Today I wanted to write something about how a lot of game design flaws begin: Designing the wrong way round. Here's an example (looking at our time management game):
We have a cheerful animated player character with lots of moves and actions. We need controls for all these moves and actions in the interface! We've also created this super cool, huge 3D environment and we need to show this off. So, the least we should have is a camera that follows the player around. Ok, that's done. Now let's add loads of other characters, AI, effects and other content! By the way, does anyone know what kind of game it should be?
We're making a time management game. Gameplay is clicking on stuff as it appears, overloading the player. The fun in the game is cleaning up the mess! Player needs overview of everything that can be clicked on. So, we need a small, one screen environment. This would mean that a static camera will probably suffice, for now at least.The game needs to be very responsive. The player's click should be rewarded instantly for everything he does. Do we even need a player character walking around, causing all sorts of delays and programming mayhem?
The above seems obvious. However, I've seen so many development teams start off the wrong way. First, they come up with loads of cool features and ideas. Are these ideas relevant to the core of the game, or could they be added later on? They look at successful games that they themselves like to play. But they forget to analyze why it works well in that game and if it could work the same way for their game. The most important thing when you're starting of with a new game design is getting clear what you want to make (sort of, anyway!) before doing anything! And, of course, coming up with decent priorities. Creating cool water shaders is never high priority. Creating a decent end to your game is!
As for our time-management game: Our solution for now is that we'll test the clicking to navigate first. If this doesn't work and proves non-gratifying, we really should consider removing the player character altogether (oh no!).