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小团队和小项目将会成为大多数开发者的未来选择

发布时间:2021-07-06 15:41:53 Tags:,

Josh Sawyer:小团队和小项目将会成为大多数开发者的未来选择

原作者:Oleg Nesterenko 译者:Willow Wu

游戏设计师/编剧/总监Josh Sawyer在近期的DStars Connects上发表了一篇主题演讲,核心观点就是小型工作室开发小型项目会成为行业未来发展的重要趋势。他也概述了小团队实现成功的战略。

Josh Sawyer因开发RPG游戏而为人所熟知——包括《冰风谷》系列、《永恒之柱》系列以及《辐射:新维加斯》。他目前正在和Obsidian Entertainment的一个小团队开发一个秘密小项目。

以下是演讲内容整理编辑后的版本:

当我在回顾这些年游戏行业的发展变化时,我得出了这样一个结论:对于大多数开发者来说,他们的未来存在于那些更小的团队和更小(且对他们有意义)的项目中。

为什么这么说?让我们先来看看20年前是什么状况。

1999年的游戏行业

1. 首先,跨平台是比较罕见的。

2. 第二,没有线上销售平台,你只能在实体商店销售实体游戏——这其中的影响可能比你想象的还要大。外壳的设计非常重要,你得考虑盒子内所有东西的成本。游戏压成了几张CD/DVD?游戏说明书有多厚?要选择哪种纸来做?重量有多少?体积有多大?零售商会非常仔细地挑选要上架的游戏,斟酌进货数量,卖不好的话还能寄回去。哪些游戏能被批准进入下一阶段,哪些游戏能够顺利完成开发继而发行,这其中很多相关的决策都得顾虑到实体销售。制作人Jason Bergman之前给我讲了个故事:某个游戏完成了最后的压盘,但一直都没有发行,因为发行商算了下相关实体附件的生产成本和分销成本,发现这样赚不了钱。我知道这很不寻常,但是1999年就是会发生这样的事。

3. 第三,市场是那些大型游戏说了算。那时候当然也有小游戏,但是它们通常被认为是廉价游戏,甚至是“shovelwares”(低预算低质量只为挣快钱的游戏),因为它们通常没有多少艺术价值,或提供的是实验性玩法。

4. 尽管如此,在那个年代大项目的预算也只有几百万美元,可能一千万的也有。有的游戏是为了试验各种狂野的点子,也有一些游戏纯粹是因为预算不够才做得那么差。

5. 最后一点是开发团队在那时候并没有特别多样化,没有女性开发者,非白人、LGBT群体并不多。我并不是在暗示说现在的情况就好很多了,但1999年时这个问题真的非常严重。

10年代左右以及之后的变化

在2010年左右,有些重要变革在行业中露苗头了。

1. 多平台发行变得越来越普遍。相比以前,有更多游戏会发行PC和主机版本,或是两边同时上架或是只间隔一小段时间。

2. 数字分销平台在这时候已经出现,但还没怎么发展起来。

3. 很多中型开发团队或是被发行商买断产品或是就直接倒闭了。至于那些大型开发团队,他们开始往更大规模的方向发展。行业中出现了100多人的开发团队,有几百个人或者多个工作室一起做一个超级庞大的游戏。

4. 游戏预算变高了很多。由此一来,人们对风险的规避行为也随之增加。游戏公司想通过增加投入来挣更多钱,比如投入3000万挣8000万。他们并不想做小游戏或者实验性的游戏。这也是为什么我们在当时无法制作类似《永恒之柱》这样的游戏。

5. 最后就是开发团队的多样性和包容性都提高了一点。我确实有跟一些女性开发者合作过,工作室也有更多LGBT员工了。

I am MT(from 880sy)

I am MT(from 880sy)

