I helped make 2 games, here are my experiences and tips.

The Experience

A few years ago my friend and I realized that we want to make games. We created Spiffy Games Inc., and after approximately five trillion hours and fifty thousand designs, we settled on an idea that we thought would be fun, and actually doable. The game we had in mind was an attempt to create something fresh in the incredibly lucrative space shooter genre, because as you know, space shooters sell more than every Call of Duty combined and we were on our way to becoming billionaires. However, tragedy struck. The fat lady sung. Something something, cliche. A well known company put out a game that was really similar to what we were making, and there was no truly viable way for us to repurpose our game. It was complete coincidence and one of those moments where you just have to stop and softly say "fuck" out loud.

We went back to the drawing board and came up with another game that we felt was doable. Our idea this time around was to make something in the style of WarioWare Inc. We goddamn love wacky games like that so we made Super Fun Time. At a glance, it might seem like this is one of those "simple" games because it's straightforward to play, but holy crap, I can't even count how many hours were spent making sure that everything works as intended. Even though us "hardcore gamers" sometimes view stuff like this as "just" an iOS game, I feel like you could write an entire book on the trials and tribulations that happened throughout development. I bet every dev feels this way about their game though.

We originally tried to get some funding for SFT using Indiegogo (basically an international Kickstarter, this was before KS was in Canada), but that didn't work out. I know, I know, everyone and their granny has a Kickstarter these days, but we needed to bring a few people into the team and pay them. We were and are two average dudes, not the two halves that secretly make up Bill Gates. Fortunately for us, Steven Dengler of Dracogen was able to help us out! Dracogen is involved with a bunch of awesome projects ranging from Double Fine games to the upcoming Veronica Mars movie. Woo hoo, we were finally able to make SFT happen.

So what happened during SFT's development? Just about anything you can think of. We experienced everything from the tiniest asset causing the entire game to crash, to the characters jumping out of the screen and punching your face (maybe an exaggeration). We found some of the minigames worked way better than we expected, and some were only fun in theory. Some players were completely lost when testing (even with tutorials) and others somehow beat our own scores without reading any instructions. A lot of elements were constantly in flux, probably a lot more than we would have liked. We were always getting great feedback from our testers and the game always seemed fun to them, so we remained confident throughout the whole process even when the going got tough. Don't get me wrong, I'm positive that SFT will not move GTA off of the GOTY list for 99.9% of players (acronyms, yo), but I'm happy that our tiny team was able to come up with a game that was actually fun to play as opposed to a "valiant first effort."

SFT took a long time to make, so as a palette cleanser, we jammed with a friend at Triple Dot Games to make another game, and in just a week! The end result was Loot Runner for Android. Yep, there are like 9000000 runners out there, so we tried to give it a new twist by having the player simultaneously control two customizable characters in a dynamically generated world. We also had enough time to add a dynamic loot drop system. It was amazing to go from working one project for a crazy amount of time to making an entire game in just one week. LR development was pretty much as smooth as you could hope for. I feel like there's a parallel universe out there in which we all died during the making of Loot Runner.

The Tips

  • Having a general idea about the kind of game you might want to make is not enough to make a game. Make sure you plan out every mechanic, every level, every character, etc. Things may and probably will change over the course of development, but you need a strong foundation to start with. For example, "I wanna make a shooter with pink guns" is not the foundation you want.
  • Never give up. I know this is giant cliche but when you're involved in a creative project, it's very easy to doubt yourself and become negative about what you're making. The second you let that ounce of doubt take hold of you, you've lost the fight.
  • With that being said, always be open to feedback and critique. If you have a role that has a lot of power, your ideas are not guaranteed to be awesome. Power and authority =/= great ideas. Games are a collaborative project. The way someone looks at your game could be completely different than the way you look at it. Always pay attention to what others say, but you'll have to figure out if someone is being a jerk on purpose, or if their ideas would simply not work.
  • Be prepared for anything. Maybe the game will break a day before release, hell, maybe something causes it to break after release. Make sure you plan for the worst case scenarios. Assume that Murphy will follow you around everywhere you go and that he will try to trip you up at every opportunity.
  • Always be testing. There is no such thing as over testing your game for bugs. There will always be someone out there that can break your game (hey there, Vinny). Once the game is done in your view, test, test, test, and then test some more. If store approval or whatever is taking its sweet time, keep testing! If your're making a game for mobile platforms, you have to take a lot of devices into account, don't forget that.
  • Go with the flow. Until your game is content locked, you might find that certain aspects of the game work better than others. Or perhaps a particular mechanic turned out to be really awesome or lame. Take that in your stride and build on that.
  • Inspiration comes from everywhere. If you struggle to come up with ideas, just start thinking about stuff. All sorts of stuff. From toilet seat covers to that one oddly long branch in your backyard. Getting your brain active is bound to produce results (whether good or bad), and it certainly beats sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself.
  • Be honest with yourself so that you can be honest with others. Like I said, SFT is most likely not going to knock GTA off your GOTY list. But I also know that the game is fun and wouldn't tell friends or strangers that it's "just a little iOS" game. If you can come to terms with what it is that you're making, you make it easier for other people to understand it. And if they understand it and like it, that's awesome! If they don't like it, that's ok too.

