Session 5 Summary: Polishing Your Game

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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!

User Interfaces and User Experience

Now that your game is well under-way, with the basic gameplay, mechanics, and aesthetic established, it’s time to look at your whole package through the eyes of a player. Things that might be obvious to you, the creator, might not be that way for your user and so it’s time to tweak it for fresh new eyes!

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This week our mentor Bio Jade Adam Granger, game designer at Ubisoft, came in to talk to us about UI/UX and polishing. She shared a lot of great advice on making visual codes and cues to make your game more understandable. She talked about the essentials for creating good feedback, and the importance of being consistent with signs. Lastly, for now, be reserved about making extra work for yourself! Aesthetic needs and decoration can come later, visuals and sounds for the moment should be made in service to your game mechanics.

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 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 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.

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

The Facebook Group is still always a great place to show off progress and talk about things, as are our weekly extra sessions! Meetups are on Saturdays, happening weekly from January 17th to February 21st, from 2 to 5pm. Upcoming dates below:

As you can see, not many weeks remain, so come out and take advantage of our on-site mentors and work time! This week features…. Valentine’s Day candy!!

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 Pixelles Game Incubator 3
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