Lessons Learned

October 18 - 24, 2021

Work-Life Balance

This week was harder than the previous two. I planned some hangouts this week and I'm interviewing potential interns soon, so my time is limited. This is on top of my engineering work and continuing this game design journey. My time management skills are being put to the test, but I'm ready for it. (Shameless plug for a time management post on my other blog: Useful Time Management Tips)

My main focus should have been my portfolio piece, but I spent more time designing my game. This is a project with a theme that I'm genuinely passionate about and have a lot of ideas for, so it's hard to put it down. With my limited time this week and the extra design time I put in for the game, I'm nowhere near completing my first portfolio piece. That being said, I am looking forward to reviewing my mentor's portfolio. It's an excellent example of what I should be aiming for.

Let's Talk Game Design

I want to talk about game design pitfalls & lessons learned while designing Last Escape (I decided to name my game Last Escape as a nod to Resident Evil 3). Honestly, I need more game design talk on this blog. I'll fix this through side posts about various game design topics. Anyway, Let's talk lessons learned!

Don't playtest without a plan: I should have had a plan going into early playtests. I had many sessions that lasted way too long because I tried solving multiple problems simultaneously. Before I knew it, I was overloaded and spending hours thinking about problems without solving them. My solution: use flashcards to write new issues and time myself using the Pomodoro Technique for every playtest. These flashcards became a to-do list of problems to solve and would later become patch notes that would remind me why certain decisions were made.

Too much randomness is a bad thing: Drive to Work #39: Randomness covers the topic really well. My solution was to take out the potential negative impact when a player decides to roll the dice.

Design meaningful player decisions ASAP: I didn't add classes to my game for a while. As a result, players felt too similar. Cooperative games are much more interesting when everyone brings something unique to the table. The second I added a medic and fighter class, I could sense the depth that I added. It also added a new design space for me to consider: how could players express themselves through classes? Adding depth to player choice helped every other design decision fall into place.

Step away from it: I learned as an engineer that sometimes you need to step away from your project if you want the answer to "just hit you." Not actively thinking about the problem you're trying to solve is when your brain really gets to work.

Use various objects to represent your game: Using poker cards for locations gave me ideas on what each card could be. For example, the numbers on the poker cards were the number of zombies at that location in early playtests. Drawing my first king sparked the idea that a location could be a roadblock. Practical Creativity is a great GDC talk on the subject.

Next Week's Plan

(actually) Create a portfolio piece. I'm almost done creating a rule sheet for my game, despite it being incomplete. I'm slightly worried about releasing that as the portfolio piece. If it's incomplete (or terrible), wouldn't any employer see that as a negative thing?

Reach out to my mentor to ask whether that would even be a helpful portfolio piece.

Smaller Notes

A friend of mine had a great idea: Just use map editors that already exist for level design practice! Stuff like Halo's Forge, Warcraft's level editor, etc.

I picked up Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design (non-affiliate link) because it was recommended by a mentor I had before starting this journey. I'm hoping it has more in-depth knowledge on the fundamentals of game design.

That's all for now 🍩