Making worthwhile games

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about game ideas and possible projects to explore.  It’s become obvious to me that game creation can be very time consuming – especially for someone not in the game industry and pursuing projects on their own time.  Also, the scope of a game (features, different windows, gui, required graphic / sound assets, …) can quickly mushroom when the game design moves from intial idea to detailed plan.  A game idea may sound simple at first, but once you get down to figuring out exactly what each window will look like, and planning out what the user can actually do and what they will see, it is soon apparent that even simple games require a lot of planning and programming. 

On the pygame website are hundreds of game projects posted there by pygame users/developers.  Virtually all of them are in an unfinished state.  I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing (even unfinished games are good sources of ideas and code), but it is likely a testament to the difficulty of actually pulling together a fun, workable game.

So, all that said, I think that first and foremost, before any programming begins, it is crucial to have a solid game design.  Ideally the entire game is planned out.  At the very least, all of the user interface windows should be described and all gameplay features and interactions are thought out.

Focus on fun gameplay first.  It would be unfortunate to spend a lot of time on a game only to find out that the concepts that seemed so perfect at first really don’t work well or provide a fun experience.  Also, especially for a one-man game studio, 3D rendered worlds and the like are probably out of reach.  Graphics will be simple; they are not going to draw people into your game like they may for blockbuster titles.

Try to do something that hasn’t been done before, but don’t be so different that your game is so unfamiliar that no one invests the time to try to figure the thing out.  Maybe familiar genre + new setting, or new genre + familiar setting would be a good formula?

I suppose all this sounds like I am a wise old game designer giving you some advice…actually, all of this is for myself!  Most of my game ideas don’t make it through the “fun” / “workability” tests, which I think helps save me a lot of time in the long run.  I still try to keep the ideas in my head or down on paper (yes, I have a game design notebook where I jot down ideas…most bad), so maybe they can mature and reappear as really good ideas.  This is where the creativity in game creation comes into play!

Meanwhile, I have been exploring some other Python projects.  I added an “Other Projects” page for those, to separate them from the games.  The projects I added are Smart Dots, discussed in a few posts from May, Receipt Whiz for tracking purchases, and Stock Tracker, my get-rich-quick scheme that proved unworkable…or did it?? 😉

What do you think?

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