Plenty of game designs start out with strong concepts, but fall apart when they have to fill 10-15 hours of gameplay. At the same time, plenty of titles manage to remain engaging and replayable for hours despite bringing few new concepts to the table. Titles that fall short may have stumbled into major process issues.
What are the most common design process pitfalls, and how can developers avoid them? In the latest Gamasutra feature
, designer Ian Fisch lays out ten major points all developers should consider, but often don't -- like devoting some time for staffers to actually play a number of games in the genre in which they're about to develop.
Another one of the mistakes Fisch commonly sees is peer review not being taken seriously:
If you've worked at a game company you've probably heard the phrase "more people need to play the game" tossed about at a meeting or two.
These calls are generally made to the artists and programmers, yet I notice that designers have a habit of not playing each other's work. I've definitely fallen into the trap of being so focused on my own work that I neglect to play the work of others.
Regularly playing other designers' levels leads to cross-pollination of ideas and generally makes a better game. Often I've seen one designer play another's level, think an element is cool and then include it in his own level with improvements.
Allowing the story to control the game design is another common problem, Fisch writes:
I once worked on a third-person action project with a script that was handed down to us by a Hollywood writer. While an interesting story, it conflicted with a lot of the gameplay elements that had been designed. The script called for levels in intimate locations with a handful of enemies when the game mechanics were set up for huge firefights large cover-filled locations.
The game had been designed with a partner in mind that the player could give orders to, but the script demanded that the player should be alone for a large part of the game's second half -- destroying the learning curve. The cancellation of the project was largely due to the design team being forced to follow the Hollywood script.
The story of an action game should be the responsibility of a game writer. A game writer is someone who's written for games before or at least is a gamer himself. A game writer will be with the team full time and understand why his story needs to be reworked continually.
You can now read the full 10 Design Process Pitfalls feature
at Gamasutra (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).