The Quick Joys of Prototyping

In a recent interview with Jared Bailey of NoCanWin, he stressed the importance of the prototyping stage for beginner game developers. His comments really struck a cord and I realised that I had to stop working on the look and style of my game ideas and simlply get them coded up in their most basic form to see if they ‘feel right’.

I researched into prototyping further and found some very interesting articles:

  1. How to ProtoType a Game in 7 Days – Gamasutra : An excellent read with numerous pointers by a group of indie dev’s who started the Experimental Gameplay Project.
  2. Prototyping for Games – Applicus
  3. Tear Down This Wall – Third Helix : A build to build break down of the prototyping process
  4. Prototyping 101 – #AltDevBlog : Excellent Overview of Prototyping

After soaking these ideas up for a day or two I have been getting deep into a prototype for a game I am currently calling ‘Let Me Fit In’ – a fast paced scroller with a back story of ‘an ugly duckling done good’.

Prototyping is a bit slower for me than most as I am learning a lot of scripting as I go – thank the lord for Unity Answers! I am very happy with the prototype, it is engaging but there is a lot that I need to recode and structure again if I were to flesh out the project but it’s working. I have hooked my Xbox Controller up and it feels great to test play with such a good controller, especially as my game is fast actioned.

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 00.02.36
‘Let Me Fit in’ Gameplay Testing with Xbox Controller

I have found the following key points from the Experimental Gameplay Project, about prototyping really useful:

Setup: Rapid is a State of Mind

  • Embrace the Possibility of Failure – it Encourages Creative Risk Taking
  • Enforce Short Development Cycles (More Time != More Quality)
  • Constrain Creativity to Make You Want it Even More
  • Gather a Kickass Team and an Objective Advisor – Mindset is as Important as Talent
  • Develop in Parallel for Maximum Splatter

Design: Creativity and the Myth of Brainstorming

  • Formal Brainstorming Has a 0% Success Rate
  • Gather Concept Art and Music to Create an Emotional Target
  • Simulate in Your Head – Pre-Prototype the Prototype

Development: Nobody Knows How You Made it, and Nobody Cares

  • Build the Toy First
  • If You Can Get Away With it, Fake it
  • Cut Your Losses and “Learn When to Shoot Your Baby in the Crib”
  • Heavy Theming Will Not Salvage Bad Design (or “You Can’t Polish a Turd”)
  • But Overall Aesthetic Matters! Apply a Healthy Spread of Art, Sound, and Music
  • Nobody Cares About Your Great Engineering

General Gameplay: Sensual Lessons in Juicy Fun

  • Complexity is Not Necessary for Fun
  • Create a Sense of Ownership to Keep ’em Crawling Back for More
  • “Experimental” Does Not Mean “Complex”
  • Build Toward a Well Defined Goal
  • Make it Juicy!

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