I started a new Android game last night. And I published it this morning." He did another in a weekend. And a 3rd in a few months. As for myself, I've released 7 solo products taking between 2 and 14 weeks. In my pro life, the products also use Unity and they take a LOT longer. At first, seems the trouble would be learning how to get the scope SMALL enough. Sounds like a fun experiment.

    Gigi
     
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  28. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    I will have to give it a try. If it was in Blitz3D, C# and XNA, C and Allegro, an old C64 with Assembler yes a week is plenty of time. I am working on making Unity workflow and development be the same as those dev environments. Once I achieve that then it will certainly be possible. I am just not sure I have completed that yet. I think I am getting close though. Like I said, I spend as little time as possible in the scene editor. Finally got around the glitches I was running into with the sprite editor. I don't think I have it as efficient as developing in those others yet but yes I think it is getting close. Maybe I will do a little shootemup this week just so I can see where the next bottleneck in workflow is.
     
  29. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    It seems like you have been doing this quite a while. All that previous memory is probably a mother to unlearn.

    When I was training to be a plumber and learning the trade, I blew off steam with a program called GameMaker. It was a smaller environment, with only a basic scripting engine. I eventually mastered it, knew pretty much everything it could do. I was reluctant to learn Unity because there are just so many hurdles to jump before you can achieve mastery, and I was scared to leave the comfort of something I was a master of for something I was a novice at.

    There is a school of thought, that you are more than just your brain. Your fingers, hands and arms have a mind of their own, figuratively speaking. Just watching a Starcraft 2 pro match, you're going to see that nobody can possibly think that quickly. A lot of repetitive tasks get assigned to the sub systems of our body/mind. While you may learn through study and comprehension, the sub systems just learn one way... repetition, repetition, repetition.

    If you can control your work space and get tasks down to where you do them without thinking about doing them (clicking, dragging and dropping, navigating to the right script, typing common commands, etc.) you can turn the entire process into a sort of cognitive flow/muscle memory thing where in you're free to think about the concept of what it is you're trying to create, cranking out actions per minute like a boss.

    I've always been amazed how most of what I do is just solving the same kind of problem over and over again, how to access this property of that class, how to store a collection of values, how to attach scripts to objects in a sensible fashion. Change one detail--a value type instead of a reference type--now you can't write an extension method because you're copying instead of referencing.

    If I could automate this dummy work, I could accomplish anything. Like my daddy told me, get good first, speed comes on its own.

    Wax on, wax off, Daniel-san.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2014
  30. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Very true. And yes, you hit the nail on the head. I have found Unity one of the strangest things I have ever used.

    At first, it seemed completely unintuitive to me. I am not a fan of this GUI stuff unless it is a dev tool I built. It all seemed alien to me like they had taken something so easy and made it more complicated than it should be. But that is just because BU (before Unity) it was just a matter of making the assets, loading them in, writing code to control everything, display the graphics and play the audio. Simple. This seemed like just layers of extra nonsense sitting in the way.

    BUT... I am working around the stuff now quite well. I was thinking about it over dinner and actually I think it would be pretty easy to build a little shoot-em-up or whatever game at this point. I have basically removed all of the bloat/overhead so the process is pretty streamlined now. It just took a couple months to get to this point.

    I've got a basic methodology, patterns and a library of useful things now. I wrote an Object Pooler to get around having to create and destroy game objects, an Audio Manager that handles playing high priority and low priority sounds, a Notification System objects can subscribe to receive notifications, publish messages, and so forth. All of which I can plug into any new project.

    I've got a good pattern down for how I handle adding an object to a game, animation, and so forth.

    Looking at the current state of my platform game, I realized I had done a lot more to get around the issues I had with Unity than I realized. I think actually it might be as fast for me to develop in Unity now as anything else.

    Of course I will continue waxing, Mr. Miyagi. :)
     
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  31. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    I like the GUI stuff, myself. I never envisioned any games as pared down as you are currently working on. I always wanted flashier graphics, and in Unity I can get what I want.

    Funny that you see it as limiting, when it's actually freeing. Like your tile based map, you can reprogram the editor to do interesting things, automate grunt work, etc.

    I think the reason Unity seems like a piece of alien technology is because it basically is. Learn to use it, though, and they will tremble at your feet!!!
     
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  32. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    Ha ha. Yeah my current game project is intentionally restrictive. I wanted to limit what I have to work with and design a fun game out of it. Originally, I had no scrolling even but loosened up on that limitation. Basically, I'm thinking of games like Space Panic, Lode Runner and so forth that were single screen action games. Very simple yet still they managed to make enjoyable games. It is kind of a game design challenge.
     
  33. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    I think the reason we view it differently is that so far I have only focused on 2D in Unity. And for 2D the workflow and GUI just adds extra layers. The layers are great for someone who is not an experienced programmer. I think artists are a big target market for Unity. So they made these visual systems and tried to incorporate some things from engineering into them. Such as states for the animations via Animator. But that is stuff any programmer is going to do in code and has been doing in code all along before even trying out unity. Or I would hope so at least. For 2D Unity is more work than the other platforms I have used. I never tried GameMaker. Downloaded and installed once. "What is all of this crap?" exited the app and that was it.

    I do like the Unity editor for the ability to customize and easily adjust parameters even on the fly. That is powerful. I think once I get back into 3D Unity will really shine. I think that is where the bulk of their design and development effort has been put.