How do you start a game?

sarahrblount

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What i mean by the title is this: When you begin a game, after you're certain of the basic themes and the gist of the plot of the game, do you begin immediately implementing the game mechanics such as the battle and/or crafting systems? Do you make all of your maps first before adding events and cutscenes and even gameplay? Also, on the topic of graphics, if you plan to create your own sprites, do you make those first before you even begin working on eventing/mapping, or do you use stock images and tiles to fill up your maps and to pose as your characters and then do your own art later? Just curious. I've attempted several times to do make my own games. The creativity part of it helps with my anxiety and depression. However, it can become overwhelming not knowing what to do and in what order to do it. Thanks :)
 

ashikai

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I've experimented with starting games in many different ways, and I have come to the conclusion that it's probably best to start with a mechanic first and back fill everything else afterwards.

I say this because, as I started making my game I had a story, an aesthetic and a general idea of how I wanted the battle system to be; I thought I was doing pretty well so I made some basic maps, sprites, evented a few scenes... and then hit the point where I had to design a dungeon and I realized that everything I did was superfluous.

Players of an RPG will spend most of their time in the levels/dungeons and therefore the "fun" factor really has to be centered there. You have to decide early on what kind of mechanics your dungeon will need (kinds of puzzles, combat, challenges or even the TYPE of dungeon (find the path, follow the path, puzzlebox, etc)) early on and design your levels/dungeons entirely around those core mechanics because you have to teach the player how to use them. Plus those mechanics will be really important to how fun or challenging a player finds your game.

Take Golden Sun for example. The entire basis of that game is founded on the idea of psychic skills that you can use on the map to interact with the real world. Each dungeon adds another type of these skills and increases the amount of puzzles and solution combinations you can have PLUS they have in-battle effects. Without those skills, you can't navigate the dungeons at all. I try to imagine Golden Sun without the psynergy skills and it just wouldn't be nearly as fun.

ALL THAT BEING SAID I think everyone approaches game making differently, and this is just my take after a lot of experimentation.

tl;dr: Mechanics first; everything else later.
 

cabfe

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Every developer has their habits, so you won't find a definite answer.
Personally, I emphasize the story so I start by writing it.
At the same time, I prototype some ideas to be sure it's doable and works with the engine. That includes the scripts to write/adapt.

Then, I get rid of the maps because I don't like mapping (even though they're decent, I have a hard time at this stage).
After that, eventing chronologically and spriting on the go.

Some people use placeholders, then go back and redo/fix things. I prefer to have a final version before moving on.
I don't like going back, unless I need to fix a bug or a bright idea came after all.
 

TheoAllen

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There're several discussion topic on this (inb4, Kes would link those here) I already voiced mine.

First thing I'd start is to start on the thing that my player would spend their time on my game. For example, I usually begin on designing skill and battle system since there where my game strong point is.

And the important one is to create a proof of concept. You can start by creating spreadsheet, write there about your database, and it looks cool and professional. However, spreadsheet stays as spreadsheet. It does nothing if you don't try to implement it in game and feel it. What you write on paper is not always feels the same once you implement it, and in the end you will change some or maybe even scrapping it. So, personally I prefer a rough draft on text file describing my character skill roughly rather than detailed on sheet.

As for story, I tried to approach from the story first quite many times, but usually it ended up a mess. Probably, because telling a story is not my strong point in gamedev. I tried an approach on what would my player experience in my game (gameplay), I completed a game even though the story is barely there.

Now about the custom resources. Many dev said use placeholder. This is true if you're prototyping a game because you won't be stuck on creating / looking for a resources to create a proof of concept to feel your design. However, personally I find resourcing is as fun as making prototype. Drawing my character, create battler sprite for them, bring em to live is what I usually do first before prototyping.
 

onipunk

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In the past I've done a lot of worldbuilding and story stuff before even beginning to work on the game proper, and I found that without a clear vision for the mechanics I'd always end up adding new skills and weapon types and concepts that seemed cool until the game ended up a bloated, mechanically incoherent mess. For my current project I'm doing a lot more pre-production, creating a design document, making sure I know exactly what each character can and can't do, designing all the enemies and quests and all the database stuff first so that when I get to implementation I have a clear goal in mind. Planning and time management is something I've had drilled into me over the past two years of training as an animator, and applying the same methodology to game dev is working wonders. It might seem a lot less fun and the temptation is always there just to dive in and startmaking without a plan but project management can make or break a game, and so far this is the tightest, smoothest game I've made yet, just by using this methodology.
 

bgillisp

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There's a few other threads on this, may wish to find and read them through. But to summarize my thoughts:

First, get a story. Write out a rough draft of what you want to happen. It doesn't have to be in full detail, but it should at least let you know what the game is about. For example, you could in here put things like "Go to Riverdale and stop the disease, and learn that the Necromancer Xander is behind it". It's not detailed on how you learn about it, but it tells you that you need to go to Riverdale and what the goal of the trip is.

