After I had established my gameplay idea, I needed to think through how it would work – there is only so far you can get before you actually need to make a prototype, but it is certainly worth testing it on paper and in your head. I role-played the idea of the ‘van’ – I knew it’s speed needs to vary, while the opponents speed would be constant. But I didn’t know how many speeds would be needed, and how many is too little or too much! So I mapped out what 5 speeds and tracked what that would do for the game play. Ie. At what speed is the opponent? How many pickups do i need to get to the same speed as the opponent? How quickly will the opponent reach the top before I can catch him? How slow will I become after collecting a Beat. I had to sketch out these scenarios using a grid, because I was not able to visualize them all in my head – There were so many configurations to try and remember. I would relax on my bed, close my eyes, and just role play or visualize as many scenarios I could from start to finish. Essentially, I would visualize myself playing the game in a simple way – no fancy images. I used bright colors in my head so I could keep an eye on things – so the player was a green dot, the the opponent was red – nothing else existed (yet). Then I would write down any issues. The main thing I was looking for is what I was calling ‘saturation points’ – that moment in a game where the pressure is off, and you are no longer challenged or you have beat the system because of a loop hole. I would try think of the these saturation points and then adjust the game to maintain pressure on the player.
Right, just to note that this is not a ‘How to make a mobile game’ Blog, or ‘How to make your mobile game’ blog. This is a ‘How I made MY first Game (VECTOR POP) with no experience and little money’. What’s the difference, you ask? I want to share a real case study and not a vague bullet-point guide! And well, I do not know what your mobile game idea is – and mobile game concepts and complexities are so vast that it’s impossible to write a how to guide that is not specific. A runner game is not a strategy game or an RPG. I am also not qualified to tell you how to make any of those games! Like I said, this is my first game and I wanted to be specific so that it may help one of you be inspired and understand what I did to get this game made with no experience. That is lesson I want to share with you, so THIS IS NOT A HOW TO GUIDE. THIS IS A MY NAIVE PROCESS – A CASE STUDY IF YOU WILL.
Here is the vulnerable part, nice and early in the blog, I thought my idea could be executed by a game developer in a month. *hides face in shame – Sorry all you talented game devs out there, I didn’t mean to doubt your talents and efforts, I just literally had no f*cking clue when I started! I was the idiot. Yes my idea was a ‘simple’ endless runner / vertical format platformer, but simple doesn’t mean ‘Can be produced in 4 weeks’, only a draft can be done in that space of time. And that is what happened. I made a draft game in 4 weeks. But I will come to that part soon. For now Let talk about the idea… and my next tip I think is the most IMPORTANT and FUNDAMENTAL rule to your idea actually working out!
I saw a video on Youtube (I need to find the link) where this guy explains the mistakes most indie game devs make. They go for the big complex game ideas first, and after months or years of dedication, blood, sweat and tears, they’ve lost sight of the game concept, or it just sucks. The video suggests you start small. Lucky for me I love small minimal games. So I started to think of basic ideas. This next tip is the one I think was absolutely essential! Before Vector Pop became a retro 90’s theme arcade, which is essential a triangle in a moving poster from the 90’s, it was a car or a van.
Hmmm, you’re thinking that was an anti-climax aren’t you? Let me elaborate then. Every game should have a narrative, or to rephrase that: Every game should have a story. It was easier for me to think through the game play logic and the various assets and interactions that I was going to create by conceptualising the game with a narrative first. I knew I wanted ta retro neon landscape of 90’s pop nostalgia – But seriously… where the hell do you begin with game logic!? So I imagined the triangle was first a hero-van chasing after another van (The opponent triangle) on your left. The hero-van had to collect goods and pass in front of the other van. To do this the hero-van needed to collect gasoline and special speed ups because every time he collected goods his van would slow down. That narrative helped me visualise the game logic, figure out speed changes and the functions of game pickups. Later it helped me understand how my point system would work and potential levels and difficulty rakes. More on that later. So to end this post off, I cannot stress the importance of narrative behind your game. Our brains are hard wired to understand stories, human scale interactions, and worldly rules – like gravity, or a van that needs to speed up aor down.
Use narrative to guide your idea. And for the haters out there who are thinking, ‘’well, my idea is about anti-gravity and a weightless counter-intuitive game logic’’ That’s cool man, because if its’ ANTI-gravity then you have based it on your existing knowledge of what gravity, and if its ‘COUNTER’ intuitive, well then you are simply basing it on your existing knowledge of intuition. These are all worldly rules that are your base, as I said, So you all good 🙂
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Ok! So Just a heads up – I am probably going to say a lot of obvious sh*t here. So let me just caveat that from the start; I AM GOING TO SAY A LOT OF OBVIOUS SH*T IN MY DEV BLOG! But I need you to understand where I am coming from.
1# I am not an indie game developer (was not?, am I one now? probably not. I dunno.) So this blog is not for amateur or experienced game developers. It’s for the clueless but the passionate wannabees, like me! So if you are an indie game dev, and you are here, be kind please – I, and We (the people like me that want to make a game but dont know how), We just want to be like you and this is a process of how we start 🙂
2# I am obviously insecure about some things, but aren’t we all, and actually it is so much better not to hide it – understanding your sh*t will help you execute and make the right decisions. When someone asks you to help them decide if they should or shouldn’t end a relationship – you ask them about themselves and the other person. You do this so you know how to Help them make the right call.
3# Motivation and Enthusiasm is a contagious magic. You need this, You want it, If you don’t have it for this project of yours. Stop here. Go do something else. There will be moments and times when you and the people around you will become doubters (note that I include you in this) and they will try erect glass walls around you. You need the blind piercing force of a magic sword called motivation to shatter those glass walls at every moment they come. Because the glass wall will become a brick wall that will become a concrete wall that will become a fortress that traps you inside forever, and you will never accomplish jack sh*t after that. So arm yourself with that magical sword, and keep swiping like a mad man.
OK, I could add more points here but 3 is good. I also need to keep these next blog post shorter, because no-one has attention spans anymore – and I can waffle like an ice-cream shop. Hlib Rubanski my team mate on Vector Pop (and an actual real developer) is going to contribute to this blog. He is awesome.
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We’re so damn excited to release our first game! Honestly its been the most amazing learning curve, especially for me having no experience in game development before. I wanted to share how we made our first game, and how I became we, and how a sketch became a neon landscape of 90’s madness.
I really hope it will be helpful to otehrs making their first game from scratch and with NO experience! like me –
I will be blogging a behind the scenes, and stepped process of the making of Vector Pop here, and I hope it inspires you to make your first game too.
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Thanks for being here with me!