In my last post, I listed my 2012 indie game dev resolutions. So far, things have been going well. I’m working on the game that I want to make, and it looks like I’ll be able to finish it this year (in fact, more likely within the first half of this year). The only bit that hasn’t gone so well is “being more social”. My plan was to go to GDC this year and chat with other iOS developers, but due to my day job I won’t be able to make it this year. Oh well, there’s always WWDC.
There was a bit of a setback on progress as my daughter, my wife, and myself all got the nasty stomach virus that’s been sweeping across the country lately. While it was only a 24-hour illness, recovery took quite a bit longer. However, unlike before when I would have a break in development and have trouble getting started again, I was able to jump right back into it once I was able. How was I able to accomplish this seemingly impossible task?! Why, through planning, of course!
Having A Plan
It’s important to note that both Sheepstacker and Word Monkey were made without any planning or design documents. I began work on their prototypes, saw that they were good, and just continued on until we said, “Now this is a game!” Essentially, the entirety of the game designs had to be kept in my brain. And as you may know, the brain can sometimes conveniently forget things (especially my brain).
For this new game (which I’m calling TTG3 until its official unveiling), I realized that this method of scattershot design just simply wasn’t going to work. The game is somewhat of an RPG, and it’s made up of many independent gameplay systems and stats that all need to work together in a logical way. Additionally, we’ve decided that we’re going to hire contractors for the artwork instead of using pre-made art, and working with contractors means you really need to have a clear plan. Otherwise, you’re wasting the contractor’s time and your money.
So I started by creating a bunch of tickets in my issue tracker. I use Lighthouse due to the fact that it’s incredibly streamlined, allowing me to focus on the tasks and not on management. Each of these tickets is something like, “Create the design for the battle system” or “Create the design for player progression”. In other words, each ticket is focused on a single chunk of the game’s complete design.
At first, I began assembling a massive “game design bible” that was to include every minute detail of the game, down to the very stats of each character in the game. I quickly found that I was spending more time trying to organize the document than actually trying to write it. Instead, I decided to create a single document for each of the tickets I had created earlier. This way, each document remained focused on a single gameplay system. I also decided to keep the design documents in Google Docs so I can access and make changes to them from anywhere. Additionally, I can link to the actual documents in the tickets to easily reference them.
So far, this has worked wonderfully. It has not only kept me focused on a single task at a time, but it’s also helped me to plan out every feature of the game ahead of time. It’s important to note that these documents won’t always be strictly adhered to (as game development requires fluidity and adaptability); they’re simply guides for when I inevitably get to a point in production where I don’t know what to work on next.
Executing the Plan
Naturally, the next phase of development is to actually execute the plan I’ve laid out. Since we already know the requirements for the in-game art, we’ll be able to start the search for artists as early as next week.
We’ll be handling UI art a bit differently. Since the game is an RPG and is thus very menu- and UI-based, we’re going to prototype all of the UI for the entire game with temp art, work out the kinks, and then finalize our design before sending it off to someone to beautify it.
The overall plan for the next phase of development is to have all gameplay systems implemented and all UI prototyped in roughly a month. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but with a good solid plan in place, I think we’ll definitely be able to do it!