The Indie Game Maker Contest is in full swing, the Humble Game Making Bundle is chugging along, its very very early in the morning, and finally, I have a chance to breathe a bit before judging starts.

(Seriously, if you haven’t checked out the Bundle yet: WHAT ARE YOU DOING CHECK THAT OUT)

So, while the clock ticks ever closer to “Oh, God, Why”, I thought I’d share a little bit of advice on making games. Now, I’m not an expert on making games. I’ve not managed to finish one since becoming an adult, and the ones I made before that should not be mentioned.

But, I do play a lot of games. I’ve seen a lot of friends make games. And I’ve noticed a single pattern with the ones I find the most engaging: They have a reason to exist.

So what is your games raison d’être?

And I don’t mean that in the artsy way, though it can be an artsy thing, I just mean it in a “What does this game do that 80 other games don’t already do? What is it that makes this game INTERESTING?”

This can be a mechanic that the entire game is built around, like the Nemesis System from Shadow of Mordor.

Yes, I know I mention certain games a lot... games with a strong reason for existing STICK with you.

Yes, I know I mention certain games a lot… games with a strong reason for existing STICK with you.

Do you have a mechanic that you can build your game around? Perhaps a unique mechanism in the battle system? Or in character customization? Or maybe you’ve found a way to integrate to genres that generally don’t go together, like Persona 3/4 did with Visual Novels/RPGs.

Unique or at least new twists on old mechanics are a great reason for someone to play your game. When I see a game that does something I hadn’t thought of, or something that just I haven’t seen, it intrigues me. It draws me in. You still want to execute well of course, but having something unique to do will draw people in, and keep them there longer than something that is well executed but routine of the same quality.

It could be something in the story.

Yet, again time to bring up a game I talk about a lot, but with Nier, I have never, ever seen a game re-contextualize EVERYTHING the player did all game. It was interesting. It was novel. You get to the end and learn that nothing was what you thought it was. And even with me telling you this, I would make a big bet that if you played it now, you STILL wouldn’t know what was coming if it was your first time playing. It made it infinitely more engrossing than just saving the world.

It could even be an art or music style. A game like last year’s IGMC entry Little Briar Rose drew me in specifically because the stained glass art style was intriguing.

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Even if you haven’t played it, doesn’t that make you want to? A new sound, a new look, something you haven’t seen in a game before. Just like a mechanic, or a story element that is strongly unique, a uniquely STYLED game can go a long way.

So, what does your game do? Why does it exist? Why should someone play your game over any other? Tell us in the comments below.

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By Celianna

easy_tile_making_-__3_autotiles

Have you ever made any autotiles? What troubles did you have? Do you have any tricks that help you? Join the discussion in the comments section below.

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Battler Art – Leaper

in Resources

Before starting on our one for today, I’d like to say hi to all of the IGMC competitors out there! Do you want to use these biweekly battlers in your games? Well you can. Make sure to check out the step by steps for the whole line.

I apparently had a really good idea for kind of what I wanted this to look like before I even sat down, because I literally sat down with a large piece of watercolor paper and just started sketching.  After a little while, I had my drawing.

boneape_d0

I also drew a quick character on the left, which is one of my own characters, because I wanted to try out these wash pencils and ink, which is what all the shading you see is from.  Once  I got to here though, I wanted to see how it looked in photoshop.

boneape_d2

Some additional tones.  I flooded the image with a mid gray, then toned each element, then went ahead with some shading.

boneape_c1

Here are my initial colors, which are made up of mostly overlays and hard light layers.  After those were in place I got to painting on an opaque normal layer.

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and here are the results!  I really like those wash pencils and ink washes!  After I got this all done, I also plan on giving some oils over it a shot.

Go check out the current storyline here, and make sure you leave a suggestion for an upcoming battler!

http://forums.rpgmakerweb.com/index.php?/topic/41992-bi-weekly-battler-leaper/

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By Celianna

easy_tile_making_-__2_seamless_tiles

Have you ever had problems with making tiles seamless? What other easy tile making tricks do you want to learn? Join us in the comments section below.

