In this video, Jesse Freeman walks through the most important tool any budding 2D game developer has in their possession, which is simply playing more games. From casual games to games you may not even have an interest in playing, studying and researching games of all genres can help you come up with new and interesting game ideas.
- [Instructor] One of the most important things you can do when making your own game is to actually go out and play more games but it's not just about playing the game itself. It's about understanding how the game you play works and being able to use those mechanics to inspire your own game. Let's take a look at how to study games. As a game maker, your hobby should be playing games, taking them apart and figuring out what makes them tick. In order to do that, you'll want to find the games that you like and play them. It's important to keep a notebook of the games you play and what you like or don't like about them.
You should also branch out into genres of games that you don't normally play to learn about new game mechanics. A lot of games became popular by simply mixing and matching two mechanics that most people didn't think would actually work. Also, don't play games to win. Play them to understand the mechanic. If you're studying a game, it's not important to see how the game ends. What's important is to go through and understand the patterns, the systems and what actually makes the game fun.
Once you discover that, you can stop playing the game and move on to something else. You should always feel free to go back and play the game to beat it later on but when you're doing research, focus solely on the things you can learn from the game and not about completing 100% of it. Let's talk about how to dissect a game. One of the most important things you can do when playing a game is document your experience. Take detailed notes on what you like and don't like, ways to improve on bad design decisions and most importantly, take pictures or videos of what you do like.
Whenever I play a game, I like to write a paragraph that describes the game, at least the way that I interpret it and then I pick out three of the things the game does well. This way, I can keep a reference to all the things that I like in each of the games that I play and go back to them later on when I'm designing my own games. There are lots of really great note-taking apps out there. The one that I use is OneNote by Microsoft. One of the things that I like about OneNote is that not only can I keep track of notes and do task lists inside of it but I can also capture web articles and other research and send it directly into my notebooks.
Evernote has similar features and is also a good alternative. If you do decide to use OneNote, I highly suggest installing the Web Clipper inside of your browser. This way, when you read about other games, you can save those as part of your notes as well. When I go through and play a game, I like to document the parts of the game that are the most interesting to me. I usually take photos or videos or write them out as well. Here, I was playing Horizon and I really loved the UI of this game so I went online and took a lot of snapshots so I'd have screens of each of the different modes and also the way that they implement the UI across the board.
While a racing game is a pretty standard game, in this case, what really stuck out to me was how clean the UI was and how intuitive it was and this kind of research helped me in another game that was much more UI driven. I also do a lot of research on older systems and how they worked especially the Nintendo. I really like the constraints and the limitations of older systems and how people were able to work around those. I have a dedicated section in my own OneNote notebook that just collects all the different white papers and technical specs on how the Nintendo rendered its graphics.
I can also go through and highlight the things that are most important to me and I keep my own notes on things I'd like to implement in my own games. Here are some other things that I keep in my notebook. While I focus a lot on the art and the game mechanics, it's also important to pay attention to some other things as well like what platforms are the game available for? How did they market the game? A lot of people struggle with marketing their own games so paying attention not only to whether the game was fun but whether they were successfully able to get it out to the right audience is important too and things that you may want to emulate.
What did people say in the comments they liked or hated? It's important to understand how people felt about the particular game, not just your own reaction to it. Take a look at some of the negative comments to see how you can improve it if you borrow some of those mechanics in your own game and finally, did the developer document their process of making the game? If they did, you may want to learn a little bit more about how the game itself was made so that not only do you understand the mechanics as you see it but also some of the struggles and positives that they had when building the game.
There are a lot of online resources that allow you to study games. The web is full of valuable resources on how people made their games including postmortems which highlight what went right, what went wrong and what they learned. These are invaluable as you try to better understand what others did and how to be successful in your own game. One of the best resources for postmortems is on Gamasutra. They have a dedicated section to postmortems and you'll find some very popular games have all gone through and have outlined the development process.
There's a lot you can learn from reading these and it'll help you when building your own game as well. And finally, when you come across an article about a game that you really like or when the developer mentions something that went wrong that the wish they could have corrected, make sure to save that and put it in your own notebook as well.
- Picking a framework
- Playing more games
- Documenting your ideas
- Getting feedback
- Prototyping a game
- Polishing and optimizing your game
- Publishing and marketing your game