What order to do things in (mapping, battles, cutscenes etc.)

Luiishu535

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This is a subject that's been floating on my mind lately. I've made decent progress on my game lately, example: made about 200 maps in one month. While that feels really good, I keep thinking to myself if it's the right thing to do.

A pro is that I get to focus on one thing at the time, meanwhile a con would be that it can get repetitive after some time.

My first game, in terms of development plans/methods, was a pretty big mess. What I'm wondering is in what order/steps you make things while developing your game.

Do you finish the database/battle balance first, or do you start out working on your maps right away.

(Keep in mind that I'm talking about the development time here and not the early planning stages.)
 
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Well, if you make maps and transfer events, you can test that is in order before you start putting battlers out on the fields.

That way, it will go faster to test if everything is in order.

Like:

1. Maps

2. Events

3. Test above to see if correct.

4. Story events.

5. Test above.

6. Battler creation time.

7. Troop creation time.

8. Test above.

9. Place battlers on the fields.
 

Iavra

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I find myself redesigning my HUD and Menu over and over, since i can't decide on a final design :D

That said, proper balance takes a huge amount of time and has little to no influence on the rest of the game, so i would do that last.
 

Luiishu535

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That's basically how I do it, Julien! Would you split up these to different areas of the game (finish one are completely, then move on) or would do all the maps of the game, then all the events etc.?

@Iavra: I too saved balancing for last when I made my first game. I think a developer needs to have a continuous and focused flow when working on the balance. 
 
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Kes

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Whether it is for a town or a dungeon, my routine is usually:

I map, test for passability, routes etc.,

Place non-NPC events, test.

Place NPCs, test

Do any cut scene relating to that map, bits of dialogue, any story related or side quest related stuff.

Test

Move on, rinse, repeat.

If it is a dungeon, place enemies when all maps are done so that I have an accurate picture of exactly how big it is, how winding the routes are and so on (I have to place visible enemies as well as having random, as I give players the choice).  Because I have thoroughly tested previous areas, I can have a very good idea of where the average player will be in terms of levels, gear, money and skills, so there's very little guesswork involved.  This makes getting the initial stats of the enemies somewhat easier.

When I've tested it to destruction, I go on to the next new area.

Doing it like this means that I am never faced with an overwhelming amount of the same task.  I am also more likely to spot if skills need modification, that sort of thing.  I don't think I could bear to do 200 maps, then go back and event 200 maps, then go back and...  I would find it too tedious.  
 

EternalShadow

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Story, maps, cutscenes and events, battles, balancing, music, polish.
 

bgillisp

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I pretty much use Julien's method. Make the map, do a walk through to make sure there are no errors. Once that's been tested, add the key story events, test. If a boss exists in that dungeon, add the boss, test to see if boss is beatable if the player (somehow) gets there doing the bare minimum number of fights.

Once all of that is tested, then I go back and add the optional stuff (bonus treasures, items to explore, etc). Only after all of that is done do I add the random battles to the map, as that slows down all of the other testing.

Though, sometimes I do skip the optional stuff if I'm out of ideas at the moment, and write down somewhere to go back and add that in. This tends to happen near end of Chapter stuff as I want to finish the chapter cutscenes for ending and starting a new one. But, do make sure to write it down that you do need to go back and add it, else you will run into what happened to me and you will replay the chapter and suddenly wonder where all the NPC's are in the last town.
 

Miss Nile

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I do it Julien's method, too, although recently, I've been trying to finish as many maps as I could. Like if I have two main towns in the game, I like finish mapping them first with their interiors included, place the NPCs and have "my world" ready. Once that's done, I start laying the events for the story, cutscenes, etc. I make the database last, to be honest, or as I go. Like if character A needs Item A and that's not in the database, I go and make it. :3 Weapons and armors are made before that, though.
 

Fernyfer775

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I map, test for passability, routes etc.,

Place non-NPC events, test.

Place NPCs, test

Do any cut scene relating to that map, bits of dialogue, any story related or side quest related stuff.

Test

Move on, rinse, repeat.
This is pretty much how I go about it myself. I personally can't sit there and make map after map after map without changing things up a bit or I get super burned out. I want to make sure the current map/location I'm working on is pretty much completed before moving onto the next area.

Before doing any of that though, I build my initial database first. Characters, spells, items, weapons, armors, etc and then I move onto my battle system and which route I'll end up going with that. I like to get my HUD and all the fancy menu things completed and once all of that is good and done, then I proceed to create maps, enemies, etc and do balancing along the way.
 