如今的游戏行业

1. PC和主机之间的界线不再那么明显,甚至在某些情况下,跟移动设备之间也没有明显的界线。中间件的出现确实带来了很大变革。Unity、Unreal有支持跨平台的相关功能。

2. 线上销售已经成为常态。除了收藏家,我很少会听到有人讨论实体游戏了。我们对游戏制作过程、盈利、分销的思考发生了很大改变。

3. 大型开发商和发行商依然存在,就比如400人规模的工作室。但也有很多小型开发团队、发行商——这些发行商不只是给你提供资金,他们还帮你做公关和营销工作,让潜在客户注意到你的游戏。《永恒之柱》这个游戏我们是跟Paradox合作的。他们没有提供资金支持,但是他们在特定地区做了营销和分销。确实,有很多游戏是开发商自主发行的。比如Overhype Studios,他们自主发行了Battle Brothers。但是考虑到如今市场的拥挤程度,如果你是小团队的话,要获得关注度确实会很难。

4. 各种级别的预算都有。有的游戏预算超过了1亿美元,有的游戏预算是3000~5000万美元,有的只有200万,甚至是低于100万。而且2010年众筹平台出现了,开发者有了另外一些获得资金的途径。

5. 开发团队的包容性更强了。虽然还没达到理想的状态,但确实有在往好的方向走。

这一切都意味着什么?

在我看来,小团队现在可以创造出更私人化的游戏,跟特定目标市场的用户产生共鸣,在商业上获得成功。我真的觉得这是整个行业未来的主要发展方向,这将促进游戏玩家市场的发展,因为在10年或20年前,人们可能对游戏还不感兴趣,但现在游戏能够从美学或机制上吸引到他们。这并不意味着大型团队就会消失,但以后会有越来越多小团队制作的小游戏实现成功。

让我们来看看过去十年发行的几个游戏:

· 《肯塔基0号路》第一章节发行于2013年

· Gone Home,2013

· 《星露谷物语》,2016

· 《林中之夜》,2017

· 《死亡细胞》,2018

这些都是小团队制作的游戏,他们找到了对应的小众市场,游戏得到了热烈反响。

所以针对未来,我有几个建议想分享给大家——主要针对新手或有少量经验的开发者以及一心只想进入这个行业的人。

一开始不要选择大公司

我想提醒大家的是,不要一开始就去大公司工作。

1. 首先,你没有多少机会可以表达自己(游戏邦注:如果有机会的话)。这么多人围绕着一个愿景,就像是在建造金字塔——一两个精英坐在顶端,然后一堆一堆的人在完成那些累死人的工作。那些拉石砖的人不会跑到工头面前说:“如果把建筑弄成立方体会如何?如果在中间放个蓝色条纹会怎样?可能会觉得焕然一新呢!”在大型团队中工作就是这样的。很多人的愿景都是从核心高管那边传达过来的。团队的人数越多,个人对愿景的投入就越少。

2. 第二,你能接触到高层决策人物的机会非常有限。如果团队有一百个人,项目负责人肯定是没时间倾听所有人的想法。此外,普通员工和设计总监、编程总监之间可能隔着多个管理层。

3. 第三,大型团队中特定的工作是由特定人负责的,分工非常明确,所以你有时候可能会觉得重复乏味、疲惫。而且你接下来三年都会是这个状态,制作圆柱体、立方体这样的原型道具。当然我们都得做这样的事,但是在大型团队中,分工会更明确,工作内容重复性会更高。

4. 第四,大型项目或者大公司并不能保证给你铁饭碗。有些人选择去大公司是因为他们觉得大公司和大项目会更有保障,其实并非如此。大项目也有被砍的风险,经验少的开发者通常就是最容易被裁员的。当项目被砍时,你会发现自己辛辛苦苦干了这么多年却没有任何东西可以展示。我认识一些在大公司工作了六七年的人,他们开发的三个项目最终都被砍了。由于保密协议,他们也不能给别人展示自己的工作。这对寻找新工作来说是非常不利的。大公司的保密协议一般都非常严苛。

