Audio, Visual Art and Polish

It’s week 5 everyone! You’re probably panicking at this point the weeks seem to have passed at lightning speed. Or perhaps there’s been an elusive bug that’s been haunting your entire weekends? Don’t worry. This is normal game dev life. It’s not because you’re terrible or you’re not meant to be making games. Game developers every day have wasted hours because of a forgotten semi-colon or misspelled variable. You’re on the right track!

This week, we have had the privilege to have 2 mentors to present their specialty: Stephanie Lawrence, who presented visual art, and more precisely concept art, and Beatrix Moersch, who presented audio!

VISUAL ART

Stephanie is currently working as a concept artist at Ubisoft, but she has also worked as a matte painter in the special effects industry. She told us about her work, showed us several of her creations and also explained what is her process to create them. To learn more about her work, or just to watch her beautiful creations and see how talented she is, take a look at her presentation:

ART AND DESIGN

Last Saturday, during the group session, we were also lucky to have a presentation by Brooke Jurdak on art and design. Brooke is not only a former incubator participant, but she is also an artist and a coordinator of the incubator’s Follow Along program! You can see her presentation here if you could not be there last Saturday, or if you would like to take a look at it again:

AUDIO

Beatrix told us about the importance of sound and the role it can play in a game. She showed, among other things, that audio can be very effective in creating immersion, giving feedback or making people feel emotions. In addition, she also touched on the subject of sound design and presented us with some resources that could be useful in the creation of your game. To learn more, watch her presentation:

RE-SCOPING

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! We have already talked about scoping in the last weeks, but here is a quick reminder. 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 game idea be 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 placeholder art or sound?
– Am I obsessing over this one thing that’s not really important?

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.

POLISH

Here is some advice from PGI4 mentor, Jill Murray. She proposes this short exercise: What percentage complete would you consider your game to be? No matter what number you come up with, there are 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.

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.

To read more on polish:
Session sur l’audio, l’art et le polissage dans le PGI6
Session on audio, visual art et le polish in PGI5 (French)
Polish with Jill Murray in PGI4
Art of Game Polish
How to Polish Your Game
Juice it or lose it
5 Simple Techniques to Add Polish to Your Game
5 Important Ways to Add Polish to Your Game

PLAYTESTING

Polish is about giving the player the best experience, and it isn’t always clear how to do that… Which leads us right to: Playtesting! 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. Moreover, don’t forget that you have been developing your game for a few weeks, and by now, you probably know it by heart. Even if some elements of your game may seem obvious to you, or if your game seems very easy, this is probably not the case for everyone! Playtesting can help you decide if your game should be a little easier (or not, depending on the experience you want your player to live).

JOIN US ON SATURDAYS AT GAMEPLAY SPACE!!

We encourage you to go online to discuss (and ask questions!!!) on our Facebook Groups or on our Slack channels, but there’s still no substitute for face-to-face interactions. Thus we encourage you to meet with us again to ask questions, playtest, bug-fix or just for tea and biscuits!

When: Saturdays from January 12 to February 23 2019, inclusively
Time: 14h to 17h
Where: Gameplay Space, 1435 Saint-Alexandre, suite 140 (station Place-des-arts)

HOMEWORK

Finish up that game! Set aside new features and ideas for now, and just focus on getting something that is testable.

  1. 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 (like itch.io).
  2. 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.
  3. Write yourself three or four questions to ask your playtesters. Try not to lead them with your questions. Here are a few examples:
    • Try asking: “How did you decide to click on THAT orb?”
      Instead of “Did you notice the big orange flashing neons around the orb?”
    • Try asking: “How did you feel about the controls?”
      Instead of “Was shooting with the mouse OK?”
    • Try asking: “What did you think about the ambiance of the game? (Follow-up: What elements of the game helped set the ambiance?)”
      Instead of “What did you think of the change of pace in the music, as well as the change of colour palette?”
  4. 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: PLAYTESTING!

Posted in News, Pixelles Game Incubator 7
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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.

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