(Post by Gabriel Priske - Read More at www.duelingdevblogs.com)
Much like the process of reproduction, in game design there are a few fundamental pieces that you put together to get things started. From there, the thing grows on its own. You're mostly left to deal with growing pains, college loans and, if you're lucky, a top-selling spot on Steam!
Like raising a kid, from the fundamental pieces you put together, a game grows into its own personality. Also like raising a kid, forcing a game to be something it's not makes it turn out shitty.
Over the years, this has been among the hardest design concepts for me to grasp. I often will get so excited about a story concept or gameplay mechanic that I blind myself to the bigger picture. I love donuts and I love lobster. Putting them in a blender together is less than desirable. So, how does all of this apply to my project?
When I first thought of the concept of a wall jump attack, it was within the context of a Super Meat Boy meets Shadow of the Colossus sort of thing. I was imagining that you would wall jump up huge enemies to get to their weak points. I needed to start smaller though, so I came up with the idea of jumping off rockets quickly after prototyping basic movement with moving platforms.
Missile deflection prototype
Well, that's pretty fun. Maybe this game is really about deflecting projectiles. Maybe it's some sort of platforming bullet hell! This phase is my first glimpse into what my infant's passions might be. As if they as picked up a ball and threw it, pride pulled me to my feet as I proclaimed "My child is a quarterback".
But how do they die? The parental analogy breaks down here. We need the player to die sometimes. If they're deflecting rockets with their feet, what could possibly harm them? Maybe getting smashed between two solid objects? Okay, if the purpose of the game is to avoid getting smashed, what are other ways to nuance that challenge?
Not getting smashed is a thing in all sorts of platforming games. Of course we have the classic Mario Thwomp, but maybe something more interesting, like an enemy that hops. In most games, an enemy that hops into the air would be threatening while in air and prey while on the ground. Interestingly, wall jump combat changes that up.
Enemy Combat Prototype
If I make these baddies invincible while on the ground, and always a threat vertically, they become an enemy unique to my game and the way that it's played.
Everything is young. I know that wall jumping to attack threats is what makes my game fun, so everything I'm adding should be with that core gameplay mechanic in mind. However, I barely know what my game is right now, so I shouldn't be buying a football uniform for my child yet, they could still turn out to be a dancer.
In these early stages, focus on the cornerstones, build a sturdy foundation. With just a few hours of work a day, I've got all sorts of design potential here! They grow up so fast.
[indent=1]William's Comment: When you mention, "However, I barely know what my game is right now, so I shouldn't be buying a football uniform for my child yet, they could still turn out to be a dancer," that doesn't totally resonate with me as a designer. While there could be some moments of emergent ideas that could shake up the forumula from your original plan, I think it's important to keep in mind that your game is something that you're designing from beginning to end, and you should always have the end result in mind when you're building a foundation.
[indent=1]While a franchise can develop a personality past your original influence and design, your game can not. Even the passions that it appears to adopt on its own are your own influence, your own design, your own passions.