Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Game Prototyping

John Marine | 7:43 PM | |
If you want to make a game, it is understandable to jump right into simply making your game right away. However, you need a game to be effective. So prototyping is a key element in game development. This blog post is about game prototyping and my own thoughts on the whole process. I hope you get to enjoy this post and maybe share my blog and its posts with others if you enjoy my work.

There is game prototyping ranging from digital gaming to board game prototyping. The post here primarily concerns game prototyping for digital games. So I'm speaking to all of you who produce indie games. I am not a professional at this topic, nor have I successfully developed a prototype for a game.

--- Game Prototyping ---

Just like with engineers, the process of making something begins with a vision and is further brought to reality with prototyping and eventually the final product. Gaming is no different. Those who take the time to prototype and brainstorm are the ones who produce some of the best games. Take it from me- you want to jump right into making a game using whatever skills you have. However, this jumping in can lead to you getting into or making a hot mess. You don't want that. Instead, it is best to take your time through the development process.

Building a game prototype allows you the opportunity to convert your vision into code. A prototype is NOT the final game. The main purpose of a prototype is to put your vision into a tangible form for which to be edited further. Once a prototype is created, you have to continually modify and enhance your game to where it becomes something you hope to release and maybe even profit from. Anyone who cares about making some of the best games have to master the art of prototyping.

Everyone has different methods of prototyping including various workflows. Some developers even use board games they created and even some other software bits to properly plan prototypes. The main key is to try to create something that can be used towards building a prototype through coding and using multiple samples and assets.

--- Mastering Game Prototyping ---

Allow me to discuss some of the finer elements of game prototyping.

Remember that a prototype is NOT the final product. A game prototype should be a realistic vision of a created game, and all of the different elements going into producing a prototype should be realistic. It is okay to screw things up or not have a fully complete prototype. The main goal is to try to create something that you can work with.

Having said this, prototypes don't have to be pretty and polished. In fact, a lot of prototypes use primitive shapes and even sometimes, copyrighted material.

Game Prototyping: Mock-Ups.

One of the first bits of prototyping that some developers like to do is provide mock-ups. These mock-ups provide a vision of what one wants to accomplish in building a game. Mock-ups of games are not in any way playable. These mock-ups are essentially concepts. They don't have to be purely elaborate. However, a mock-up of a game gives a clear vision and a baseline for what will hopefully lead to a completed game. You don't need to make mock-ups, but they can go a long way towards providing a proper focus on what kind of game you are trying to create. Ideas will change based on the mock-up(s) you create. Ultimately, the finished product may or may not equate to the original mock-up concept. Mock-ups will still help keep you focused. So create something to give you an idea of what it is you are trying or hopeful to create with your prototype for your game.

Game Prototyping: The Programming.

The programming aspect is a real factor in game development. Feel free to use any sort of programming language you are most comfortable with using in making your game. Some of the basic prototyping with programming is mostly in trying to come up with something that you can use in further development of a game. Part of making the final game can be about having errors in coding. Some of those coding errors could result in infamous elements of the game. Like according to Minecraft, the Creeper wouldn't have been possible had it not been for some sort of coding error. Programming prototypes will give you a chance to make the game before tidying the code to be more efficient.

Some game engines, such as GameMaker Studio, Construct 2, and Stencyl (among many others) have been heralded by developers for their game prototyping functionality. Such game engines provide people with a solid foundation for which to prototype games without needing to invest lots of time in providing coding and graphics. You may not be able to export code from most of these programs (or at least not with free versions), but you at least can get started in seeking a vision for whatever game(s) you are trying to create.

Game Prototyping: The Graphics.

Unless you are developing a text-based game, having a great graphics package will help make your game look as amazing as it can be. Until you develop something more stylish, you are best setting up either primitive shapes or (not recommended) images from copyrighted material. What a lot of people do is mostly use certain images as placeholders. These placeholders can serve as baselines towards further development. If primitive shapes are used, these shapes can always be replaced with actual images.

Game Prototyping: The Sounds and Music.

Having an array of sounds and music will help bring life to a game. At the earliest stages, it is best not to think about sound or music until you developed a proper looking prototype. I would think about sound and music after you have a good measure of the programming and the graphics. Look at sound and music as final touches. Early on, you probably will come up with either sounds and music from copyrighted material. Maybe later, you can work to make more original sound effects and music. You may also look to hire or use music from other people. Just make sure to credit the original artist of any protected work.

Game Prototyping: Bringing it All Together.

Once you have the programming, graphics, and sound down; you have yourself a great idea of what you want to build as a game once the prototype is built. Making prototypes will help you to further push your creative boundaries in trying to make your game go from prototype to a final build you can be proud to release. Never stop working to improve your material.

The next section provides examples of other developers making prototypes and development videos on games.

--- Game Prototyping Examples ---

If you poke around on YouTube, you may find some videos on game development. Some developers ranging from single hobbyists to proper game studios have put together their own prototypes for games. I want to dedicate this section to show you how some developers created prototypes for their games. This will hopefully give you some insight on the process of prototyping for games. Some of these games eventually saw final versions; some others remained prototypes. If you need inspiration to develop prototypes for games, this section may hopefully be of great service to you. So take a look at these videos to get an idea of the prototyping process in making games.

NOTE: Since most of these videos had embedding disabled, I will only feature links to videos for you to see for yourself.

Flixel Platformer Game Prototype
Game #1 - Environment test, basic movement...
Torque Game Builder platformer prototype
C++/SDL Platformer Game Test
[gamedev} Amber Battles prototype Gameplay
KnightFyre #GameDev - Day 1 Recap
Double rope gameplay (prototype v0.2)

As you can tell from these links, I mostly geared my focus on platform games. But of course, prototyping can be done for any game of any genre.

Game Prototyping: Evolution.

This set of videos is an example of how a game evolves through individual builds. The indie game "Chasm" is a great example of how you continually build and build until you make something real special. Take a look at these videos below as inspiration to improve the development process of games. Three development videos are followed by a trailer. So gain some inspiration to build prototypes with these videos:

Chasm - Development Video #1
Chasm - Development Video #2
Chasm - Development Video #3
Chasm Kickstarter Trailer

The moral of this story- keep working to improve your game so you can make something awesome to release in the future!

--- Game Prototyping: Final Thoughts ---

Prototypes of games and the prototype process are key elements in the final production of a game. Making games is a tedious process, even for established game engines respected for their prototyping abilities. Success in game development all depends on trying to come up with prototypes to help speed up the development of games. Prototypes and various alphas and betas help make this possible. Prototypes don't have to be pretty- they just have to WORK. From a prototype, you can then go ahead and further refine a game project to make it special.

To any game developers out there reading my post, best of luck to you in making and completing your games!

That's all for this blog post. I'm hopeful you enjoyed this post and maybe found something to enjoy about it.

What would you suggest to others in prototyping for games?

You read another post of "John's Creative Space"- my blog concerning my own creative works as well as advice on various aspects of creative works. If you enjoyed this blog and its posts, please Subscribe and Follow for more! Thank you for reading! Take care and be well.

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