I go could go on and on, but I should stop before I end up writing 15 pages or something. Anyway, I also wanted to give out a pair of codes for Super Fun Time, I've listed them in the spoiler block below. Unfortunately, I don't think Android lets you generate free codes. Thanks for reading, cheers!

L66J7PR33AFW
A64LATN6LR69

Head over to the App Store to redeem the codes. They will expire after 14 days so make sure you use them right away.

8 Comments
8 Comments
Posted by Bollard

Great blog! Love the art in Super Fun Time, I woulda grabbed one of the codes if I had an iOS device.

Posted by ThunderSlash

I believe Brad Muir's saying: "Making games is pretty fucking hard you guys." rings true for this blog.

Posted by GoranP

@thunderslash: Absolutely! It's super challenging but easily one of the most rewarding things I've ever been involved with.

@chavtheworld: Thanks! All credit goes to the incredible Sean (@uberexplodey) and Marcelo (currently blanking on his GB username, aaaaaaaaargh) for producing the awesome art. Both of them completely nailed the look from their very first sketches.

Posted by Deranged

@goranp: One of the best blogs I've read in a while and I cannot thank you enough for sharing your experiences. I'm in Game design right now and I've been writing up ideas and thoughts long before I even started. Everyone I talk to explains how brutal of a process it is but how immensely beautiful and rewarding the final product is.

Posted by ArtisanBreads

About to embark on this difficult trip myself, thanks for taking the time to write this up man. Much appreciated.

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Posted by soulcake

Great post it sure gave me some insight in making a game as a project or 1/2 man thing.

Edited by GoranP

@artisanbreadsCan you say what you're planning to make or is it a secret for now?

@derangedDo you mean you're in the design stage of a project or in a college/university program?

Thank you for the kind words everyone!

Edited by cloudymusic

@goranp said:

At a glance, it might seem like this is one of those "simple" games because it's straightforward to play, but holy crap, I can't even count how many hours were spent making sure that everything works as intended. Even though us "hardcore gamers" sometimes view stuff like this as "just" an iOS game, I feel like you could write an entire book on the trials and tribulations that happened throughout development. I bet every dev feels this way about their game though.

I can absolutely agree with this. Coming up with the game design and implementing it is a huge part, obviously, but acting as your own QA department and trying to find ways to break the game -- and fixing them -- is a seriously monumental amount of work.

I've only ever created one piddly little Xbox Live Indie game, but even then, the community peer review standards were pretty stringent, for good reason. There are so many little edge cases to worry about and account for that you might never have dreamed of on your own, and even if they seem unlikely, they're things that your game needs to be able to handle well if you don't want your game to come across feeling like an unpolished buggy pile of garbage. What happens when you save to a removable memory card, and then take the card out before you try to save again? What happens if you take the memory card out while it's trying to save? What happens if the user's playing on a 480i CRT monitor? What happens if the user tries to start the game on a controller other than #1? What happens if the user who logs in is on a restricted child account? What happens if the user presses the Guide button during a loading screen, logs in as someone else, and then tries to keep playing?

I have major respect for anybody that can make a polished game without any apparent bugs, because it's seriously a ton of work. I don't have an iOS device to try it out on right now, but Super Fun Time looks pretty cool from the screenshots. I hope it takes off for you!

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