Think About It

How can planning your game make a difference?

There’s nothing wrong with making something that you really want to make.

I’ve blindly dived in and made stuff about things I’ve had big interests in without planning, but they’ve all ended up in a big shambles. I thought that I could get away without planning my project; create the greatest fangame that there ever was. But it really does help a lot if you don’t take that route.

But planning sucks, right?

I know the feeling — you don’t have motivation for a project for long, and once you start to lose the feeling for it, everything goes kaput. If you really care about this idea of yours, let’s take a step back and breathe.

Is this the right project?

When I plan something, I always abide by this one rule — never go with your first idea. It might be the first thing that came into your mind, which excited you. However, it is without thought and full of holes. it won’t last a week in the wild. But don’t throw it it away — make notes about the idea. What made it good? What do you like about it? Jot it down.

Think about alternate takes on the idea. The key objective in this initial planning session is to make sure your idea…

  • Isn’t overly complex
  • Is within your abilities to make
  • Will be interesting to others
  • Brings something fresh to the table

I find mindmaps and lists are pretty efficient when coming up with initial thoughts, plus I don’t use any device when writing these thoughts down. I grab a pen and paper and start writing, old school. Walk around and write. Go outside. Lounge inside. You’ll be surprised what you can come up with outside of your cave.

Other people exist too

What you think is what you think. Sure, you might have a general idea about everyone else, but everyone else is everyone else. Go talk to someone about your idea, whether they’re going to be useful or not. You might be overlooking something completely obvious, or what you thought initially about everyone else might not be true.

You need to make sure that your idea is interesting to others. After all, other people are going to be playing this, not just you. It might be your dream game, but you might have weird tastes compared to everyone else.

Development before development

By now you should have a vague idea about what you are going to make. You’ve heard from yourself and you’ve heard from others. You know if you can make it, but you don’t know how you’re going to make it.

Before you dive into your development tool of choice, take another step back. How is the player going to look? What can the player do? What will the surroundings look like? What elements will I have to create for the surroundings? How will the surroundings react to the player?

There are lots of things to plan about, but you should only focus on the major ones first. You don’t need to calculate what frequency the footstep sound effect should be. You should be thinking more along the lines of entity lists, player controls, what things should generally look like, etc. The foundations of your game.

I find that writing long lists of things is satisfying and helpful once you are finished.

No more steps backwards

So you have a solid approach to your project, but after all this time you might be thinking that you’re even more distant to it after all these steps back. But what you’ve actually done is given yourself a head start. The race hasn’t begun, but you know the track like the back of your hand. You know what the project is about now — properly. This will give you the motivation boost you need to endure it.

So don’t run in blindly.

Think about it.