Mako Star

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For most of my games, I follow this sort of methodology

Planning Stages

1 General Background Story

2 Desired Game Features

3 Character Concepts

4 Main Story Concepts

5 Characters

6 Main Story

7 Resource Gathering and/or Making(from Graphics, to Music, to Scripts, etc)

Development Stages(this is where it gets a little unorthodox for me lol)

1 I get the Database Set up to where I can Map and Event a decent bit of the Game without having to go into the DB and change too much. Usually Characters, Classes(if any), Skills and Animations for them, Items(including Equipment), and Vocab

2 I map out a few main Areas. Usually a couple towns and the Fields/Dungeons that connect the two.

3 Map the inside of the Towns

4 Add in Events in chronological order

5 Repeat 1-4 for the next large segment of the Game

...More or less lol
 
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That's basically how I do it, Julien! Would you split up these to different areas of the game (finish one are completely, then move on) or would do all the maps of the game, then all the events etc.?

@Iavra: I too saved balancing for last when I made my first game. I think a developer needs to have a continuous and focused flow when working on the balance. 
Well, I don't really have the patience to make a whole game in one go, so my game gets "chapter" updates.
 

Ronove

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I'm not a numbers person or a balancing person, so I don't ever start with the database first. Since I'm more of a visual person, after I get a basic idea down, I start creating a general look I want to go for (this is where I'd usually sketch out characters and whatnot and play with colors!). Then I do main character sprites/mapping/story typically together in bursts. Oh got a sprite done? Okay, lemme jot down some story ideas. Oh, this story needs a map! Lemme get going on that map. Oh this map needs some NPCs! Hey this NPC is cute, maybe I should make a quest with them! Etc. Then rinse and repeat. After a little while, I will take time and plot out most of the story once I'm in too far in to really back out but I usually work in blocks like that. Otherwise, database gets thrown in when I have something to test it with such as a dungeon or whatnot. Once I have enough to do a full intro, I'll start plotting that in then start on the next bit (so got the intro done! now we need the first dungeon so I begin to work towards that and once the maps and planning are done, then I event again).

I can't do one thing at a time (unless I really get in the mood or in the zone) because I get bored. Doing it in blocks keeps me busy and gives me something new to do so I don't get lazy or sloppy.
 

Luiishu535

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Cool to see some different approaches.

I'm probably going to save battles and gameplay related stuff for last.

For now, I'll focus on the maps and cutscenes.
 

Marston

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I don't think there really is a right choice here.

For most of my games, because they are rather short, I only start with an idea and see where that takes me. I generally know at least somewhat where I want to go with it my story. I think I never planned out the whole game except for "Here it starts, there it ends and I also want this and that in there". 

Now, if we talk about really using the engine, I basically finish one map at a time and test it directly afterwards if everything works. If it's a dungeon crawler, where you don't really have events in a dungeon, I normally finish the whole dungeon first and then test it (maybe test a puzzle in between to see if that actually works). As far as balancing goes, I have a general idea how hard the game should be and I balance accordingly. Most of the time it's still somewhat different, because I as the creator know everything (and even then I might Frick up and make enemies way to hard or to easy). But just doing map after map without events and playing what I actually created, I couldn't do that. I basically have to see ingame what I actually did. xD
 

Miss Nile

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For most of my games, because they are rather short, I only start with an idea and see where that takes me. I generally know at least somewhat where I want to go with it my story. I think I never planned out the whole game except for "Here it starts, there it ends and I also want this and that in there". 
I have to ask, how do you manage that out? Or does it only work because they are short games? I find that technique leads me to getting lost at one point and losing motivation all together. :3
 

Luiishu535

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I agree with Nile wholeheartedly . Lack of planning turned my first, supposedly simple game to an 30-40+ hour RM epic.

Maybe it differs a lot when it comes to the games content and scope.
 

Kes

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@Miss Nile

Different minds work in different ways; some people need more of an established framework than others.  If you need a bit more structure to keep on track, then that's fine, you don't have to ditch that approach.

I am probably a bit nearer Marston in that I never plan everything out in detail before I start.  I have an outline of my story and my characters, but it's as I write them that they really evolve, and I do get ideas on the way (I'm quite good at spotting ideas that will lead me to a dead end and so I ignore them); for me this leaves the "space" for creativity.  Other people I know have the whole story written out before they ever open the editor.  Or have all skills, items and gear worked out, complete with stats.  There is no right or wrong way; you have to use the way that suits your mentality best.  The only thing is to be at least moderately disciplined in how you work - total chaos and/or fluidity rarely helps anybody.  If you find that you get lost without pre-planning in some detail, then stick to that.
 