5. 最后一点,大项目可能会对你的心理和生理造成严重损害。团队规模越大,人与人之间的关系就泛化,你更像是一个齿轮,这会导致你的工作变得更痛苦。

别误解我的意思——能参与制作大游戏是很酷的一件事,但其中也有不少风险。其实跟做小项目比起来,大游戏项目所带来的满足感也没有多那么多。不管是有1200万人玩的《辐射:新维加斯》还是100万人玩的《永恒之柱》,归根结底还是在于能找到懂得欣赏你游戏的人,这样不管是大游戏还是小游戏你都能获得成就感。

做一个你喜欢的游戏

我觉得你应该遵循自己的喜好来做游戏。

就拿《极乐迪斯科》来说吧。开发团队觉得这样的游戏可能不会成功,但是他们还是很想把游戏做出来。游戏发行后收到了很多玩家的好评。

不要为了追逐潮流而做一个你并不喜欢的游戏。首先,人们可能从游戏中就可以感受到你并不是真正地喜欢这类东西。第二,你不一定会得到很好的结果,因为外面可能还有很多人抱着跟你一样的想法。第三,你会感到很疲惫,没有动力。

不要害怕远程工作

我指的不仅是COVID-19时期,现在跟另一半球的人合作不再是难事了,此外,当某个团队为了共同的愿景而挥洒热血时,远程合作可能是为他们提供帮助的最佳方式之一。

就比如MORDHAU这个游戏,主创团队多数都是斯洛文尼亚人,但他们与来自世界各地的人合作完成了这个游戏。他们并没有一个可以容纳很多人的实体工作室,只是一个线上的合作站。

别为工作豁出性命

在进入行业的头三四年,我真的拼了命地工作。甚至有个阶段我一年工作了300多天,周末节假日我都在工作。

你有看过关于游戏行业离职率的文章吗?五年内就离开的人太多太多了。这种工作方式对人们产生了极大的负面影响,生理和心理层面都有,情感上也是,人们很难去好好经营与其他人的关系。

所以如果你想在行业中好好生存的话,不要拼了命地工作。你还有工作以外的生活,把时间分一些给别的事情,这样能防止你对工作感到倦怠。

体验一些非游戏的东西

花点时间远离工作,做一些你真正喜欢的事情,这会让你走得更远。

广泛的兴趣能够促使你做出更有意思的游戏。你知道由任天堂的即时战略&解谜游戏《皮克敏》的起源吗?这是一款指挥类植物生物去完成各种任务的游戏。游戏主创宫本茂之前在整理他的花园,然后从中获得了灵感,创造了这些小皮克敏生物。这一整个系列的游戏都是从一个爱好衍生出来的。你无法预料这种灵感会从哪里蹦出来。

开发之前先做mod

为一款已发行的游戏做mod,你可以看到所有资源素材的配置以及它们是如何协同发挥作用的,这会给你带来非常大的启发。

我有时就很喜欢钻进各种文件和mods里。二十年来我都在做这件事,就是想看看其他人是怎么做游戏的——怎么构建对话、组织文件、工作流程是怎样的。

做mod可以让你学到很多东西,而且你也没有多少后顾之忧——就算你搞砸了mod也不会造成多大影响。

从小做起

不管你是在给其它游戏做mod还是自己做一个游戏,先从一个小点子做起,逐渐向外扩展。这个建议不仅是面向新手&经验不多的开发者。有些已经在行业呆了10年的人还是会出现项目范围设定过大的问题,然后他们就陷入了僵局,因为他们没有能力去实现自己之前许下的承诺。从小事做起,打好坚实的基础再扩展,要意识到在不同的开发阶段你或许要调整项目范围。

选择跟自己各方面不同的工作伙伴

游戏行业跟之前相比更加多样化了,所以你可以试试找个跟自己不太一样的人合作,可能是外表不一样、扮不一样、背景不一样等等。不同的视角能够帮助你拓展自己的眼界并最终创造出更好的游戏。

