My Game Dev Process
Let’s dive into my game development process. I’ve been developing games for a long time but after about 2 years of careful refining, I think I’ve come up with a solid dev process. If you follow this guide, you’ll make better games and waste less time.
Keep in mind, I’m a lone developer and I imagine this would not necessarily scale to bigger teams. From what I’ve seen, this is nothing new, but I’ve adding some nice tweaks.
This process can only start once you have a playable version of your game. Which should be your number one priority.
Playable game means:
- Can make a release build.
- Can boot game and play, and I assume quit.
- Can win and lose.
That’s about the minimum, now of course you should have already validated your game idea in the prototype phase.
- Forget about polish, just get it in a playable state.
- Have a dedicated play-test computer, this will keep your focus on the full game experience.
- Paper / notebook and pencil for note taking.
- Project management software. I use Pivotal Tracker.
- Similar inspirational games to yours.
The schedule looks like this:
- Sunday - Play-test / planning day
- Monday to Saturday - Execute prioritized work
Note: I do work everyday of the week, but occasionally take breaks. Adjust accordingly.
Take out your notebook, write the date, make a build, and play test on your dedicated game computer.
As you play, take notes on everything – at least the big stuff that matters at the moment –, like bugs, enhancements, ideas, chores etc. Not under any circumstances do you go back to your dev computer to fix anything. Take quick notes.
Don’t have anything to write about? That’s fine, here is the next step.
Boot up a few of your inspirational games, and play those for a while. Then hop back onto your game. This will create a contrasting effect and it will help you see all the tiny flaws in your game.
Eventually with more experience, you won’t need to do this as often.
Sometimes I also take notes of things I like in these games as well. Also be sure to ask questions, why is the UI element there? What are they trying to achieve with this feature or ability?
Usually it’s quicker if this is done on the same day as play testing.
Take all your notes from your last play test and enter them into your tracking software, or if they’re small bugs just get them done now. Then start prioritizing. Now you won’t get all your priorities from just a play test but this will bring into perspective the things that are important.
How to prioritize is a different topic, but figure out your long-term goal (announcement trailer, launch, event), then find which items will get you there from your backlog. Then move those into the next iteration.
List of my priorities, pointed
Now you don’t need to point each story (a user want) but you should. This will give you insight on how much work you can get done in each week. Which can then be used to roughly figure out long-term deadlines. Pivotal tracker does all of this automatically for you, so I use it. You just need to point each story and the software does the math.
With your stories pointed, now it’s time to groom, which means go through each story and clarify with yourself, what is expected of this? It needs to be concrete, so when you start work, no thought needs to be put into it. This means working out all details, and gathering all needed documents / assets.
Now I’m sure this is starting to sound boring, and like work. But trust me, with a well priortized groomed set of work, you can get more done in the week then you thought otherwise.
For all the other days, just execute. Because your stories were so well groomed, you can come back from a hard-days work and still get something meaningful done. Meaningful is important because all your work is prioritized, it’s going towards a clear objective: a better game.
As you develop, you’ll definitely come up with cool ideas, – after all game dev is fun – but put those in the backlog, don’t work on them immediately. I always ask myself, am I working on the most important thing at this moment? Get into the habbit of asking this. You’ll save yourself hundreds of hours over the long haul.
Repeat Until Done
When Sunday hits – or which ever day – play test, then plan. Do not skip play testing. I have found it critical to success, this will ground you and show you what you need to focus on. Now I can’t prove it works but after 2 years I have seen great results.
This is my current process and I won’t be surprised if it changes but I just ask you to give it a shot. See what happens.