Gamedev AMA

How did you contribute to the overall development of games?
From 2009 to 2014, I built forty small-scale indie videogames from scratch, handling all aspects from initial conception to coding to audio/visual design to playtesting and publishing.

How do you design a game from the ground up?
I always started each design with a paper prototype, roughing out all the core ideas: game loop, characters, camera, controls. I say roughing out because inevitably the design will change through the production process. Game development (which is separate from game design) is by nature an iterative process, meaning you build it, test it, break it, fix it, repeat.

What are some ways you have integrated feedback from the community into a game?
A lot of community feedback can be taken with a grain of salt, particularly if you have a solid pre-production design. Good ideas and suggestions are a dime a dozen: implementing those suggestions into a project mid-production can introduce "feature creep" and "overscope" and mean you'll take longer to reach release. Just look at how long it takes Early Access games to hit their release dates these days, this is all due to "community involvement". Of course, if you can afford to keep the lights on in the studio while you do it, the sky's the limit. Most developers (even AAA) don't have that luxury.

What was your workplace like?
My workplace was a home office. I had easy access to my cat, videogames, wife, and refridgerator. I set my own schedule. It worked for me because I was disciplined. Probably the least toxic workplace I've ever had.

How difficult was it to choose different concepts over others, and how did you choose which ones make the final cut?
If you're good at prototyping, and have made a few games, it becomes easy to see which concepts will work and which ones won't. In the beginning it's trial and error and relying on developers who have more experience than you. There's also no substitute for crafting a simple mock-up and just playing it.

What are some games that have inspired you to make certain design choices?
I took inspiration from any game that gave the player maximum player agency, meaning the player had the most choice in how to play, and those choices had visible impact on the game world. Some old school examples are Baldur's Gate, Fable, Fallout. Modern examples would be Minecraft, Stardew Valley, Among Us.

When creating a game narrative, how did you compensate for plot holes or other hard-to-explain events?
Writing is an art. In fact, every aspect of game development is its own discipline. For me, I was a writer first (I've published actual fiction books), so the plotting and narrative was actually the easiest. Pro tip: hire or get a real writer involved if you're going for narrative-heavy game design.

What are some challenges you faced when designing something for the first time?
I had to learn every production skill from scratch. School prepared me for like 95% of it, so that was a huge boon. I spent the first 2 years of my career broadening that knowledge into workable production skills. The biggest help was participating in 24/48-hour game dev challenges like the Ludum Dare. I completed the LD 9 times in a row, and that absolutely "made" me as a gamedev.


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