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Can you make a big game by starting small?

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Hello, I'm looking into a few different game ideas, ranging in size and complexity. Mostly right now figuring out what I'd like to try and work on right now, so I'm curious, can you make a bigger game.(RPGs, RTS, etc.) by starting small, in this case, make a small game, like just one level, make sure that works, and can even be considered playable, and then you build on that, and basically layer the game with steps. What kind of steps would likely depend on the game(Like a RPG with some MP in there would likely have the MP elements built in as a last step or so, where as a FPS with a focus on MP would have MP worked on somewhat early.) I'm just wondering if this is a good method. Thank you for your help. :)

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So basically, you want to build a small core game and release DLCs every 6 months or so. Correct? As you build DLCs, you can add more mechanics and more options to the character or even the game itself. Granted you'd have to make sure the engine is flexible enough to do that. But other than that, I think this is the way most game devs are going.

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Not quite, I mean like the team would build part of a game, made sure it worked, and the parts worked, and then, we'd move on to the next step. And then when it's at a reasonable step(Like having multible levels/world built in and functioning mechanics.) We'd release it with the DLC idea, or as a beta. The other thing is that I'm worried about doing things TOO big, so part of this idea is if things don't work out, what has been built only needs a bit of work to make what's there into a game possibly.

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well, this is the way minecraft is going, so i think it's possible.

i would recommend that your team set the core mechanics first, then build up based on that mechanics.

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Well, as I said, I wouldn't be releasing it right after the core game is done, just making sure it can work as a game, before going on to a next step.

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Well, as I said, I wouldn't be releasing it right after the core game is done, just making sure it can work as a game, before going on to a next step.


I'd say that would be describing a vertical slice, which is an inherent part of several game development psychologies...

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The biggest problem would be the engine, you cannot think of all that you need from it until you have the final game.
Not a programmer myself but it would be pretty difficult to upgrade the engine with DLCs.
You can release it in development stages, where the players would need to redownload the game at certain points as some features cannot be just patched in.
But yeah it would be possible but you need someone who always has the grand scope of the game in mind so none of your DLCs make old content obsolete.

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The next step, being say, adding more levels sto the single level game, or making the world bigger then a small area, as a example, actually releasing it wouldn't happen tell WAAAAAY after that, I don't plan on really doing the DLC thing, at best, I'll do a beta test.

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I suggest you read up on the Software Development Life Cycle (SDBOK) and Agile development techniques like SCRUM. This is the way you should be making games and is essentially what you are describing.

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Game websites sometimes follow a growth pattern like that: first a forum, then an avatar paperdoll system tied into the forum, then a money system, npc shop, and inventory system to allow buying of items for the avatars, then trading and a marketplace to allow sales and gifts between members, then minigames where players can earn money to spend in the npc shop, then sales of physical items like keychains and plushes and t-shirts, etc. until you have a massive international thing like NeoPets that sells cash cards in every Walmart.

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It seems like the consensus is that, yes, it certainly can be done, though of course it'll have its challenges.
As a counterpoint though, you could just as easily pick out, say one or two core features, build up a prototype with those features, and then slowly add content that way. So, you don't have to chunk development spatially (in terms of levels), you can break it down in whatever way will be most convenient given your development plan (e.g. if you expect it to take only a few weeks to build the game world, but many months to build the graphics engine, then you might split up rendering components instead).

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I think it is a good way of developing... you have very much more motivation because you see some results...
For example:
If I develop an engine and say the first version will be like the CryEngine but better. In the next 2 years I will not have some feedback and my motivation will sink and the result is the project will fail...
When I develop a game or an engine and release much more versions I can react on feedback and will have more motivation and when they like my game, they will stay longer, because it is unfinished, so the full version would be "better" than the current alpha or beta version. Minecraft is a good example for this...
Some years ago it was a very good way to adverse when you set a website into the beta state, because an unfinished version who is good, is in the full version much better ;)

Regards
omercan Edited by omercan

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The only way to make a big game is to start small. Noone starts writing the first line of code and testing it the first time once the whole picture is done.
You start simple, "Hello World", game loop, getting a map on screen, handling inputs etc etc.
Constantly testing, and when satisfied, moving on to the next milestone adding features as you move towards the end goal.

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Read up a little on agile development, its a more formal way of doing what you are describing and a pretty good approach for exploratory development.

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To answer your question on whether you can build a big game by starting small. Of course you can, just look at Microsoft Word and its multiple incarnations over the years more and more options for document editing were added, and now cloud based documents, etc. So it is entirely possible to make a big game by starting small and planning big.

As for the method for doing it depends on the size of your team (1 person? 5? 10?), the experience of your team (Beginners? Programmers out in the working world?), the commitment of the team (full time? hobbyist?) and where are the team members located (everyone is located at the same place?).

If you have a small team, say 1-5 members with little to no experience doing this as a hobby. I will recommend the traditional waterfall method. It is simple and straight forward when compared to agile development.

Don't get me wrong I like the idea of agile development and have personally been involved with quite a number of them, but agile development does requires the team to be highly disciplined (simple things like regular sprint meetings may not be possible if everyone is doing this as a hobby), and led by people who have experience in it (e.g. a good scrum master and product owner to write the stories).

At the end of the day, no matter what method you chose, spend time to properly plan this out. For a good plan will let you know what is achievable in what time frame, and most importantly let everyone in the team knows how far to go to achieve the final objectives.

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You mentioned creating the game level-by-level. I just want to note that, depending on the specifics of the game, the bulk of the work may be involved in getting the basic functionality/foundations in place which are required by all levels.

Often agile approaches focus on adding features as you go, and the design of the game may mean that most technical features need to be complete before you can have a full, playable level. On the other hand if up-front work is less significant and most of the effort will be in creating level content/artwork, or your game design allows mechanics to be implemented piece by piece as you progress through the levels, then this may be a viable approach.

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A proof of concept before investing a tremendous amount of time in a game, sounds reasonable.

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