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m4rv4

Approaching Content Creation

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Hi Guys, Me and a friend of mine recently had an argument about what is the best way to create a game. How do you proceed when the engine is up and running and the design seems to be solid. My idea was to press ahead and create as much of the game's content (e.g. enemies, maps, guns) as possible and focus on polishing it afterwards. This way you would have a good overview of what the full game will look like early, and you could take all things aren't fun yet and fix them. You would complete the game by filling all the gaps of quality. On the other hand, my friend suggests an approach of taking one piece of content at a time (for instance one certain enemy) and polish it up until there is nothing more to do. That idea has the advantage that the developers get an impression of the final quality of the game early. The game would be completed by adding final quality content to the game piece by piece. I would like to ask you for your opinions on this. Maybe you could share some experience you have made with either of these two approaches. Your help would be very appreciated! Regards, Marvin [Edited by - m4rv4 on June 14, 2009 5:11:00 AM]

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Get as much of the content in there first. Then fine tune and polish it. This way you can see how different mechanics balance with each other. Makes for a more robust product.

Otherwise once you polish enemy A, you may not want to address issues with it later. Which tends to produce very linear predictable gameplay as each piece is added trying to build on the last...you won't get a true picture of the overall product until the last content piece is in place and by then going back to address issues with earlier polished content could break the game.

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depends on the game. For an FPS where the enemies are mostly just cannon-fodder whose only real strength is in their numbers, then filler art can do the same job as polished models. On the other hand for a fighting game where each opponent needs to be fine tuned for the gameplay, then yeah you need to do that polish up front before proceeding.

I think generally speaking, the first method (yours) is the better option given the scope of creating a game. If you were making a car from scratch, would you focus a great deal of your development effort into making the interior as plush as possible? Or would you get the entire car up and running well before focusing on the nuances?

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Quote:
Original post by m4rv4
My idea was to press ahead and create as much of the game's content (e.g. enemies, maps, guns) as possible and focus on polishing it afterwards.
This way you would have a good overview of what the full game will look like early, and you could take all things aren't fun yet and fix them. You would complete the game by filling all the gaps of quality.

I believe that that's a smart approach. Things will be more integrated in the whole, overall quality will be more consistent and - perhaps most important - you'll be able to modify things that don't quite work early on, without wasting too much time and effort. It's not fun to scrap a few months of work because it doesn't work well with other aspects of the game - so people often work around it somehow, which leads to a lower quality game.

Quote:
On the other hand, my friend suggests an approach of taking one piece of content at a time (for instance one certain enemy) and polish it up until there is nothing more to do.

There is always something else to do. A game is never finished. At some point you'll have to decide that it's good enough.

Quote:
That idea has the advantage that the developers get an impression of the final quality of the game early.
The game would be completed by adding final quality content to the game piece by piece.

Previous parts will start to look bad once newer art comes in - quality increases over time, which leads to an inconsistent whole - or a vicious circle of work. Also, when things don't work well together, resources go to waste. This is how I used to approach level-design, but it left me with good-looking, yet half-finished levels. Things didn't work together.

However, it can be a good idea to create a few top-notch assets early on, to get an idea for the final quality. I sometimes create small style test maps, where I spend a lot of time on the aesthetics rather than the big picture. They serve as examples and guidelines for the real levels I'm working on.

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In many ways you can't polish something on its own; it has to be polished (and balanced) in concert with everything else in the game. It'll depend a lot on the level of interaction (eg: RTS games cannot be balanced until everything is in place due to the interactions). To a certain extent this also applies to art work, where you need everything to look consistent and achieve a cohesive graphical style; focusing on high quality art rather than cohesive art is a trap a suprisingly large number of games fall into. Since making it all work together is the most important part, doing art work one bit at a time doesn't really make much sense either.

This will, as ever, depend on what you're making. RPG quests don't need to all be made together, since they can be wildly diferent (and should be different, in my opinion). Similarly with level designs.

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I go for a middle between those two solutions, but lean toward your friend's. I don't mind leaving finishing touches for later, but I want things mostly done when I do them. I want to know that I won't have to go back there and mess with that anymore.

When you're designing and testing, it's different. You need to set things up and play around to see what's what. But if you already know what you're doing and where you're headed, then leaving things half done won't cause anything positive to happen. It's more likely to make you dread finishing it, in favor of working on something new.

A lot of the inspiration for working on game content is seeing it come alive in the game. Seeing it come alive in the game when it's half done rips that inpsiration away for the second half of it.

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Get something working. Use debug boxes, temp art, no textures, reuse the same effect/bullet/model/sound/etc. everywhere that you would otherwise need to make something new.
99% of your time will be spent debugging errors
.9% of your time will be spent ballancing things
.09% of your time will be spent making things look good
.009% of your time will be spent adding "i wish" items/code/art to the game
This means that you have to make the most of your time. If you predesign every enemy, every prop, every type of scripted action,
then you might have time to get 10% of that actually into a game. But the predesign, and prototyping of everything into the game before anything
is finished lets you see what was wrong with your ideas before it is too late to fix things.
Expecially if you see that some enemy added a characteristic to the game that means an overhaul of all the other enemies (imagine not designing around "and this guy HEARS threats instead of seeing them!" but then getting to that enemy last)
And besides, you ARE going to get bored of working on some trouble spot, and effects and polish to stats can be done at almost any point
with minimal setup. This means you can polish things as you go if you get hung up on thinking about another system, and thus all your time is
better used.

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Depends what you mean by "polish." If you're just talking about art, like models, textures, lighting, and the rest, it's usually best to have alot working before you start doing that.

However, if you mean fine-tuning and polishing by controls and gameplay, I think it's more important to have a character (if it's a platformer, fighter, whatever) working as smoothly as possible before starting design. Imagine if halfway through the design of a platformer, say Mario 64, you wanted to add a backwards jump to your character. All the design you'd already done would be affected by a simple addition, and there'd be alot to fix.

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Oh god, IronWarrior hit a nail on the head there. If at all posible, add EVERY feature you NEED, but not every feature you WANT. If you NEEDed a feature, adding it late in the dev cycle is going to be a pain, and it IS going to break things. Lots of things. And where it might work fine on one level, there is always going to be some interaction on another level, where you system change now breaks that level. If you WANTed the feature, but it wasn't NEEDed, then add it when you have time, but note that it will break things to add it.

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One thing you might want to consider, is that if you intend to approach a publisher with this game - your time is probably best spent making a very well polished prototype for "selling" the game.

Other than that, I would say that getting the bulk of the content in there and saving polishing and tuning would be my method of choice.

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