但其中有一点是很重要的——你得去找这些人。我曾经想得很天真,以为什么都不做只要等着他们来应聘就行了,但事实并没有这么简单。他们看到这个地方没有一个“同类”,本能地就会产生犹豫。所以你必须主动伸出手,邀请这些人进来。

细节很重要

你自己的背景、生活细节也是很重要的。你应该把它们都融入到游戏中,让它变得更有真实感,更私人化。地球上有几十亿人,你很有可能会找到会对这段经历产生共鸣的人。

利用先前的工作经验

我曾参与开发过一些等轴视角的奇幻RPG团队游戏。每次我都会参照前一个游戏的开发经验。

当我进入《辐射:新维加斯》团队时,我没预料到要开发一个第一人称射击RPG游戏。所以我得快速掌握相关的知识。我把之前的RPG游戏开发经验全都应用到这个项目上了。随着你的职业生涯发展,你的经验也会累积得越多,无论你现在手上做的是什么游戏,都要记得把它们用起来,不要抛在脑后。

做一个视觉上吸睛的产品

在这个眼花缭乱的市场中,如果你的作品能够在视觉上突围,很快吸引到人们的注意力,你就能够走得更远。

你可以做一个相关的GIF图,放在图推特上,让人们转发分享。

能在概念上突出的产品

你可以看出Papers, Please这款游戏确实存在着某些短板,但是它的设计概念无疑是非常有创意的。玩家扮演的是边境检查站的人员,工作就是核对证件,每天重复着这些机械式的工作,但同时也要应对这些入境人员给你的生活造成的影响。

游戏首先是通过这种独特的像素画风吸引用户的注意力,然后凭借独特的设计概念留住玩家。

Lucas Pope的另外一个游戏《奥伯拉丁的回归》也是如此,别具一格的艺术风格,解谜部分也非常酷。

简而言之就是出色的视觉效果搭配出色的概念。但说起来简单做起来难。然而就如我之前所说的,作品的独特之处多数源于生活中的小细节。

给用户&媒体讲一个故事

在如今,让游戏获得关注是一件非常困难的事,尤其是对新手开发者或者小团队来说。你或许认为宣布游戏本身就是一个故事了,但你得考虑到,无论哪一天可能都有另外20个新游戏公开。游戏记者肯定没有时间把这些游戏都报道了。

认真想想你的亮点究竟是什么。想想游戏中的私人化元素、吸引人的视觉效果、独特的游戏概念、有趣的机制等等。并不是每一样东西都得是革新性的。但是你得给人们一个好故事。

在《永恒之柱》中我们设计了一个大头模式,在当时没有人会这么做。我们觉得很搞笑,所以就做出来了。这就是一个可以讲的故事。在《天外世界》中,你可以杀掉任何人。这也是一个可以展开说说的故事。

所以你应该为玩家提供一些能够吸引他们注意的内容。他们自然就会分享给别人。媒体们出于点击率考虑可能也会去报道这个游戏。

互相帮助

我想说的最后一点就是你们应该互相帮助。作为刚入行不久的开发人员,你们将会成为游戏团队中的多数群体,要大方分享彼此的技术经验,交流交流设计理念。你会得到别人的反馈,反过来对方也会因为你的观点而受到启发,更愿意与你分享他们的经历。对于很多游戏开发者来说,当他们开启职业生涯时团队中并没有既定的制作流程和技术(尤其是小团队),也没有游戏制作人。所以,在小团队中分享彼此的工作方法是非常有益的。

至于批评,你得意识到如果别人没有请你给出这样的意见,你就不应该这样做——除非你的工作就是给出批评。但如果有人征求你的意见,你应该本着乐于助人的真诚精神给出反馈。

注意身边工作伙伴的状态。我认为这是新手开发者很容易忽视的一个问题。我们都超负荷工作了,但周围没有人提起这件事。我没有在期望任何人说什么,但我确实希望有更多的人走到某人面前说:“你该回家了,你最好还是休息一段时间吧。”

