Monday, September 9, 2013

Setting Goals and Following Through

Hello readers, it's that time again. Last week I talked about how to stay focused on your project. This week, is about *looks at the title* setting goals and following through. What I do is two fold when it comes to setting goals:

1. I break down the game into sections. Point A to Point B, Point B to Point C, etc etc. When it comes to making rpgs most people are so concerned about having all this extra content, side quests, different ways to do things, and that's all fine n' dandy but if you don't really have a plan or goal a lot of times these side quests and extra content either don't really fit with the story or you get too overwhelmed because you feel like you aren't really getting anywhere in your game development. Example, in Goshiki I was so worried about having every npc or object that the player came in contact with have something to say or increase the character's power some how. My whole "inspiration system". Which was nice, but when you think about it all that extra stuff should have been polish left for after I had finished the critical path. The Critical Path is the main story line or obvious path that the player will take. I've learned that if you want to get anywhere in development, develop the Critical Path first. That way when you play your game you actually have visual progress. "yeah, you can play til the half way point of the game." vs "yeah, you can play for like twenty to thirty seconds and that's about it...but man doesn't it look nice?" or "yeah, you can play but you can't leave the first town or get anywhere in the storyline... but man, doesn't it have tons of extra content everywhere?" some people would argue that having polish before moving on is the way to go and if you can stay completely focused on your game while developing like that be my guest, but the biggest problem with that is when you decide a little later down the line that you need to change things for the story to make sense...some of the polished extra content that you spent hours and hours on might have to get the boot because they simply don't make sense with the new changes. That sort of thing can be discouraging and could make you leave your game on the back burner because you feel like you aren't getting anywhere. It's so important to feel good about what you are doing and always feel like you are moving forward. Those are the games that end up being finished instead of residing in development hell.

2. Next step is to write it all out. After creating every map that I need for the game I start to place the characters all over the place and build the different scenes/events. Start with the introduction first and just continue with that momentum. Tell your whole story. "But mister, what about all the cool animations, effects, movement, artwork, music, sound effects, and everything else that needs to happen?" That stuff is the cherry on top, particularly artwork and music. If it bothers you too much just use placeholders. Artwork and music are powerful means to making your game significantly better but the core to it all is the story and the gameplay, everything else comes later. What I do is type up each characters' and npcs' textbox, add pop up balloons (you know, teardrop...exclamation point...hash tag for angry, etc), and then when some crazy movement or animation is supposed to happen I will write it out as a comment or note to be added in later. This way you've written down everything that you've seen in your head on "paper" and you can just come back to it later to make it look the way you want. Once you run through the entire story, read it over and over and over again. Read it out loud to make sure it sounds right and has a good flow to it. Have someone else read it too. Make the necessary changes, trust me you will do this several times, and then when you feel that everything is good to go with the story...start filling in the blanks. I usually take em one map or scene at a time at that point. When you finish a map it feels like you are checking it off a list and getting that much closer to finishing your game.

The moral of this whole article is this, set small goals for yourself with larger goals in mind. What I've been saying about breaking down the game into sections is setting the larger goals. For example, in Journey to Westshire, I have the game divided into six sections. The beginning to the half way point in the game, which can be done three different ways thus three different sections here, and the half way point to the end of the game, which can also be done three different ways thus three more sections here. Then you break it down into individual scenes which is the small goals. For example, the beginning scene where they face off with a giant ogre or the bar scene after that where they get their next job.

Game making can be overwhelming and intimidating. It takes a long time to finish anything of substance, especially if you are by yourself, working a full time job, and happen to have a girlfriend that wants to go out some times and watch movies/tv shows together :) Having things written out already and being able to have the small victories helps people feel that they are getting somewhere. Little by little the game is getting done and all the while you feel good about it. It's just a lot easier to follow through this way and it's not so overwhelming.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment, critique, or blow me to pieces below. If you have something that you'd like me to go over or give my take on go ahead and drop me a line. Hopefully next week I'll have a demo for you all ;) Have a great week and may all your dice rolls be greater than 15!

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