Game dev tips

In these rough times, while coronavirus is taking its toll, a lot of things are going on especially in media buying space. According to Mihovil Grguric, CEO of Udonis, Covid-19 has impacted how the world does business. In 95% of cases, the impact has been negative. Gaming falls into the other 5%. People are at home, with nothing to do. They’re playing games. More than they ever did. We’re seeing a lot of growth in spends and revenue across the board. Even though we’re extremely grateful that our industry wasn’t negatively affected by the coronavirus outbreak, we also feel the pain of millions of people who were not as lucky as we were. We’re doing our best to support our local community, as well as industries that have been crushed by this horrific pandemic. Last week has been good for hyper-casual games. Lower CPIs and increased amount of downloads (20–30%) are something to be happy about in these unfortunate times.

IGame creators don’t need too much resources to create an awesome artwork. Here are some tips for game developers that we use at Sysics studio to keep doing the work and moving forward into creating our video game.

Creating the game concept: Tune everything out and close everything down. Now take 15 minutes and write down every single idea that pops into your head. Don’t censor it at all. If you think it, write it. Don’t judge it. Don’t consider it. Just put it down on paper. Every single word, every single idea, every inkling of thought must find its way onto that page. Then review it when you are done. It might be some of those words on those pages are golden ideas. At the very least, you’ll have cleared some space in your brain to do some real thinking.

Write the Elevator Pitch: Once you've described the MVP to yourself, which means being able to describe the entire basic concept of the game in one paragraph, with one or two features at most, it's time to refine it. Pretend you need to convince a major publisher executive of the viability of your game during a chance meeting in an elevator. You have ten seconds. Can you describe your game so enthusiastically, so interestingly, so mind-blowingly in that brief moment? Write this elevator pitch down.

Reduce Risk: Use Save Points! Imagine having to finish an entire game without a single game save. This is how many game developers create software: all or nothing, no safety net, you either hit it out of the park or crash and burn. No middle ground. No accounting for unplanned contingencies. This is a sure fire way to unintentionally aim for failure. After you do this a few times, you will start to see the pattern: optimistic plans without save points along the way are extremely risky. Why not lower the risk and give yourself multiple exit points along the way?

Consistency is the key: Each morning write down one thing you can accomplish that day that would make the day worth it. Then just focus on that one thing until it's done. Everything else is gravy that day. If you aren't almost done half-way through your day, it might be time to consider a new plan.

Triage: Someone utters the phrase "would be nice"? That item is cut. Anything you don't have extremely high level of confidence in, is cut. Basically anything that would not be an immediate catastrophe is cut. That's the easy stuff. After that, everything is still on fire and you still aren't going to be able to do it all. The only thing that matters here is that you admit it. Some of these patients are going to die. Pick some, live with that choice, and suggest people get comfortable with the others or find workarounds. That's the time to get creative.

How much is it worth? Before you sit down to do something, decide how much it's worth. How much time could you spend doing this and it would still be worth it? Two days? Two years? Where is the line? How much would you personally pay someone to do this? With that in mind you can decide when to completely stop what you're doing if it's not going well and throw it out (if you have nothing useful) or use an earlier, but less awesome iteration (if you have something that at least works).

Draw a Stick Figure Storyboard Comic: The next step, before you start coding or creating vast libraries of content that may or may not make it into your final game, is to do a rough sketch of the game in action. You do not need any artistic skills. What you're aiming for is a visual representation of the entire game from beginning to middle to end. Draw a bunch of panels on a piece of paper and start with a rough approximation of what the title screen or main menu will look like. In the next panel, draw what happens next.

Where did the day go: You get to the end of the day and feel like you didn't accomplish anything. That happens a lot. What's happening? Why do you feel so useless? Stop. First you probably just need some perspective. And second, it probably is true that you're not spending your time as wisely as you'd like. Everyone hates this exercise, but it's still a straight forward and valuable approach: For a week, track every minute of your day. Write down everything you do. Get a coffee? Write it down. Read an email? Write it down. Wander around and have a chat? Write it down. Account for every moment. Once you've done that as honestly as you can, you probably have some insights you can work with to actually answer the question of where your days are going.

Holding people up with lots of small things: You're getting to the urgent stuff. You're getting to the important stuff. But there are small things that people need (replies to emails, code reviews, whatever) that aren't particularly urgent or hugely important. Until they are. People have to bug you about it. And by then it's become urgent or important. Two useful tactics: Don't read it twice. If you're taking time to read email, prepare to respond during that time. Anything you can possibly get an answer to, answer immediately. Don't "get back to it" if you can help it. And keep a separate list of those little things that build up during the day, and just knock them all out at once before you end your day.

Be honest about your own progress: If you catch yourself thinking "I can make up the time" or some variation, stop. You can't. You're behind and you need to start thinking about who needs to know; and how you can adjust everything else to accommodate. Now, before it gets desperate. Once you've used 50% of the available time, if you're not 80% done, you are behind. And 80% done basically means you could walk away. It works, it's not your best work, but you could stop now. If you catch yourself saying "lots of stuff just came up and got in the way" or some variation of that, stop. This probably isn't the first time you've had to deal with fires and random things. In fact, while any individual item isn't predictable, I'd bet that the total amount of your time spent on unpredictable items is extremely predictable. Account for it.

Trust the process: The fantasy: "Next time I'm going to do it sooner and better. I'm going to make all these amazing decisions way earlier, because it's such a mess when they are made late." The reality: That doesn't happen. There are too many variables changing at the same time. The ideal, theoretical approach will remain both. For any given issue, ask "What are the absolute minimum answers I need before being able to reasonably solve this problem?" Write them down. Put aside the problem until those answers are available. Spinning your wheels on problems you can't solve yet will waste a lot of your time. 90% of game projects never see the light of day. Many experienced people confirm this. Of all the games you start - filled with enthusiasm, a detailed plan, and infinite brainstorms worth of ideas - only a small percentage will be released. Stay focused and be confident that you are a good game developer, you can produce acceptable artwork, and you have enough good ideas to feel confident about the plans. But yet that wonderful state where the game is ready for the public is not an easy target. With game creation, even if you aren’t in love with an idea behind it, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t. You’ll be inspired, challenged, pushed, and irritated through various points. But you’ll be creating. And when you create, you gain insight into the process that you can’t pick up or learn from the sidelines.