My Seaman are dividing

Don’t be a fool, don’t forget your roots.

Games have graphically come a long way since their birth but their gameplay mechanics haven’t changed completely. The Evolution of Gameplay is something that game designers need to know in order to further the history of events.

(Sorry playing Seaman right now…it’s a game…on the Dreamcast…really…)

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Why do you need a Publisher?

Publishers are important in many respects, but that was back in the 90s when the government started to crack down on the game industry and dealing with retailers became a nightmare, right?

There are 3 things that a Publisher can do for you:

1) Make tons of copies of your game
2) Distribute those copies at retail outlets
3) Make your game known to the world

These are all very important things but since the dawn of the internet and digital distribution, you have a fighting chance if you go on your own. You have to be willing to spend the time to contact hundreds of people telling them about your game. This means that you’ll lose possibly months of development time on your next project unless you hire a third party.

If you don’t want to worry about all of this hand your game over to a Publisher. There’s no shame in it. As long as your game is good and creative it is likely that your Publisher will actually push your title more so than its other projects. That’s the worst part about a Publisher is that they have at least 50 on going projects at once so your game might not get the spotlight that you think it deserves. Oh and of course you’ll probably get a 60/40 cut, in favor of the publisher…

Design Documents

Design documents are a pain to create but are the best references that designers can create for the team. I’d recommend to take at least a month and write down every little design aspect. The best documents are hundreds of pages long!

During this phase you should be able to tell whether or not your game is too ambitious for your team. If it is try to cut out gameplay features. There’s always room to add those in for a sequel. 😉

With The Divine, we built the engine before the game itself was fully designed. We knew that we wanted a space shooting game but we didn’t plan to put in special effects and the sort. Inadvertantly the coding is a little messy and locating a bug is becoming rather difficult. Now if we knew ahead of time every little aspect that we would need in-game we would have been able to write a more efficient engine that would suit our needs. But oh well we’ve learned from our mistake. Make sure that you do too.

Perfecting Games aka Testing

When it all comes down to it playing the game is when you can make it perfect. While the design documents are well thought out it’s near impossible that they programmers won’t have to go in and tweak every aspect of the design.  

Figuring out why a game is either not fun or bad is a difficult process. You must be able to dissect the game. Look past all of the eye candy and figure out what is going on behind the scenes.  

This is one of the reasons why I suggest everyone should work in the QA department at least once in their career. If most games are clones and nock-offs of each other, why do some flop while others are AAA? It’s all because the team either did or did not spend the time tweaking the game.  

In The Divine we’re are currently tweaking the gameplay. When we originally began the project we knew which games we were going to base our game off of, but we never deeply went into what makes each of these games fun. We skimmed them saying well it has to be an epic in-space dogfight. What the hell does that mean?! Exactly my point. 

Licenses Are Sweet Deals

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: The Legend of Jack Sparrow currently has a 66% average rating on GameRankings.com. The game is horrible but what’s worse is that the game could easily sell 1 million units over its lifetime. 

A few weeks ago Majesco reported that Jaws Unleashed sold over 100,000 copies! Consumers buy what they know. It’s a smart business if we are able to obtain a license deal to make a video game. You pore in a couple million in development roughly 18 months and you’ve made a profit. It doesn’t really matter the quality of the game. What really matters is whether or not the IP has a large fan base in which some are gamers. 

Will the quality of movie titles ever increase? The Lucky 8-Ball says No. Why? Why should developers take their time on a product that will sell no matter the quality? That’s the answer. No consumers will never learn. They will think twice if the game costs more then $50, but usually games with 18month development cycles can be spared from the high-end price point.   

If you really want to own a licensed game, particularly from movies, wait until the game is in the bargain bin for $10-$20 unless the game is actually good. Save yourself some money and screw the developer that put out this title. 

Movie licensed games usually have less time on store shelves because the games themselves are created to coincide with the movie’s release. So you are likely to see the price lowered in a few months after its launch.