Stupid Question Regarding Blank Slates

ThrowingPumpkins

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I'm somewhat new to the forum, however I've been part of about 4 or 5 projects now, they kind of blur together at this point. I've been in several positions on several teams, but due to lack of incentive and busy team members, the project has always fallen through. With this supposed "experience", I have still failed to get over one of my greatest fears when starting from a blank slate. I'm hoping on a forum where most people have some level experience on the subject, someone could help ease this fear for me.

When starting a new project, where do you begin? What is the absolute first asset to start working on, assuming you already have a team, or even if you don't?
 

LycanDiva

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Me? I start with the characters. To me, the characters make the RPG, and if the characters aren't likable or interesting, the whole game can fall flat. Case in point: Legend of Legaia. Interesting combat system, interesting premise...but the characters were really boring. I just couldn't get through the game with such a dull cast...so, I never finished it. A plot is not just a plot. It is a situation, the ways in which the characters react to that situation, and the ways in which the rest of the universe (people, creatures, and forces) react to those reactions. But, it all starts with your main characters and their personalities and individual histories and psychological profiles. They are the fuel to the fire that is your story.

An interesting world is next on the list. I generally come up with the most plot-relevant lore first, then build outward from there.

As for inside the project itself, I start with the world map, then work on towns, dungeons, and NPC's. I go one story segment at a time. Once one segment is done up to the point where all that's missing is a few small flavor events (book shelf text, for instance), I move on to the next major chunk. A story segment generally consists of 1 dungeon and 1-2 towns, sort of like it's a 1-2 episode portion of a T.V. show.
 

Venima

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I think this depends on your project's motivation, and how much experience you have. Using myself as an example:

I never start out building a game, I start out building a prototype. A proof of concept. I think about the least-feasible seeming aspect of a game and I make sure that goes in the prototype. When I'm hit with a challenge, I always go 'challenge accepted', and I can spend days pondering over how to achieve something. Once I feel I've proven the concept, I will either expand on what I've got, or start a fresh build, depending on whether I've made any significant mistakes along the way.

As a programmer, I spend half of my time making tools that do half of the work for me. I've started building my own dungeon generator, because I'm terrible at level editing (or rather I don't have the patience for it). This time-optimisation isn't specific to programming though, I know some very skilled artists who have these incredible nuggets of information about the tools they use that saves them a lot of time. Give yourself time to do this.

Maintenance. Whenever any part of the game feels like gruelling work, consider why, and see if there's a better way, cause that's generally a sign that it's a bad system. Sooner or later you will have to redo some of your work to fit a better design. It's a step back in order to be more productive in future.

For me, the biggest killer of a project is feature creep, at least, the feature creep in your head. Set yourself a todo list. Cross out whatever isn't necessary and focus on what is. Whatever you build, build it in a way that you can test it for weaknesses and be able to tinker with it. When I work on an enemy's behaviour, I build a special map just for that enemy. That said, you also need to look after your enthusiasm. I give myself work similar to how I eat my meals: Do you save best till last, or have it first, or mix it in with the rest? This is personal preference.

Log the changes you make, in whatever way is most convenient. I use trello. This is important for 3 reasons (probably more).
  1. A log is a way to trace back any and all mistakes you make through development. You make mistakes because you think a certain way, and it helps to remind yourself why you thought that way, so you don't fool for it again.
  2. It gives you a target. Every week, count the number of changes you made, or the number of days you worked on the project. Keep an eye on that number. Whenever it goes down, work out why. Whenever it goes up, work out why. Life puts subtle barriers in your way and you'll only identify them if you're paying attention.
  3. When you realise you've spent years on something, being able to read through 1000s of lines of logs makes it feel less depressing and more impressive, and you can prove to anyone that you've worked hard.
 

chaucer

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This is just my personal opinion, but I think you should start with what you know, and build from there. For example if you're a writer, go with something story driven, if you're a programmer go with some kind of fun unique mechanic, if you're an artist, I'd say start with creating the world and it's characters, if you're a composer start with the music!

In which case the rest of your game, should compliment whatever you've started with, if it's art, make gameplay mechanics that will give you the ability to show off your artwork, maybe have some kind of picture puzzle type of gameplay, if you're a programmer, build a fun mechanic, then build art that suits that style of gameplay, if you're a composer, build the music, then build a world that compliments the music, or build some type of rhythm based gameplay. This is just my opinion, again, but I think this is by far the best way to go about building games, because it gives you the ability to focus on what you're most comfortable with.


If you're good at none of the above, I'd recommend starting with something extremely simple, and do a little of everything, and see what aspect of game development, you prefer. Or if if you don't like what your current strong suit is, or want to break into some new aspect of game development, I'd say start building your game with the new skill you want to learn in mind.

Also welcome to the forum!~
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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First, you need to determine what approach works for you because what works for one might not work for you.

For me, I do

- Draft of intro and idea of what the game story is about
- Determine what scripts/systems I need and begin coding them
- Make necessary database entries for system tests and the intro
- Make the intro maps and sequences
- Alternate between making database entries, and map works with some adjustment to scripts if needed.
 

