Always have a plan B

Aug 04, 2022 at 09:30 am by nemirc

Always have a plan B
Always have a plan B

As a game developer, I have made a lot of mistakes. Luckily, I learn from those mistakes, although that doesn’t prevent me from making more mistakes. This time, I want to talk about the importance of having a plan B.

I was having yet another of those conversations with a colleague. He’s working on an adventure game and, at some point, he decided he wanted to have full cinematics in the game. His plan was to get a motion capture suit and plug it into iClone to make the animations.

Unfortunately, the plan didn’t quite work. I don’t know why, but I assume it had something to do with the cost of the mocap suit, and the cost of bringing the suit to the country (we are charged a lot for import taxes, to the point it’s cheaper to travel to get the thing, rather than pay customs to get the thing through a port). This leads me to the subject. It is important to have a plan B.

Although this article is related to game development, or any form of creative self-employment, it applies to everything in life, because you’re always making choices and plans, and sometimes plans don’t work.

In the case of games, a plan B can mean finding a different way to do something, changing the scope or style of the game, etc. For example, when making the “cinematics” for Enola or The Dreamlands, I decided to use “stylized still images” because making fully-animated cinematics was something I could not afford to do, even if I am pretty quick animator and I can always find ways to cut corners.

Another part of a plan B could be changing the scope of the game. For example, making the game shorter, to make it easier and faster to develop is something to consider. Also, limiting the number of weapons, characters, skins, enemies, etc. These things depend on the type of game, but are good options.

Changing the visual style is also an option, if a different style fits the game AND if the way you’ve been talking to the audience about the game allows it. For example, if the game has been kept a secret, then people don’t know how the game looks like and you can make changes to the visual style that will make your life easier. However, if the game is already public, then a change in the visual style might look as a downgrade by the audience (and in many cases, that will be the case). Depending on the situation, you could even use this as some sort of “trick” and start with so-so graphics and then release a free graphic update that makes everything look better.

Other options could be not using voice acting, using pre-made musical scores and using sound packs. You can find almost anything you need in asset stores; it only takes the time to find the assets. Most of the time this will be cheaper than hiring a music composer or audio editor.

Of course, all of this is easier to do when you are in the design phase. It is one thing to think of all the alternatives when you are designing the game, and another thing to figure out a plan when you are already deep in development and you already made a lot of work because you were sure a specific issue was solved (for example, you thought the mocap suit was secured) just to realize the issue was not solved and you need to scrap a lot of your work, or worse, cancel the game.

Sections: Tips + Tutorials

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