Starting a Project you can actually finish

Project taking forever to finish? Why not take the challenge to create and release a high quality App in just a month!

or How I ditched everything and made a game in a month (of evenings)

We all know making indie games and having a job can be tough. At the start of a new project you are very motivated, then 6 months down the line you’re still no closer to releasing it, you are totally burnt out, and you have no social life.

The project you started as a fun hobby has turned into a I JUST WANT THIS DONE nightmare.

So thats why I decided to scrap everything and make a sensible project I could complete within a month!

Here’s some handy tips as to how I achieved it:

design

Stage 1: The Design

Coming up with something truly original is hard, so don’t be afraid to take inspiration. (check out the Everything IS a remix video)

You should never spend too long designing on paper, jump in and start to make something as soon as you can.

Try to develop the idea in your head, and get started on a prototype as soon as you can.

Of course, it’s important that you are very aware of the following when coming up with the design:

Scale

Getting this wrong is the first and biggest mistake you’ll make.

Scale is the most crucial aspect of any indie project. However long you think it will take, double it then add 1.

If you go big, forget about having a life for the next few years.

Be sensible with what you can actually achieve.

Some days you will be really productive and achieve a huge amount, others you may not have the drive. Some days you will get stuck on one simple problem, others there’s a party and a hangover to sleep off.

If you’re limited to evenings and weekends, what you spend your time working on is crucial.

Complexity

Keep it simple stupid. Unless you plan on quitting your job, weekends and evenings are all you’ve got.

By all means try something new, be ambitious, but at the core keep it achievable.

A game you want, may not be a game you have the ability to make, so be sensible.

Remember, each project gets easier as you build up skills and tools, but be realistic with what YOU can do.

Team

Working with the right people makes all the difference. You need to find people that are both motivated and skilled.

If you chose someone who is amazing, but puts no time in, your project is doomed.

Remember that, if it is your idea, you need to lead by example, so expect to put more time in than anyone.

And you can always shop out some of the work such as art and code, if you can’t find the people for your team.

I actually really enjoy making it all and improving my skills in areas I am not so great at, so don’t feel that you need a team to make a game!

tools

Stage2: The Project Setup

Be Tool Smart

Using the right tools makes all the difference to someone with little time.

Luckily we are in a golden age of Indie development, and somehow we are getting gifted these amazing free tools for making games.

Gone are the days where you need to write your own framework, editor, physics.

And if you have already written these, unless they are perfect, throw them away. You will spend all your time fixing it and not making games. Plus you won’t get new features and device support that established editor’s will roll out as they appear.

My personal recommendation would be to use Unity. To me it’s a no brainer.

Having used my own tools, Cocos2d and Unreal for years. Go to Unity for indie.

There’s plenty of blog’s saying why you should use Unity, so I won’t repeat what they have already said. One aspect not to ignore though, is the size of the community and the support you get for any problem.

Be Pipeline Smart

If you don’t have a pipeline, or you don’t even know what one is, sort it out now.

Having a good pipeline makes all the difference to a project.

For example, I had a friend who never saw his game on the device it was launching on, because his method of getting it there was so long.

This greatly limited his desire to iterate on device issues.

Without a smooth pipeline, you will put less effort into polish and iteration.

I will cover my workflow pipeline in another post soon.

Be Asset Smart!

It is much better to have fewer high quality assets, than loads of low quality assets.

So focus on just the assets needed for the core experience and make sure this works into your design.

If you game is focused on gameplay or you can’t draw, maybe just get out those geometric shapes and pretty particles.
Geometry Wars and Thomas was Alone did just that.

And of course if you already have assets from other projects, use them.

Be Code Smart

Writing re-usable code is great, and it will come in handy on the next project.

But don’t take too much time on making new re-usable systems, it’s ok to write sloppy code for small projects, no one will see it!

Anything you write can always be refactored into a nice neat re-usable object for the next project, but it’s really common to overestimate how much code you will actually re-use.

prototype

Stage 3: The Creation… ing

ProtoType

Try to get a prototype done the first night and let people play it as soon as possible.

Just grey box everything, and focus on the playability.

All the Pro’s and Con’s of your design will be obvious once you can play it, no matter how broken the prototype is.

Building the prototype is where you’ll really discover if your core mechanic works, and this process will help you mould it into something that is actually fun!

Showing people early will help you tell if you are onto a winner or not. If people are ‘meh‘ to it, start again.

Focus

Don’t swing too far away from you original concept.

Sure, adding another player, or enemy type might be cool. But it will probably alter the design, and does that make it a new game?

Save it for the sequel. Don’t mess up the scale & stop starting again!

Art

This will define your game in most peoples eyes, so it’s important to choose a good style, but also one that is super achievable.

Photoshop brushes, templates, and a simple style will save you.

Don’t be afraid to cheat, even the best concept artists will cut and paste things like hands, then do paint-overs, if it means saving some time.

Don’t re-invent the wheel. Google things like Icons for menus and use standardised, tried and trusted designs for interfaces. A common mistake is to underestimate how hard good menu design is.

Use websites like ColourLovers to find palettes that work.

otherstuff

Stage 4: The things everyone forgets!

SoundFX & Music! Factor in time for these!

Promo Images! / Trailer! How else will you tell your friends on Facebook!

Leaderboards! / Social! This is worth the time! Especially competition amongst friends!

Getting The Word Out! I am terrible at this, but if you want your game visible you’ve got to put in some time!

Testing! Yes you need to test the game. Use TestFlight and get your friend playing and giving feedback. But remember, they will probably only do this once, so save it until you are happy with it.

The Release Disaster! The main reason to do a small project first is this. If you have never released a game before, congratulations, this part will probably go horribly wrong and you’ll discover 100 bugs, or be rejected many times. Be prepared to sweat a lot.

Wrap Up Tips…

Remember not everything needs to be 100% polished, focus on the bits that do, such as initial experience.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Be ambitious, you are constantly becoming better at your craft.

All that stuff you made, all that stuff you learnt, well thats awesome!

The next project will go much smoother, all those mistakes have already been made.

And don’t forget!

Here’s the App I made in a month! TapLab – Available Now on iOS

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Categories: Development, IndieGames, Waffle