TheoAllen

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ThrowingPumpkins

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Me? I start with the characters. To me, the characters make the RPG, and if the characters aren't likable or interesting, the whole game can fall flat. Case in point: Legend of Legaia. Interesting combat system, interesting premise...but the characters were really boring. I just couldn't get through the game with such a dull cast...so, I never finished it. A plot is not just a plot. It is a situation, the ways in which the characters react to that situation, and the ways in which the rest of the universe (people, creatures, and forces) react to those reactions. But, it all starts with your main characters and their personalities and individual histories and psychological profiles. They are the fuel to the fire that is your story.

An interesting world is next on the list. I generally come up with the most plot-relevant lore first, then build outward from there.

As for inside the project itself, I start with the world map, then work on towns, dungeons, and NPC's. I go one story segment at a time. Once one segment is done up to the point where all that's missing is a few small flavor events (book shelf text, for instance), I move on to the next major chunk. A story segment generally consists of 1 dungeon and 1-2 towns, sort of like it's a 1-2 episode portion of a T.V. show.
That makes perfect sens. People tend to get really invested in the characters, especially with a compelling story, and without those characters, it's difficult to get invested in the story. That's not to say that it can't happen... buuut I would think one would be hard pressed to find someone skilled enough to make a compelling enough story that people would be willing to ignore the dull characters.
 

ThrowingPumpkins

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I think this depends on your project's motivation, and how much experience you have. Using myself as an example:

I never start out building a game, I start out building a prototype. A proof of concept. I think about the least-feasible seeming aspect of a game and I make sure that goes in the prototype. When I'm hit with a challenge, I always go 'challenge accepted', and I can spend days pondering over how to achieve something. Once I feel I've proven the concept, I will either expand on what I've got, or start a fresh build, depending on whether I've made any significant mistakes along the way.

As a programmer, I spend half of my time making tools that do half of the work for me. I've started building my own dungeon generator, because I'm terrible at level editing (or rather I don't have the patience for it). This time-optimisation isn't specific to programming though, I know some very skilled artists who have these incredible nuggets of information about the tools they use that saves them a lot of time. Give yourself time to do this.

Maintenance. Whenever any part of the game feels like gruelling work, consider why, and see if there's a better way, cause that's generally a sign that it's a bad system. Sooner or later you will have to redo some of your work to fit a better design. It's a step back in order to be more productive in future.

For me, the biggest killer of a project is feature creep, at least, the feature creep in your head. Set yourself a todo list. Cross out whatever isn't necessary and focus on what is. Whatever you build, build it in a way that you can test it for weaknesses and be able to tinker with it. When I work on an enemy's behaviour, I build a special map just for that enemy. That said, you also need to look after your enthusiasm. I give myself work similar to how I eat my meals: Do you save best till last, or have it first, or mix it in with the rest? This is personal preference.

Log the changes you make, in whatever way is most convenient. I use trello. This is important for 3 reasons (probably more).
  1. A log is a way to trace back any and all mistakes you make through development. You make mistakes because you think a certain way, and it helps to remind yourself why you thought that way, so you don't fool for it again.
  2. It gives you a target. Every week, count the number of changes you made, or the number of days you worked on the project. Keep an eye on that number. Whenever it goes down, work out why. Whenever it goes up, work out why. Life puts subtle barriers in your way and you'll only identify them if you're paying attention.
  3. When you realise you've spent years on something, being able to read through 1000s of lines of logs makes it feel less depressing and more impressive, and you can prove to anyone that you've worked hard.
I suppose most of what you mentioned would have been problems with previous projects I was a part of, feature creep plagued each of them, nothing was organized, and most of them didn't even reach the completed prototype phase.

Could you elaborate on motivation?
 

Milennin

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First thing I do before starting is knowing what I want to make. Like, a main theme and some gameplay ideas that'll make it stand out in some way.
Starting a new file in the editor, first thing I do is empty out the database and make my own entries. Having a clean and organised database is important.
 

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Venima

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Could you elaborate on motivation?
In my mind there are two types of motivation, your own motivation while making the game, and your project's motivation.

The former, your own motivation, is not to be confused for enthusiasm, enthusiasm is a type of motivation. There are many types of motivation: Enthusiasm, inspiration, obsession, curiosity, status, faith / belief, discipline, fear, philosophy... They all play a part in what motivates you to keep on working. They all have pros and cons. E.g. perhaps obsession creates innovation but is a lonely endeavour; fear is a hard worker but stressful and has little regard for quality; curiosity is brilliant at mastering skills, but never finishes jobs; discipline is dependable and generates productivity, but is contrary to creativity. These motivations don't just apply to you, they also apply to your team, so if you ever lead one, it's important to know what their current motivations are. Philosophy or obsession are the only long-term motivations in my mind. Philosophy is behind the answer to the question 'why do you want to make games?'.

A project's motivation is a bit more materialistic, and that's the one I meant when I said it depends on motivation. Some examples of project motivation: Boosting your career, giving to a community, bolstering your online status, learning / mastering an art, earning a living. A single project can have multiple motivations, but project motivations also have pros and cons. E.g. Giving to a community tends to be the most well received, but is generally contrary to either earning a living or boosting your career. Where you should start depends on which of these project motivations is the most important right now. With giving to a community, you should consider involving them from the start and seeing what they're most interested in. With learning / mastering, you should start with something you don't understand yet.

I mean in reality this stuff is a bit more fuzzy and tacit than I've described, but I hope this has given you an idea of what I meant.
 

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