Session 5 Summary: Re-scope, Polish, and Getting-It-Done!

pgi4-5
It’s week 5 everyone! You’re probably panicking at this point because who knows where those other weeks went. Or there’s been an elusive bug that’s happening somewhere, somewhere haunting your entire weekends. This is normal game dev life. It’s not because you’re terrible or you’re not meant to be making games. Game developers everyday have wasted hours because of a forgotten semi-colon or misspelled variable. You’re on the right track!

It’s Still Not Too Late To Re-scope

So it’s one of the last weeks and you might feel like not very much of your game is done. That is also okay! The next step is to make some decisions: simplify, cut features, and/or polish up what you have. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this feature, enemy, or game choice not absolutely vital to my game?
  • Can my be idea even simpler?
  • Can I keep my game to one level, area, or endless mode
  • Is this win or lose condition too complex? Can I make it easier to win or lose?
  • Can I somehow adopt this bug as part of my game?
  • Is anything replaceable with place holder art or sound?
  • Am I obsessing over this one thing that’s not really important, or works better as a piece of polish?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then you know what to do! Cut, simplify, or pivot so that you can move onto polishing your game.

Not really sure where to start editing down? There’s a really great slideshow on UI/UX from last year’s Session 5.

Finish-the-Thing!

jill
This week we got the chance to talk to founder of Discoglobe Interactive and game writer Jill Murray and get her advice on finishing up our games.

Jill proposed a quick exercise: What % complete would you consider your game to be? No matter what number you come up with, there’s two ways to finish it from there: either finish the remaining progress, or scope down your game so that your current % is worth much more. She points out a lot of the time having a smaller project that’s finished and has some polish on it feels a lot better than a larger project that doesn’t have any feedback on it. With a smaller project you can get more information from playtesting.

This is also where playtesting comes back into the mix. We talked about it initially in week 2, but make sure you keep testing your game to focus on your core. Which features make your game unique? With playtesting, Jill points out you can find out pieces of your game you take for granted but that really stand out to your player. Make sure when you’re playtesting to be as unintrusive as possible and just take notes to get the player’s true feelings.

Jill also recommends to use the simplest engine and tools that you can get away with to solve a problem. If you can get something working while using something simple, go for it- there’s no need to force yourself to use fancy technology you don’t know.

Polish

Polish is what makes your game look and feel nice! This not only applies to art and sound but the unseen things too (such as gameplay tweaks)! It’s what ties together the player’s experience. That could be fixing the gravity in a platformer. Or adding some extra effect to give bullets that extra oomph. Here’s what some game developers define polish as:

“Polish, to me, is the last 10 to 20 percent of effort where everything in the game is now working and you take the time to focus on the little details that have a big impact on the overall quality of the game,” — Rod Fergusson, executive producer @ Epic Games

“For me, polish has always been fixing multiple small issues and adding tiny features that really smooth off the edges of gameplay, Also I say ‘small’ as I consider polish getting a system from 90 percent to 100 percent. But really, that last 10 percent takes just as long as the first 90. Polish is no small task; it is just about small unseen things” — Dan Rubalcalba, programmer @ Obsidian

Different disciplines spend different amounts of time polishing depending on the feature. For a designer, polishing means can we make the game more fun. For an artist, polishing means can it look better. For an engineer, polishing means is it optimized.” — Patrick Dwye, lead designer @ Robomodo

Further reading on polish

Prepare for Playtesting

Next week, we’ll be focusing on playtesting! In order to have the best playtesting experience possible your game should be mostly complete. What is playtesting? Playtesting is when you invite a bunch of unbiased people to play your game. You will observe them (without explaining anything) and take notes on what they do, struggle with, or comment on. Then you take these comments into consideration and use them to better your game. Playtesting is an important step because not everyone plays a game the same way you do or see the same things you do. Work on your game! Finish the core gameplay and move onto doing a little bit of polish.

Meet Up

We encourage you to go online to discuss at our Facebook Group, or Follow-Along Slack! Feel free to post anything — builds of your game, screenshots, problems, and triumphs. Show us your amazing art and sound skills!

As always there’s also face-to-face meetings, where we can help you through your specific issues in person, and play your game so far!! It’s starting to get tight for time, so let us know if we can bring out expert mentors of any kind.

When: Every Saturday from Jan 16th to Feb 20th, inclusive
Time: 2pm to 5pm. Bring a friend!
Where: Gameplay Space, 1435 Rue St Alexandre (Metro Place-des-Arts)

Homework

  1. Re-prioritize and finish up that game! Set aside new features and ideas for the time being, and just clamp down to get something that is test-able.
  2. Ready your game to be playtested. This should be a more or less complete version of your game sans shiny elements. Export a build that is downloadable as a file, or uploadable into a website.
  3. Useful, but optional things to include in your build:
    • a name/title for your game
    • an instruction page with controls
    • a function that restarts your game.
  4. Write yourself three or four questions to ask your playtesters. This will help suss out all the absolutely vital parts of your game!
  5. Also write for yourself a one-liner description of what your game is and how you play. When it’s done and you’re ready to show it off, you’ll be well-prepared to express exactly what it is to your testers!

Next week: It’s Playtest Time!



Posted in Follow Along, News, Pixelles Game Incubator 4
About Pixelles
Pixelles is a non-profit initiative committed to helping more women make and change games. We're based in Montreal, and have already succeeded in building a supportive community of game creators, both hobbyist and professional.

E-mail: info@pixelles.ca
Twitter: @pixellesmtl
Facebook: Pixelles Group
Make a Donation

All donations go directly to funding our programs, events, and community. ♥ Your support is greatly appreciated!

Newsletter