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In our everyday lives, we all face deadlines. Work deadlines, school deadlines, tax deadlines. Everything seems to have a point that we have to be finished with it.

I've been officially an adult for 14 years now, and it still takes me forever to figure these things out.

I’ve been officially an adult for 14 years now, and it still takes me forever to figure these things out.

In general, with hobby and indie game dev, with the exception of making games for contests, deadlines are a thing that aren’t really forced on you from the outside world. But deadlines are important. Yes, there are the strong few who can plug along on a game consistently for months without any deadlines, but they are like unicorns.

For the rest of us, we need deadlines, and without the outside world to impose them on us, we need to impose them on ourselves. So how should we organize our deadlines?

Start with a Plan

Write down everything you need to get through with to get your game done. Organize it in the order it needs to get done. Now write the dates you think you should get done with each of them.

Now ignore that. Assume you are an idiot, and everything will take about twice as long. Now write the dates down spread out to twice as long. The general idea, 1 hour of gameplay on average will take you 100 hours of work. Of course, the first hour of the game, with getting all your systems down, is going to take longer, and the later hours will take slightly less time as you have most of your framework in place, but on average, this will be pretty accurate.

You will also forget things you need to do, so adding in that extra time in your original plan is good to slide those in. And finally, you need to be able to rest. Outside of crunch time for a contest, you shouldn’t be working on your game 24/7. Your brain doesn’t work optimally when you aren’t sleeping or even taking breaks.

Now that you have a plan, how do you use it?

Don’t Procrastinate

When you look at a deadline, don’t think “well, I can work on that tomorrow, I don’t have a deadline until next week”. Don’t be the guy writing an article about deadlines at 5:40AM the day it needs to be finished and oh, man, the evil daystar will soon raise and burn my eyes, and please have pity on me.

Meh, I can get this article done later, I mean, I have like, 8 whole hours before I need to post it...

Meh, I can get this article done later, I mean, I have like, 8 whole hours before I need to post it…

… I mean, uh. Yeah, don’t procrastinate. Try to make progress towards your deadlines every day. Or nearly every day. One day off a week is sometimes necessary for recharging, but if you start taking multiple days, you need to rethink your schedule.

Missed Deadlines are a Time to Think

If you ever miss a deadline, it is not the time to bash yourself. It is the time to identify why you missed the deadline. Don’t make excuses. Be honest with yourself.

Was it just an unrealistic goal? Did you not realize how much work a part of your game was? How do you need to adjust the rest of your schedule with what you have now learned?

Did other things in your life interfere? You had to pick up extra shifts at your real job? Had a baby? An Illness? You want to not use these as excuses, but they can be reasons. If you use them as excuses, you will use them all the time.

Was it because you were lazy? How are you going to fix that? Its not the time to be angry with yourself, its the time to fix it.

Met deadlines are a Time to Celebrate

Every met deadline is a new opportunity to congratulate yourself. Don’t go overboard, you don’t need a swollen head, but maybe take a day off (but only one!), maybe you should go out to get a dinner that isn’t warmed in a microwave, maybe you need to go watch that new movie that came out.

But remember, once you are done with your celebration, there is an new deadline to meet around the corner.

Do you set deadlines for yourself on your projects? How do you interact with them? When you miss them are you angry? When you make them do you celebrate? Do you find they do any good? Join us in the comments section below.

2 comments

By Celianna

easy_tile_making_-__1_wood_stuff

Now that you see how easy it is to do painted wood tiles, What kind of tiles and do you want to learn to make?