Once you get that much, start implementing it. You may discover you need to make edits to your story or game as you do this. This is because ideas that sound fun on paper might be not so fun when put into a game (I ran into this a few times), or they just prove too tough or impossible to implement so you need to edit your idea. For example, RPGMaker doesn't do Stealth well, so a section heavily dedicated to stealth might be too tough to do as a beginner developer when you are first starting out, so you may have to come up with a different way to handle that section.

Also, do NOT commission custom assets until your story is really far along. I say this because 95% - 99% of all indy games never get finished. Waiting until it is far enough along that you know you are very likely to finish the game allows you to avoid wasting $$$ on a game you end up scrapping. For that reason, I use placeholder art, sounds, animations, the whole works. For placeholders I just try to find something that will not make my eyes bleed looking at it while I'm making the game for the next few years, and I don't even go for consistent art style. For example, I had DS and RTP sprites in my game side by side until I was far enough along to know I was very likely to finish, then I replaced them with a consistent art style for the entire game. But while developing early on...whatever you can stand is all that matters.

And finally, except that it will take a long time to make your first game. I heard someone say to first estimate how long you think the game will take to make. Now double that. Double that again. Now you're probably close to how long it will really take, but better still add another 50% to that time for bug testing and fixing.

Basically, making a good game is hard and takes a LONG time. I've been at it for almost four years now and am still working on my game. Expect to be at it a while, especially as you will probably have to juggle working another job while making the game as well.
 

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While I can't speak directly to a project in MV, as I am just starting to use RM for the first time, I can speak to my process for game design in general. I always start with a character concept. Someone whose story I want to tell. More often than not, my entire game world, the mechanics, even the history of the setting, all grow from this initial seed. For example, I am working on my first project in MV right now. Since it is my first attempt at making a game with this platform, I am going to keep it small. So I came up with one character that I thought would be fun to play as. Once I had developed her character completely, I started to think about what kind of environment would have produced someone like her. What was her family like? Where did she grow up? What about the geopolitics and culture of her home region? Next, I thought about what sort of event or situation might prompt her to leave her home, and where she might go, and what she might do when she got there. Eventually, my entire game world grew from her in a very organic way.
 

The Mighty Palm

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I try to start by making an entire playable dungeon. Even if it isnt going to be used in game, this Demo-Dungeon functions for me as a sort of skeleton for the games mechanics. Once mechanics are sorted out and handled, you're left with a toolkit for making the rest.
(of course by this point I'm typically bored of my project and push it aside until its either forgotten or picked up months later)
 
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I think everyone's process is different. Mine goes like this.

1) Creating the characters and world in a design document.
2) Writing the narrative/narratives the game will follow.
3) Making mock up maps in photoshop so I can plan the games design.
4) Creating art assets and elements for a test area
5) Get the games UI and mechanics up and running in said test area.
6) Create remaining art assets for maps and mapping all of the games areas.
7) Going through those maps and adding in the games puzzles and events.
8) Implement the story based events and writing.
9) Add in the combat encounters and item placements.
10) Balancing and testing.

But that's just what works for me.
 

Wavelength

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Completely up to you as the designer. There is no one right way to do it.

I usually start by implementing the core game mechanics that need to be coded or evented. I'll create two maps, implement a very small amount of database content, and use only "placeholders" for graphical assets and characters at this point.

EDIT: Oh, also - I do this because the game mechanics are usually the most enjoyable, least stressful part of the process for me. It's really important to avoid burnout early on, because once you have a significant amount of progress in your game done, it's easier to motivate yourself to keep going. So early on, I recommend working on the stuff you really enjoy first, and only doing whatever is necessary (to be able to test what you've completed) for the parts that you don't enjoy.
 

mistFAWKES

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i think todd howard of bethesda has the best outlook on this: the plan is not as important as the execution. that is to say, get it up and running as soon as possible, and play it all the time. planning out maps, drawing sprites, making spreadsheets etc are important, but the most important thing is to have a fun game. and the quickest way to finding out if the game is fun is to play it.

the alternative is to orchestrate a bunch of custom assets, only to find, months/years into development, that the game isnt fun to play! then all the time spent planning has gone to waste.

lmao! i searched for the video and it was already set to autoplay exactly where the relevant info is! the whole video is incredibly insightful though. also look into joel burgess design talks on youtube
 

Kes

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Indinera

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I can start anytime the moment I feel the drive.
Generally I have a story and some notes. Then, it's the drive: the most powerful (and enduring) it is, the faster the game will be completed. B):thumbsup-right:
 

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