When I developed Project Void I spent a lot of time sketching out how the game was going to look before I actually started piecing the game together. My goal wasn’t to have a concrete design that would obliterate the opportunity to be agile but rather I wanted a good blueprint for where I was going with the game.
After I created a few sketches on paper outlining how the user interface was going to look, and how the game was going to play, I spent a few hours putting together an extremely simple prototype. I worked on the graphics and put together 480×320 PNG images of the game. I constructed the title screen, option menu and game screens. From there I put together an application that simply shuffled these images in and out of view as I pressed on the screen. This gave me a fundamental idea of what the game was going to look like in motion.
I see people wait until they are 3/4th of the way complete before doing any playtesting or, worse, they completely ignore doing it. First, don’t ignore it. Your game is going to be an absolute blast to you but it could easily turn 5 of your 7 friends completely off for reasons you could have avoided. You can’t playtest early enough. I took this prototype and gave it to a few people to play around with. All of a sudden I was getting some good questions and thoughts about things that I didn’t think about.
I feel that it is extremely important to create some eye candy EARLY — especially as an independent developer. This will put your vision right in your perspective and will make you hungry to implement it. This doesn’t have to be limited to solely artwork if you have the luxury of having a musician at your disposal. Music can be pretty powerful and is a very big focal point in my projects.
But it can even be code as well. For example, creating special effects or implementing the animation routines for your menu system.
Approaching the iPad
I currently have 2 projects being built for the iPad. Considering that it is just me doing development it will be interesting to see how I will end up managing these two projects. Luckily, I have two great artists working with me this time so I can finally get away from my programmer art!
So far from my design I will be taking advantage of the screen for the user interface. I’m not completely swapping views to display options, achievements, or even the leaderboard — all of this info will be accessed from the main menu with tighter views overlaying the menu.
The biggest change from the way I worked on Project Void is that I am spending time during the design to work on the model (MVC). If a project falls flat on it’s face after the first prototype at least I may have learned something. Also, since it’s the model, I can store it away for that game I develop down the road.
So the three points I would note is
- Design a simple prototype as early as possible
- Create some eye candy (or ear!)
- Playtest routinely through the development