One of the most important things in game development, is to understand the importance of scheduling.
Games are one form of art. Which also means that it’s almost impossible to call anything “ready” or “complete” when talking about game features. It can be never ending process, to work with something because it just doesn’t feel/look “as good as I want it to be”.
Iterating stuff is good, but at some point you just have to let it go and move forward. That’s either your extreme self discipline, or the deadline which is tomorrow.
So how do you create efficient schedules for your game project? I’m going to drop down concrete steps, which you should mark into your calendar. The time you need to reserve for these tasks depends on the size of your project.
For the first markings for your calendar, you are not supposed to mark the launch date just yet. Now you need to focus to get a clarification as soon as possible, that the game you’re planning to make is interesting enough for the players. Once you’ve successfully got through the following steps, you will most definitely have a clear vision, that should you continue or leave it right there.
1 CORE DESIGN
When is your core design complete and written in a format that others can read it? Yet again, it’s easy to just skip this and think that “I can keep on working with it in near future, why focus on writing it now?”
With “Core Design” written, you are more ready to ask for feedback from fellow developers even without writing a single line of code. (Why not drop your “Core Design” document to our Discord channel?)
When is the first playable prototype complete which you can show for your “closest friends” and/or colleagues? With this prototype, you’re supposed to show that the game idea really is interesting and offers something unique. Set a deadline for yourself, when you’re supposed to share it! (You can use pages like itch.io to do it as well.)
When can you present “a faked screenshot” of your game? How it WOULD look, if it was complete? This is one of the most interesting parts when designing your game. By creating “a faked screenshot” of your future game, it’s much easier for you to understand what kind of features you will be creating, but also to present your game idea. The screenshot + playable prototype is more than thousand words!
4 “ART BIBLE”
You need rules which direct your work when creating graphics for your game. These rules is to make it easier to create similar graphics through the development process. Without the rules, it’s rather easy to sidetrack from the “original idea” and create something totally different. (For more information of “creating rules” I would suggest you to watch this episode of “So you wanna make games”)
5 GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT
Full description of the game your about to create. What kind of mechanics, features, monsters, weapons and such will it include?
You’re not supposed to write down all the possible stuff. This is the moment to clarify the size of the project for yourself and understand are you even able to create it. If yes, how long will it take?
When will the first playable demo be out? This is the version which is supposed to be entertaining for your core group. It may still be buggy, but it’s appealing and raises the interest. Set a date when you are supposed to be releasing it! (You can use pages like itch.io to do it, or why not Game Jolt?)
7 VERTICAL SLICE
When will you have a small slice of your game complete, which feels 100% complete and works as an proof of your skills. Vertical slices are mostly created to be shown for the publishers, to clarify that you’re able to create something awesome and epic, but you just need more time to create more content.
With vertical slice you can also able to start recording gameplay material for awesome teaser/trailer which you will be needing in the next step.
8 PRESS RELEASE
When will you start spreading the word of your game for press, influencers and similar? You need this date to your calendar, since without it you may get lost into polishing, fixing and tweaking your game for ages. Make a trailer of your game and start pounding the “marketing drum” to get eye-balls for your creation!
Once you’ve done all the previous steps, you should be getting visibility for your game. If you’re new, the amount of visibility will not (most likely) be insanely high, but it’s something! It’s good to understand that this is the moment where you should be able to define, is the game interesting and appealing enough that it should be finished and shipped. The previous steps took you X amount of time (depending on your project), but finalizing the game will take a lot more. Think carefully, is the numbers showing that you should do it?