Execution is key on everything: from packing up your stuff into your bag to creating games. In the case of eating, to execute eating: you use your utensils, pick the food up, put it into your mouth, chew it, and then swallow it. If you don’t execute it well, you’ll be a toddler who uses his hand to pick up food and swallow food without chewing. That is the point I’m addressing today: If you can’t do it properly, why bother?
Many game developers, including Adobe Flash and Console developers, tend to skip these subtly important part of processes because they feel that it’s unnecessary and cumbersome. There are reasons why these stepping stones are made so the execution will feel more organized and well-executed.
To get good ideas, you need to get inspired and write out all the ideas no matter how absurd the ideas are so you can find an amazing idea to make. You might have brainstormed a bit before when you’re solving Sudoku puzzles or thinking of a witty comment on your friends’ embarassing photos on Facebook and you’ll understand why it’s so important. This step is clearly the appetizer for a good course meal so why do people skip it? To get a quick amount of cash, of course. If you’ve seen the recent American Pie, Disaster Movie, and possibly Twilight, you could see how horrible and cliched the movies are. Having jumped the shark, these movies still sell well and can be classified as a “get-rich-quick scheme”. The same can be said about console and Flash games: movie-based or trend-based games are the money-takers. The countless TD Flash games (Dungeon Defender, Whiteboard Tower Defense ad infinitum) and IP Protocol Games (South Park games, CSI games, Barbie games ad infinitum) can be seen everywhere and it is possible because of the profitable ventures of the internet. The internets is serious business indeed.
Although this only apply to games with storyline, scriptwriters seem to skip it or do a slapdash work on it. The works of such scripts can be easily compared to B-Movies that have been poked fun of by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and you will see how similar the scripts are. They usually feature generic or overused plotlines which can be terribly annoying and viewers may wonder why in the world will the game need a storyline at all. Games such as wpnFire (Flash) and Dance Dance Revolution (arcade) are more favored as it has no storyline and just features the action players want unlike games such as Thing Thing 4 (Flash) and Need for Speed: Carbon (Multi-Platform) that have sub-par storylines.
This is the process where the game is organized so it will be easier for the game developer to create. It is more popular in the filming/animation business and is similar to the outlining process for research papers. Also the process for eliminating bad ideas and saving good ideas, it is worthwhile to stay in the storyboarding process till it’s ready to be created. However, horrible ideas do exist. Amazingly, the underdog PS2 game, Okami, lacks a target-locking feature and is way too easy to finish which pushed the game back to perfection. In more dreadful news, Bomberman: Act Zero (Xbox 360) has a cheesy Sci-Fi theme into it and has the worst features known to mankind. Flash games also suffer from this disease and Pandemic 1 and 2 are just a couple of the many victims that this disease has killed.
When you feel the game is set to go, you should ask your critic friends to let them play the game. The top-notch developers such as Bungie and Blizzard Entertainment are amazing in this process as they let a bunch of players play the beta servers. Beta-testing is here as it is easy to find bugs and if the idea is well-polished and seems playable. Should a developer forget this step, it will be a miracle if the game is bug-free and actually fun because in the developer’s perspective, “all the games I made HAVE to be fun!” Imagine the well-loved movie, The Godfather, filled with nonsensical garbage like Don Vito Corleone engaging in a dance-off with the Barzini Family because Francis Ford Coppola accidentally used it as a plot device but you tell him, “Dude, take out that crap and the movie will be better off without it.” This is why beta-testing or peer-editing is important. If you just take a sniff at Newgrounds Flash Portal or at a Japanese department store on the PC section which is filled with hentai games, you could see that most of the games/movies are made by no-brainers who have never asked their friends to criticize it.
The final step is promoting the game you’ve just made. If the game is not known to the public, you won’t make a single cent and you should have spent your free time on baby-sitting your neighbor’s children instead. Publishers gives out copy of the console games to reviewers for them to review and advertise the games on TV and on the World Wide Web. They also uses sites like Digg.com to get the attention the game deserve. It is like trying to be popular in school: you have to somehow be known and the easiest way is to be handsome/beautiful or get a hot girlfriend/boyfriend. Sadly, as many game sites stated, Okami (PS2/Wii) is undersold and basically, almost every Kongregate Premium Game published as of to this date, suffers from this drawback.
You may think these kind of rants are very common but they do exist as the flaw(s) exist and the steps skipped. For those developers who are still unconvinced, it’s like learning how to walk: you don’t walk straight-away but you try to become stronger as you need to learn how to stand up and then balance after stepping. The processes for learning how to walk is long and annoying but the result is worthwhile just like how Neil Armstrong felt when he stepped on the moon: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jasonpratt/1167155238/ – Campfire background