It is crucial that you ask and answer a few questions before pursuing the project. Earlier today, we discussed the importance of valuing your player’s time; which by doing so will allow you to always know which dimensions of gameplay are worth keeping and pursuing, and which ones are worth dismissing. Today’s second post stays in the realm of this discussion, but focuses on the development process before you even get started.
The following questions need to be answered by yourself and/or your team before you even begin thinking about how you are going to prototype and fully develop your next indie game.
Is this worth doing?
The title of the post is always the most important question that needs to be answered. Is the idea worth pursuing? You can answer this question by answering the following ‘sub-questions:’
- How long will this take?
- Time is money. Can you spare time and money to pursue your idea
- What is the budget for pursuing this idea?
- Which platform(s) do we want to target? Who is the target audience?
- Does enough of our target audience play the platform(s) in question?
- How many team members do I need?
- Again, how much time and money is this going to take?
Are you comfortable with all of the answers? If so, feel free to continue pursuing the idea. If not, find out why and alter the idea. For example, if the world of the game seems too large, consider narrowing the game down to one (or few) particular areas. In other words, compromise!
Did you answer yes to, “is this worth doing?” You’re not done yet:
Why is this worth doing?
This is going to be a tricky question to answer. Sure, you want to pursue your idea and flesh it out into a full indie game, but why? The answer can be as simple as wanting to improve your portfolio, get your foot into developing games, or make a quick buck to fund your next big indie game. All these answers are okay – they’re yours! As long as you can pinpoint exactly why you are pursuing this idea (and if your team members are in agreement), then it is perfectly fine to continue pursuing the idea.
Ultimately, is this going to be fun?
You’re not done answering questions quite yet. Ask yourself the simple question of, “is this going to be fun?” The answer should obviously be yes, but then you need to ask yourself another question:
“Is this going to be fun only to me and/or my team, or most players in my target audience?”
That’s a pretty bold question, isn’t it? Yet, you need to answer it honestly. If you cannot honestly answer that it will be fun for most in your target demographic, then you need to find out why. What about your game could turn some players off in your target audience? Brainstorm with your team and find the answer for yourself, then come back to the question and see if you can answer with a resounding ‘yes.’
Finally: will the bulk of my target audience actually play this?
While a game may be fun, ultimately, it doesn’t mean people are actually going to play it. Sure, the gameplay may be fun, but what if it’s plagued by terrible controls? Do you have any ideas for ‘bringing everything together’ and ensuring the game is an awesome experience for your target audience? Even if you don’t have the answers to this, do you at least have some ideas for ensuring that your game plays to perfection? If not, get the answers before pursuing the game. You don’t want your game to be plagued by something as miniscule as choppy framerates or unresponsive controls.
I realize you cannot anticipate every problem that arises in indie development – heck, you’re lucky if you can anticipate any of them. But if you don’t have at least some idea regarding how you are going to approach plausible problems as they arise, you may need to return to the proverbial drawing board and answer the first question again: “is this worth doing?”
Certainly, developing indie games is unpredictable and a constant roller coaster ride throughout the entire process. Yet, by pre-planning and answering core questions regarding projects you want to tackle, you will have a proper idea regarding if your project is worth pursuing or better off shelving in the meantime. Answer them for yourself, and you will eliminate a ton of wasted time in the process.
Do you have any questions or comments about asking these questions above? Have any questions you prefer to ask yourself before pursuing your ideas? Let us know in the comments below!