In a new GameCareerGuide feature, 'Minimal Risk Designs', Funcom designer Brent Ellison suggests some sure-fire design concepts
for indie & student developers that make finishing a game in time and with limited resources a reality.
Says Ellison, "It happens all the time near the end of the independent and student game development cycle: your original design gets cut down to its basic premise due to a lack of time or coding resources necessary to embellish on it. Or you get all your designs in the game but lack the opportunity to test and tune them for balance, so all those complex systems you implemented are either ignored or unexplained, and either way, serve only to frustrate the player
Ellison suggests taking a step back and looking at the projects goal's critically, and then once those are decided working from tried and true design concepts. These are not meant to limit creativity, but rather, help shape and guide the creative process.
Here are a couple of Ellison's examples:
"No Middle or End Required: An advantage of an arcade-style game is that they easily do away with expectations of a traditional narrative structure. Any time you try to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end (especially an explicit one with text and/or voice acting), there's a good chance that one of those sections is going to get cut, or implemented only weakly. For minimal risk, you should focus resources on highlighting your game mechanics instead of the narrative. The "premise" should be fun enough to be the whole."
"Player Creativity: Any mechanic where players feel like they're actually creating something usually has instant appeal, even when it's something as simple as Line Rider. Giving players tools to play with rather than just a couple of levels to blow through also automatically increases depth and extends the life of the game as players create gameplay for themselves."
The full feature, 'Minimal Risk Designs: How to Design a Game When You Don't Have the Time'
, is now available on Gamasutra's education-focused sister site, GameCareerGuide.