15 Years!

Project Management Basics: Part 2

Now that Game Jam is over, it’s time to get to work on your games! Some teams will already be on their way, while others have waited. If you are just getting started, you now have a design document ready to go. If you got started already, it might be a good idea to slow down and review your ideas. The design document outlines your general game idea (the elevator pitch), the player, enemies, other characters, good items, and bad items. You should also have notes about what makes good gameplay along with ideas that don’t work as well. The next step is to start planning out how your game will be made. Part of this is deciding on tools, but tools aren’t the most important part! In fact, if you jump right into tools and engines, you might very well end up wasting time later.

If you want to have the best experience, it’s important to plan ahead and be really confident about the game you are going to make. You might already be thinking about a platformer vs. an endless runner, but it’s time to make sure that everyone on your team agrees with this. Decide the style of your graphics (2d or 3d, realistic or cartoonish, detailed or 8-bit) so everyone knows the way the game should feel. Then, start sketching out your characters, backgrounds, and items and think about sound effects and music that you need. You’ll also want to plan a user interface to make your game really look professional. This includes buttons, the score, remaining lives, and any other things that present information to the player.

As you are planning all of these elements, it’s time to start making lists of them with quick sketches, descriptions, and anything else that’s important. You can decide if it’s one or more rooms, and one or more levels, which menus you need (pause menu, main menu, settings menu), and what kind of story needs to be written. Remember that any good game needs a good story behind it.
Once you have lists, then everyone on your team will have something to do. When people finish things on the list, they can check them off and move to the next thing. Once things are ready, they can be moved into the game code. This is how the game will slowly take shape.

Very important note to programmers: don’t wait for pictures and models to be ready! If you do this, everyone will end up frustrated. Start with simple drawings so you have something to work with in your game. If you need a rock, just make a scribble and use that. For your characters, draw stick figures. For any sounds, just make quick sound effects with your mouth! Now you can work on the code with these placeholders, then when items are ready you can pop them in so everyone can see things taking shape. Best yet, if you run out of time, your placeholders will show what you had in mind so you can still show off your game at the Main Event!

Remember that your game doesn’t need to be finished to bring it to the competition, but you want it to be far enough along that you can show the judges and it still makes sense. You can also show the judges your lists and design pages so they can see what you were imagining. If you just have a half-finished game but didn’t do any planning, then it will be harder to talk to the judges and they might not understand your ideas. You can also communicate your ideas with posters, signs, or a commercial! If you have someone with the right skills, you could make a clay or plush character. These are all great ways to show off how talented your group is!

The most important thing with OGPC is to have fun! Planning might not sound like fun, but this is where your best ideas come out, and once you have your ideas out you can focus on just making the best game you can for others to play. Good luck!