I’ve been pondering a little bit over this subject over the past while. How can game development be more iterative?
I figure the usual path for game development seems to go something like the following:
- Come up with a cool idea for a game (including a solid game mechanic, and a solid design document)
- Create some initial art assets, concept art
- Create early prototype, if desired (or if time/resources allow)
- Pitch idea to people who have money (using art from step 2), unless you already have someone backing the project
- Spend a year or two developing the game
- Programmers use art assets to get basic game up and running
- Artists use build of game to see how art assets look in game, and continue to refine existing assets or produce more assets
- Programmers continue to add in functionality
- Final polish and bug fixing
- Game is handed off to publisher
The problem with this approach is that it can be difficult to get a feel for how well the gameplay mechanic actually works, until close to the very end of the process. This means that you could have sunk a year or more of work into a project that doesn’t really turn out to be that much fun. This could partially explain why there isn’t a whole lot of innovation by the larger studios – they don’t want to try something experimental because they can’t afford to sink that much time/money into a concept that might not turn out. If you rely on a tried, tested, and true game design it really reduces the risk of the overall product being a turd.
So, this really makes me wonder, how can a more iterative approach be used in the gamd development process? I’ve got a few ideas for smaller developers, but I’m quite curious to hear what you have to say.