What are the most important steps to take when creating a game? What should you focus on? Who can you get to work with you? I've laid out below the 5 things that I have found vital during my experience in creating games.
Most of the games I have invented are physical games, meant to be played in person rather than via the computer or mobile device, but these important facets can be implemented for whatever type of playable game that you are fashioning.
1: Consider Your Audience
The first thing I do when I create a game is to think about who is going to be playing it. What are they trying to achieve? For most game players, the answers are pretty simple: To have a good time, to do something with their friends, to experience some friendly (or not so friendly) competition. But what else do they like? You need to put yourself in your user's shoes and take a walk through their life to see what else inspires them.
The first thing I do when creating a game is to make up a User Description sheet. On it, I put some characteristics of my stereotypical gamer and what he or she likes and does during their normal day. For my newest game, 420 - The Card Game, it might go something like this: User: Female, 21-34, actively supports legalization, loves hanging out with friends and playing card games on the weekends. How does she hear about new games like mine? What other interests does she have? What kind of websites might she go on where she could hear about my game? Ask yourself these kinds of questions and it can give you greater insight into the mind of your target consumer.
2: Find Your Niche
Look at any North Face ad. Snowboarders, Windsurfers, Wingsuiters... Extreme Sports to the max. Yet, arguably 90% of their customer demographics haven't done anything more extreme than camping for a night or two in a campsite within 20 meters of water and electricity. North Face didn't become successful by catering to the masses, they found a niche of adventurers and explorers and directed their focus there. This works on multiple levels. It makes the average customer feel like a badass when they wear North Face products: "I'm an adventurer too!". Everyone wants to feel like they're part of an awesome group and if you create brand exclusivity or the appearance thereof, it draws in everyone like moths to a flame.
To create your own type of exclusive experience, think about your target market and their hopes and dreams. Consider their aspirations and how you can create the feeling that your product will help them attain the things they want in life. Attaining your dreams mentally is just as important as attaining them in reality, and if you can assist people in gaining happiness and fulfillment through your product, then you've gone beyond a mere sale, you've helped create an experience.
3: Play Games
Seems simple, right? But just like with any profession, the one who creates the experience or gives the service rarely is on the other side of it. Massage therapists don't get massages, gym employees don't work out, and nurses work even while sick. Most game developers are too stuck in their games. They need to get out and continue to experience other people's work.
This will not only help you relax and de-stress, but it may also give you some new insight into any current problems you're facing. Examine how you experience the game as a user and try to implement the best parts into your project. This eye-opening roleplaying as a user of a product can brings you leaps and bounds further because it shows you firsthand where the demand lies.
4: Detach Yourself from the Game
Don't get too wrapped up in the game's success/failure. Wait, what? Shouldn't I be advocating for people to pour themselves into game? Don't I want you to try your best at what you're doing? I do, but you are not the game. Failure or success of your game should not rule your happiness and wellbeing. You are not your creation. I know it's hard when you've put a lot of time and energy into making something just to watch it fail miserably when sees the first light of day; believe me I've been there.
You have to detach your sense of self from this game, and be willing to make changes if it means a better product. Sometimes game developers can get too attached to a certain form or function of the game, and stubbornly hold on just because they are afraid to change what has become familiar. But those who cannot change, die. Such is the law of game evolution.
5: Ask What the Reward Is
To have a successful game, you need an ending that leaves the user satisfied. Think of any good gaming experience you have had lately. Usually, there is an element to it that stimulated some basic pleasure button within you, whether that was finishing the race in first place, finding every last mission objective or being the last man standing. A good game presses that pleasure enough during it for you to connect that feeling to the game, but a GREAT game does that and beyond. A great game instills a hunger for the user to return to play your game again & again. You need to entice your users to keep coming back for that feeling of accomplishment and reward because that creates an active following, and there's nothing better than having an active fanbase within your game to drive its success.
Make sure that your game has clear rewards and goals as well. People love goals in games and achievements that add to their experience. They want to feel as though they are progressing through their environment. There's nothing more frustrating to a gamer than having to redo something over and over with no light at the end of the tunnel. This statement does not counter the previous sections about returning users. Your users will repeat a level 5,000 times if they are seeing a clear progression in achievements, points, XP, upgrades, etc.
Well, hopefully, this helps you understand a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes during game development. Every step is important, and shouldn't be rushed. Take your time, draw upon your creativity and innovation and remember to use your network. But most of all, have fun!
6/4/2018 Updated and posted onto Eric's blog.