When I first decided to make a game, that
was it. I just said I’m making a game, no ideas, no nothing. It wasn’t until a
few days after, with things mulling and muses musing that I got my first Game
Idea™. It was the basis of my game for 3 months.
I expanded on this idea. I came up with
characters, wrote a full level, and mapped out where I wanted to go. This all
seemed good to me, I can make a game from this. And it was good, but I
definitely couldn’t make a game from it. I was just letting ideas come to me
and then writing it down. These are important steps and I’m so glad I did it; but
there was no theme, no basis and no guidelines.
When it came down to filling in the gaps
(the levels that aren’t so fun to think of, the story details I wanted to write
off as “just because”), I was at a loss. I had all these spectacular pieces of
paper and no glue to hold them together. I spent hours staring at my very rough
storyboard, thinking “How can I tie these together?”. I decided I needed rules.
I needed some abstract rules for me to follow and keep everything on track.
These do not need to be fancy, groundbreaking rules. Just something so that you
can use to self-evaluate what you’re doing. To keep you from making a ton of
amazing pieces that are ultimately for different puzzles.
I picked something simple, Dante’s circles
of hell. This isn’t something that is supposed to be prevalent in the game.
It’s certainly not what the game it about. But it kept me on the right track
for the things I did want to show. For example, when it came to my first level,
I thought about how I wanted to tie in my overall theme with a level theme of
lust. That way when I was looking back and iterating I could ask myself, “How
does this tie in with my theme? How does this tie in with lust?”. This helped
to keep everything the same.
It turned out most of my ideas up to this
point didn’t fit within my new guidelines. They were all too different, didn’t
work in practice, or otherwise mediocre. I had to throw a lot of work away.
This is okay. The first part of what I did was important. I was brainstorming,
coming to the point where my idea was good enough to have guidelines and a
theme. It just wasn’t to the point of pre production. Even if it was an idea I
loved, there are more important things to do than try to make a puzzle piece
Since creating my guidelines, I haven’t run
into the same issue. As long as I’m evaluating my work and making sure I’m
sticking to my point. Designing has become more about how to make things great
and less about how to make things work. I have already finished the outline,
now I just need to stay in the lines. This is a better of use my time then coloring
a picture that doesn’t exist yet.
This was 10 months ago. Since then my game
has complete changed. No more circles of hell. None of the original mechanics
and play I had worked out stayed; and my game is better for it. But I would
have never been able to iterate it into the cohesive piece it is now if I didn’t
set up my original guidelines. I’m sure I would still be a chicken with its
head cut off.