6 comments

I’m going to be honest and say the inspiration for this basically came from me running away terrified from the hordes of pygmy enemies in Diablo 2, they were super evil.  After a couple quick sketches and ideas, I moved into the main drawing; I had a pretty solid idea to begin with.

pygmydoc_d1

For my paper this time I used a Strathmore Toned Tan; I’ve been pretty happy working with it lately.  I scanned it in and then started in with some color.

pygmydoc_c1

I just did some quick flats with the lasso tool and the paint bucket on a multiply layer.

pygmydoc_c2

This was a couple layers of hard and soft light, to kind of feel out the lighting scheme I had put in place.  Once that was all on, I made a final top layer and started painting a bit more opaquely.

pygmydoc_p1

A bit of overpainting later and he is done!

Go vote in the next poll here : http://forums.rpgmakerweb.com/index.php?/topic/41479-bi-weekly-battler-witchdoctor-pygmy/

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As Felix and Shayde’s quest took them to new lands, I felt it important to loosely define where they were; at least to some degree.

azuriantropics-d1

Given King Gilgamesh’s tribe of Flesh Eaters, I thought it appropriate to work in some grisly human trophies/castoffs.

azuriantropics-d2

Got into it with some ink

azuriantropics_c1

Laid down some quick color washes to get an idea of what I wanted

azuriantropics_f1

Finished it off in photoshop

Go vote in the poll for the upcoming battler set in the Azurian Tropics!

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So, as I’ve talked about before, I am a big fan of games in general, not just video games, and take inspiration from various types of games. Video games, Tabletop RPGs, Board Games, you name it, I probably have played it at some point (Even LARPs, Never Again. Never Again), and it inspires the way I look at things, and even the things I write about.

Which is what got me to thinking about Feature Creep. I was done with work for the day, and decided to sit down with the rulebook to one of my newer board games called Mage Knight. Or should I say rulebooks. The game is sprawling. it has a reference book and a walkthrough book just to teach you the game. There are so many rules its taken me several days to try to get it into my head. I’ve watched videos on how to play, I’ve read both books. I’m just now starting to wrap my head around it.

OK, where did that reference card that told me how Keeps work go.

OK, where did that reference card that told me how Keeps work go.

Mage Knight suffers from feature creep. It just feels like every feature the designer wanted in the game, made it in the game. And video games, especially hobby games, seem to suffer from this a lot.

Do you really NEED 4 crafting systems? Eight different ways to customize your characters? Fifty characters to choose from? Completely unique mechanics for each of the different ways you can customize each of your fifty characters to etc. etc. etc.

How many ways do you need to play the same game?

But this got me to thinking, because I was STILL super excited about playing Mage Knight, even though it was super super heavy. Is it possible that Feature Creep isn’t inherently bad?

I think, the answer, really, is no. Uncontrolled Feature Creep is bad. Feature Creep without THINKING about your features are bad. Some games, and honestly the board game Mage Knight seems to be one of them (and I don’t just say that because I think Vlaada Chvátil is one of the most flawless board game designers of all time), are masterful designs that just happens to have eight tons of rules and exceptions. This doesn’t make it bad, but what it does do is make it less accessible.

And not all games need to be easily accessible. There are plenty of niche genres, and cult favorite games that are really really hard to get into. I remember trying to play some of the Total War games that came after Medieval and before Shogun 2, and man, they had gotten more and more complex until Shogun 2 streamlined it back down. And I couldn’t play them. But a lot of people really loved them.

Personally, I still waffle between Shogun 2 or Medieval as my favorite in the series.

Personally, I still waffle between Shogun 2 or Medieval as my favorite in the series.

Streamlined doesn’t always equal the best, but it generally does mean that you will be able to please the largest audience. But what if you don’t want the largest audience? What if you are looking at a specific niche audience who will love super complex systems?

You still need to be careful of feature creep!

Three things can make an added feature bad even for gamers are into the most complex of systems.

The first, is unintuitive mechanics. If the feature you add to a game doesn’t make sense, clashes with another feature that exists (why do I need to use this crafting system to make swords, but an entirely different one to make axes?), or that work the opposite of what it seems like it should (cutting a hole in this armor makes the defense go up!) then most people will probably be turned off by the feature.

