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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Game Development Checklist

One thing that I actively looked for and wished to have was a game development checklist: a simple almost one-page document that outlined what I needed to make a successful game from the ground up.
  • Title: The name of your game should be short, and don't forget about what the acronym for the name might be. For example, "Age of Empires" is "AoE."
  • Subtitle: This is the one-line description. For example, "7 Days to Die is an open-world game that is a unique combination of first person shooter, survival horror, tower defense, and role-playing games." This is also the line you use to start your elevator pitch, and if you have your audience's attention, you can keep elaborating.
  • Full Description: This is a full-detail explanation of your game, including some contextual story information. This description is so you can fully relay the concept of the game, without your audience actually playing it. For example:
Factorio is a game in which you build and maintain factories. You will be mining resources, researching technologies, building infrastructure, automating production and fighting enemies. In the beginning you will find yourself chopping trees, mining ores and crafting mechanical arms and transport belts by hand, but in short time you can become an industrial powerhouse, with huge solar fields, oil refining and cracking, manufacture and deployment of construction and logistic robots, all for your resource needs. However this heavy exploitation of the planet's resources does not sit nicely with the locals, so you will have to be prepared to defend yourself and your machine empire...
  • Game Type: This can be slightly vague, if it has to be. The genre is there simply so prospective buyers can find games that appeal to their personal preferences, and so you can help people understand it when your pitching it to them.
  • Feature List: What are the primary mechanics of your game? You can be vague or extremely specific here; it's up to you. I like to be more specific, with things like, "full 3d character movement, jump, crouch, pick up, activate, aim, and shoot; full inventory, pick up items, drop items, item physics, and item weight, value, and category."
  • Asset List: Try and list out each individual major asset - as many as you can. This way, you can keep track of what needs doing, and what gets done. For Tower Seven, that would be: "Ground Enemy, Air Enemy, Salvage Drone, Wall, Machinegun Tower, Cannon Tower, Chaingun Tower, Flak Tower, Flamethrower Tower, Rocket Tower, Artillery Tower, Missile Tower, Laser Tower, Gauss Tower, Lightning Tower, Radar Building, Power Plant, Drone Pad, and Salvage Refinery."
  • Game Icon: Make a 1024x1024 pixel image to use as a nice-looking icon. Compare it side-by-side with other icons and make sure it looks the way you want.
  • Game Cover Art: This image can be as big as you want, but it's primarily so you can catch peoples attention - it needs to look amazing! You will also end up using this for various images for community, marketing, and store pages (usually with some minimal editing).
  • Trailer: Video trailers are slightly more difficult, and require some time, but once you have a 1-2 minute trailer, it becomes easier to market your game. Trailers can be made by making a recording of you playing your game, then going back to edit, add some music (remember to credit the artist!), and make the trailer play through enough clips of your game to make people want to learn more or straight-up buy it. Try to edit in all of the features you listed out above.
  • The Game: Don't forget that the build of your game that people play will definitively determine whether or not people recommend it to their friends, want to show it off, or simply give it a decent review. Make sure that there is at least one really epic quality to your game that even the most dejected player can remember for later.
  • Languages: We live in a big world, with lots of people who speak different languages. While English does cover quite a good market portion, many games don't have much to read anyways, so why let that market potential go to waste? At the very least, pick a few localities, translate the game text, and make a build for that locality. If the game is small enough, it might even be possible to create a drop-down list in the game with ready-to-go text conversion.
  •  Marketing Plan: Last, but never least, is how you intend on reaching your audience, and how you intend to sell them your game. Generally, start local, with friends and family. Tell them about the thing you did, and work to sell it to them. Humility and tact go a long way here - keep moving to new potential customers - eventually one of them might even help you sell a few copies!