Many devs I’ve spoken to or given advice for with regards Dream Build Play all worry about one BIG thing – Will It all be finished ready for the Big December deadline!
My answer is usually, SLOW DOWN and stay focused.
It might seem an odd statement but I’ll explain why.
The aim with Dream Build Play is NOT to have a complete, finished, polished and published game. (although if you do, kudos to you!)
What you are aiming for is enough to demonstrate your game, it’s gameplay and enough content to showcase your dream. Let’s expand on what I mean by that in this article.
1: Minimum Viable Product
The minimum you should be aiming for with the Dream Build Play competition is a MVP or Minimum Viable Product. Not to say that is all you are aiming for but it is your bare minimum.
What I mean by this, with regards to any game, is to have fully working gameplay with enough content to elaborate the vision for your game (and it shouldn’t crash ).
This may also mean:
It only works in a fixed resolution – no messing around with Portrait OR Landscape or resizing windows
You might implement only one control method (if you plan for more, e.g. Gamepad, touch, keyboard and mouse)
You may only do the first few levels, showing off the core game mechanic
Some areas (like in open world games) may be off limits, or offer a “Coming Soon” or “Check back later” prompt
You don’t need to go through regional certification or game ratings systems. Granted MS make this easy with IARC (International Age Ratings Certification), but still, time is better spent elsewhere.
All in all, you are aiming to showcase what you game can be and how it stands out from everything else.
2: Expand your base
Even with your MVP, try to add other elements which may or may not relate you your core game mechanic, including (but not limited to)
A menu system
Doesn’t need to be anything major or too flashy. But ensure it’s in the theme / style of your game (not a template). Include credits and if possible a demo reel (again keeping it simple)
Basic Services integration
Show how your game will have services integration like Live Logon, Leaderboards (even just one), Achievements. The Creators Club portal has tons of information on integrating with Live Services, samples and even an easy to implement API pack for C++ / Unity or C#.
If you can, also look in to some basic Mixer support to really shine.
Qualify for other categories
If you want to maximise your potential once you have your base game running, also think about existing to other categories, like Azure, Mixed Reality and so on. Don’t go too mad but with your MVP ready for contest submission, see what else you can add.
These are small things that you should have in your final submission, as shipping something that just jumps in to gameplay (unless it’s intended, if so mark that in your submission) doesn’t show good form.
3: Polish and Finish
With your submission ready and if you still have time, there are a few other things to consider:
Do a trailer
Have a little fun, play the game, record it, mix it and have some interesting voice over (if it suits). You might find by playing your game from a different perspective that you will find some last-minute tweaks you can add for even more fun.
Have other people play it!
This one I can’t stress enough.
Once you do have an MVP, or at least enough to play test, use the community, shout out to friends and have others play your game for feedback (and cookies!). Remember, you don’t have to implement all their feedback for the submission, some can wait until after. But look out for those crucial things that could lose you marks, like hard to use controls (not everyone thinks like you do), obscure UI (not everyone thinks like you do),
Nothing shows sheer determination than to show support for more than just a single language in a product. It demonstrates you understand the global market and what it takes, plus you are serious about the attraction of your game
You can do Trailers and some other activities (like a post-mortem post) after the submission is posted, so keep that in mind when balancing the time budget. But be careful, if you suddenly find something after you’ve submitted you will likely slap yourself in the face, like REALLY Hard.
That’s all for now.
Right, I got a few more posts lined up I need to work on, but I’ll sum up here with the lasting points.
Think of DBP as a GameJam but over 3500 hours (I’d recommend a few naps)
Get it working first and iterate
Don’t be afraid to change direction
If you are slightly unhinged or have a lot of time in your hands, do more than one project
Don’t sweat the competition. Just make your vision the best it can be and tweak it with things that you believe it will stand out.
If you can delight your followers throughout the competition, you’ve won half the battle already. Granted the same can be said of normal game development but here, you have a more focused audience to appease. Later when you release you will get tons of backing, even if you aren’t the final winner. It’s a win – win overall with the amount of media attention that Microsoft and it’s partners have lined up
Good luck to all