The second, is just adding features that don’t appeal to the niche audience you are going for. There isn’t a monolithic “complex games lover” demographic. There are gamers that like complex strategy games. There are gamers who like complex RPGs, there are gamers that like complex etc. etc. etc. Make sure that you are hitting the RIGHT complex features.

Just because someone likes Eve doesn't mean they will also like a super complex romance system in your RPG.

Just because someone likes Eve doesn’t mean they will also like a super complex romance system in your RPG.

And the third: Unnecessary features. Complexity for complexities sake does nothing. There is no use for a complex system that adds nothing to the game.

Every time you add a system, ask yourself “Who is this for, what does it do in the game, and how does it fit into the whole?” Asking these questions, you can still hit that niche audience that loves complex games, without just adding stupid levels of stuff everyone will hate.

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I’ve spent the last 30 minutes staring at this blinking vertical line in the editor. Why? Because I was waiting for the perfect opening paragraph to this article to show up in my head. And it never did. And it never will. Oh, I think this paragraph is pretty good. But it lacks a bit of punch, it lacks that perfect engaging joke, that hook that no one can resist.

And since I'm writing an article and not music, I can't just steal Pachelbel's Canon

And since I’m writing an article and not music, I can’t just steal Pachelbel’s Canon

But its good. Its not perfect, and I could probably revise it a few more dozen times, and it would be closer to perfect, but it would never really get there. It would always be slightly flawed. And that is OK!

Everything is flawed, and sometimes, we get so caught up in fixing every single little flaw that we never get finished. And really, no matter how good your game is, no one is going to care if it isn’t even playable.

We hear people say it a lot “I’m a perfectionist”, and yes, its always good to strive to do better, but when it becomes pathological rather than hard work it isn’t an asset, its a handicap. It causes slow work and stress. And if someone else points out a mistake you missed, it can lead to anger and self-loathing.

Perfectionism, in moderation, is good. But you have to be able to break the cycle. I remember one pixel artist in the RPG Maker Community, an amazingly good artist, and I watched him scrap and redo the same grass tile 4 times. It was good the first time. And yes, it was slightly better the second time. But at some point the amount of time he was putting in to that tile was taking away from him ever finishing the tile set as a whole.

And I have my own experience with perfectionism. When I first started working for Degica and writing the blog, I used to obsess over trying to write every article perfectly. I edited each one for a crazy amount of time. I tried to make sure every topic I wrote on was perfect and relevant to something going on.

Granted, back then, it was easier to find a topic I hadn't already discussed.

Granted, back then, it was easier to find a topic I hadn’t already discussed.

But then, I realized: I have to do 2-3 of these every week, on top of my other work. There aren’t 2-3 perfect topics every week. I don’t have the time to edit each one to perfection. I have to, sometimes, go with good enough.

And do you know what constantly, rigidly achieving good enough over the years has done: My good enough is better than my “perfect” used to be. This article, while I know its flawed, and I could edit it for hours and hours to make it better, is better than those articles that I wrote when I first started. Because I was building up experience. Experience on how to write on many different subjects efficiently and with my own voice.

Things I write have started to just flow. I still do some editing, mostly to catch some grammar and spelling mistakes, and catch the occasional sentence where I just used way too many words to convey a small amount of information (yes, this sentence is meta), but I no longer obsess.

That obsession is behind me, and the more I distance myself from it, the better the things I create become. Redoing the same article, the same map, the same tile, the same bit of dialogue, over and over again doesn’t build skill. It just builds frustration, and when you hit the point of diminishing returns, not even much improvement on the piece you are working on.

And you can do the same things with your games. Stop obsessing over perfect. Get things out there. Be good enough. Finish. Build your skill. Eventually, your good enough will be someone else’s amazing.

Do you or someone else you know struggle with perfectionism? Did you ever see it as a detriment? What are you going to do about it? Join us in the comments section below.

1 comment