Milennin

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I don't have an order in which I do stuff, I just work on whatever I feel like working, though that's never doing too much of one thing at once. I like to make area by area, so I'll start with the main map. Since mapping takes ages I may do some monster spriting in between there or work on some other custom graphics assets that I may need for the area. After I finish mapping I put together the events battle encounters. Then playtesting starts and I'll regret doing the complex stuff that I wanted on that map until it finally works after 1000 tries. After that I'll start on the next area.

I could never make 200 maps in a month, my brain would die and I'd turn into a zombie.
 

Marston

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I have to ask, how do you manage that out? Or does it only work because they are short games? I find that technique leads me to getting lost at one point and losing motivation all together. :3
Motivation is funny, as I work on projects only when I actually want to. I tend to loose my motivation quite often, but then again I also work on games I tossed aside years ago and continue them. It doesn't matter if I plan out everything first or just work and see were it takes me. That's also the reason why I only do relatively short games (a few hours long) instead of thise big, epic RPGs. I know I will just never finish them or it will take me years. xD

But here, some games I worked on and why I did that:

Lufia Fangame

A dungeon crawler, where I only had a start and an ending. When I made a town, I made all equip, spells, items etc. I needed. When I did a dungeon, I made all for that. I actually paused the game I think 2 or 3 times, so It took me over 2 or 3 years to actually finish it, and even then it wasn't as big as I wanted it to be. Would more planning have helped? I doubt that. 

Sao

A game that took place in the same universe as the game of a friend. This thing had no story, it was basically just the misadventure of this guy as he journeyed and murdered himself through everyone and everything. I planned absolutely nothing and just kept going. For this thing, this was probably the best approach. When I started a region, I somewhat knew what would be in there, but still not everything. For example, I had a town with a few battles and giant catacombs underneath. I knew the player had to find something in here to continue, but I put so much stuff inside there, I never knew it would turn out so big in the beginning. Would more planning have helped? Definitly not for this game. 

EMDES 2

The first one was based on a game made by craze which took only a week to complete. It was just a fun litle thing, a "hack'n'slay" with the standard battle system. Took a week to complete. Planning? Nah, I knew what I wanted and the game was so short, most was done balancing things.

Now, the second one however became what I actually wanted to do: An Etrian Odyssey clone, made with 2k3. Here I actually planned a bit. I started with the classes and their skilltrees, which alone took probably 1 or 2 weeks to finish it. So I actually had to create all classes and skills first before I even started with something else. Fun thing, once that was done, I was SO DONE with this game, the game had something like 5-10 minutes of playtime before I lost motivation for the first time. All this eventing in mundane tasks, like only changing one variable on an event page, for 12 pages, for 10 events, per class, per character... yeah, that took time. It wasn't hard, it was just so damn boring, ugh. And the worst part? I continued the game later, after a few weeks/months. I actually started working on it again ~1 month before the 2k3 was officially released and I might port it at some point. Anyway, I continued it and came to the part where I wanted to do class change. Didn't work how I planned it so I reworked the code behind the entire talent trees yet again. Here, more planning for the long run would definitly have helped. I knew from the start where the story would go etc. but the actual eventing behind the scenes... I hosed up big time here.

Phoenix Wright Fangame

Yep, a Phoenix Wright fangame. Also made in 2k3. We worked on this as a small team, it just started with a few screens "Lol, look at this, I made it" and became "Hey, why not just make a full game with it?". So we started. The first case is so horribly written, you just notice that it only took us 3 weeks to finish this whole thing. The second one was better, but still. This is actually the first game where I wrote all dialogues before they were implemented. Still, these first 2 cases were not really planned at all. We somewhat knew who did it and how he did it... but that was it. We continued the game years later but completely changed the first case. This time, we actually planned everything out immediatly. Who did it, how he did it, why he did it, who appears when, who was doing what, when you find evidence X, Y and Z etc. This definitly helped to find plotholes before we released anything.

So, in the end, I think it depends on the game how you do it. Some games require more work than others beforehand. And some things just come down to personal preference. As said, I couldn't finish a game where I just map everything out at the start. I actually need to play things I implement to see if they are fun and work how I want them work.
 

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