In part one of this two part series I mentioned some overarching lessons about planning investments, timelines, and how to navigate seemingly lucrative offers carefully.
This post goes a bit deeper into game design process and some challenges I’ve encountered as I’ve worked on Iconica.
Commit to realistic deadlines
Iconica went through many rounds of play testing. This included play testing alone, testing with friends/family, and rounds of testing with random volunteers. It could have gone on forever. There’s always room for more tests, more refinement, more analysis.
Play testing is just one example of an area of game design that’s easy to get buried in. You see, I know myself. The more time I invest in a project, the more I tend to overanalyze it. Maybe you can relate in your own work! So, how do we handle this? What’s the key to stopping all the rounds of edits, changes, and experimenting?
Deadlines. I don’t mean setting arbitrary dates to get things done by just to make money. I mean taking stock of all of the elements of the project - saving money, research, prototyping, testing, illustration, etc. - and then determine how long each of these will realistically take to get done.
Getting a game done won’t happen without deadlines. Realistic ones.
The next challenge I’d mention is knowing who to listen to and when to take feedback to heart.
From the moment you announce a game, there will be people providing input on it. Family, friends, customers, co-workers, testers, random gamers, etc. Listen to all of the feedback. But there’s a way to go about this:
- Listen when people say something doesn’t make sense. Think about the feedback from their perspective - as a newcomer to gaming, as a young person, as an older person. If you see something that can be fixed, fix it.
- Listen when play testers say your game makes them feel a certain way - excited, tense, irritated, bored, etc. This is the most important feedback you can get. How we feel is tied to whether we’ll play a game again. If we play your game again, we’re more likely to support your future games.
- Ignore (yes ignore) feedback that would have you making your game more like another game. This input does not take into account your long-term success. You can’t build a good reputation based on innovation by trying to sell “me too” games or copy other mechanics.
The bottom line is, listen to feedback that will make your work better. While some people mean well, there are folks who only want you to make the game they want to play. Remember, you have a whole audience to consider.
Ask yourself: Should I do it all?
This was a huge challenge for me with Iconica. I wrote the game backstory. I created the game mechanic. I illustrated it. I designed it. I did it all. While the results are satisfying it’s been a grueling uphill journey at times. It’s led me to a realization: I need to collaborate more.
You see, I knew I had the motivation to do it all myself, but I never asked should I do it all myself. For instance, if I had partnered with a designer or illustrator, perhaps I could have spent more time on making something else better. Who knows what that could have led to right?
I’ve had lots of practice collaborating with others as an Art Director at my day job. I’ve learned enough to know partnering with the right person or persons - especially on big projects - can lead to more focus, a better creative process, and greater outcomes.
Thanks for reading. What lessons have you learned as a creative that you’d share?