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News Archive for ‘Game Making Theory’

Game Ideas Come From Playing Games

Sometimes the best way to come up with ideas for a game to make is simply to play them. Play lots of games. You will naturally as a gamer come along a lot of things where you think "This would be better if ____" We have all been there. The thing to do is to think WHY it would be better, what can you learn from this game on how it could be more fun? Remember those ideas and incorporate them into your own games.

As a kid playing platformers I used to always think "Wouldn't it be cool if they added breaking everything" or "being able to make your level more interactive" Of course when you start making games you realise how long that actually takes and no one has time to make every single thing usable. However if it does pave the way to remember that a lot of games are amazing because of small details. Those tiny details can make your game stand out from the others out there.

Go! Play Games! Make Games!

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The Final Push

Finishing the last 5-10% of your game is the hardest part of making a game. It's the most daunting and the most horrific. For some reason despair kicks in. You start to play your game over and over and since you've been playing it non-stop since making it you start to doubt yourself and your game, you wonder if it's even fun anymore? you can't tell because you have tested it so many hundreds of time it's hard to know wether the first time someone plays it whether they will have fun. So you start to dwell on it. You also start to procrastinate due to the fear of releasing it. Thinking will it be good enough. I'm currently going through that myself right now with my new game that's almost done. It's particularly daunting because it's only my 2nd game in Unity since most of my previous work was done in Flash. It's also quite a big game.

On top of that your dealing with the least fun part of making a game, bug fixes, tidy ups, little changes, balancing the difficulty and getting it working on multiple devices. It makes you really start putting off finishing it. In fact I've known a lot of developers that don't even finish this stage of the development. They crack under the pressure to make it perfect and they just give up. It's always tempting, I'm not sure where this end stage despair and depression comes from inside us, but it's there. This is the part you need to use all your willpower and just push through it because it's all worth it the second it is done. 

No matter what it is in life we find it easy to start new things because it's exciting and fun at first, but towards the end it's hard to finish them off due to the monotony of it all and the stressful things that pop up. This is a good time to write a small checklist, if you start to slow down, make it your goal to do one a day, once that list gets small enough you will find a surge of motivation to finish it off. Sometimes it's best to pull a few nights in a row non-stop even if you need to triple your caffeine dosage. 

It's not uncommon for a developer to have to put more hours into the final 10% of their project then they did in the first 50% of the game.

Remember. Hang in there. Find that motivation on why your doing this, and push through it because it's all worth it in the end.

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Limitations Can Breed Creativity

Have you ever looked down at a white piece of paper, or stared at a white blank screen and thought.... what the hell do I draw or make? Well you're not alone in that thought. 

What's interesting is that sometimes having no bounds to break out off gives us no inspiration. The thing that drives the human brain to creativity is actually limitations imposed on it. By giving us rules we have to follow, all of a sudden we want to break those rules. Sometimes having complete freedom is the worst thing for creativity. To think of new ideas and great ideas, you sometimes need to box yourself in to force yourself to want to break those rules.

I remember back in school when we had free choice for an assignment I would struggle to think of something, but when we were told you have to do an article on "plants" all of a sudden I had ideas on making it different like branching out and saying lets explore only "bug eating plants" or can I flip the topic and make it about "plants we can survive eating only" etc.

Sometimes instead of starting with a white blank paper, give yourself a few stupid rules you have to follow and you may find yourself coming up with more ideas.

In the olden day of game making with atari etc, they had huge limitations on what they could make, they had to work with a very small amount of memory. By doing so, it actually is half the reason we have the games we lose. Sometimes forcing the developers to come up with creative work arounds made them come up with interesting design choices. Like a common example is that the old atari tv player could only mirror both sides, meaning you had to design a level that was identical on both sides. Which resulted in games like pacman having a mirror'd map. 

Don't be afraid of constraints, use them to your advantage by seeing them as a problem to break out of.

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The Role of Dopamine and Gaming

Games have a positive and a negative experience at the same time.

During playing a game the primary chemical in your brain affected is dopamine. When we accomplish a task in a game it releases a hit of dopamine, this is the chemical that makes us feel good. The same chemical released when you finish a task in real life, eat food, have sex or engage in any activity you enjoy. Some drugs are addictive because they release this chemical.

Games like Candy Crush and others learned to “Hijack” the reward part of your brain. When you accomplish these small tasks of lining up crystals, it releases this dopamine in your brain. Making you happy and feel good. This makes you feel like you achieved something. The more you achieve, the more dopamine your brain gets. This can have an addictive effect and be quite fun.

However it’s not all bad as it sounds. Games also increase memory, learning, reflexes, hand eye coordination and even have a social effect if played online with friends. Some people prefer to interact this way. Stimulation of the brain in such a fast way helps the brain learn quickly and has even shown to reduce dementia and other aging brain diseases in older people. If grandma is playing games, she’ll feel younger for longer!

Game Designers can take advantage of this by whats known as the “addictive” quality. By using random chance chests in games that grant a reward. The harder you work for that chest, the more dopamine is released. Gambling also releases dopamine when a randomized system is added to game items.

However you don’t want the player working too hard, or the stress and frustration will offset the reward factor. It needs to be challenging enough to entice reward, but not enough to make someone push the problem away.

Overall the effect of video games can be addictive, but it is not dangerous or harmful in any way and can even be beneficial.

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