当你看到有人正处于煎熬之中,或得不到想要的帮助,或得不到应有的补偿,你可以去找他们谈谈具体的情况,尽力帮助他们,他们会很感激你的。反过来人家也会这么对你。还有就是积极吸引少数族群加入这个行业,让他们感到安心、受欢迎。你需要主动伸出手,寻找他们、欢迎他们——具体要怎么做我无法回答,但你必须去做,不断尝试。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Game designer/writer/director Josh Sawyer gave a keynote speech at the recent DStars Connects. His talk was centered around the idea that smaller studios working on smaller projects will play an increasingly noticeable role in the industry as it evolves in the years ahead. He also outlined tactics on how to make it as a small team.

Josh Sawyer is known for his work on role-playing video games, including the Icewind Dale series, Fallout: New Vegas, and the Pillars of Eternity franchise. He is currently developing an undisclosed small project with a small team at Obsidian Entertainment.

Below is the edited transcript of Josh’s talk at DStars Connects.

When I look at how the industry has changed over the years, it makes me think that the future of game development, for most devs, is in smaller teams and smaller projects that are more meaningful to the people behind them.

Why do I think that? Let’s see where we were 20 years ago.

The industry in 1999

1. First of all, there wasn’t a lot of cross platform development.
2. Second, there was no digital distribution. The fact that you had to distribute a physical copy of a game in a store had so much more impact than you might expect. The box design was very important, as was the cost of all the things in the box. How many CDs or DVDs is it? How thick is the manual? What paper is the manual made of? How much does it weigh?The physical copies had to take up shelf space. So the retailer would be picky about what games they took and in what quantity, and they could return them if they didn’t sell. It informed a lot of the decisions about what games were greenlit, what games made it through development and got published.Producer Jason Bergman told me a story of a game that was finished and went gold but it never shipped because the publisher calculated that the cost of reproducing the physical materials and distributing them would not be recouped. That’s very atypical but that’s the way things could be back in 1999.
3. Third, the market belonged to big titles. There were small games, of course, but they were usually considered budget games or, more unfavorably, “shovelware” as they didn’t typically have a lot of artistic merit or offer experimental gameplay.
4. That said, even a big budget was just a few million dollars back then, maybe 10 million. So there was some experimentation on wild ideas and games simply because the budgets weren’t really that high.
5. Finally, the dev teams were not particularly diverse at this point. That’s not to say there were not any exceptions, but there were no women among game developers. A not a whole lot of non-white, gay or transgender people. I’m not saying it’s a lot better now, but it was certainly much worse in 1999.

Changes around and after 2010

Around 2010, some things were really starting to change quite significantly in the industry.

1. Multi-platform releases did become a lot more common. There were a lot more games released on both PC and console, either concurrently or within a very short period of each other.
2. Digital distribution was already happening during this time, but it hadn’t quite taken off yet.
3. Many mid-sized developers either were bought out by publishers or simply collapsed. As for large development teams, they started getting extra-large. You started seeing dev teams of over a hundred, several hundred people or multiple studios working concurrently on a very large game.
4. The budgets got a lot higher. And with higher budgets, there came a lot more risk aversion. Companies wanted to invest big for a big payout, spending for example 30 million to make 80 million. They didn’t want to do small or experimental games. That was one of the reasons why we couldn’t make a game like Pillars of Eternity with a publisher at this time.
5. Finally, dev teams became a little more welcoming and diverse. I did actually work with some women. Gay, lesbian and transgender people were more welcome at studios.

The industry today

1. There’s not really a sharp delineation anymore between PC and console and, in some cases, even handheld and mobile. The middleware has really changed this. If you work with Unity or Unreal, the idea of cross-platform support is integrated into these engines.
2. Digital distribution now is the norm. I don’t often hear people talk about physical products at all outside of the context of collectors additions. That dramatically changes how we think about what games can be made, how they can be profitable, how they’re distributed.
3. There are still huge publishers and huge dev teams, like a 400 person studio. But there are also hundreds of small dev teams and quite a few small publishers right now.And they are not just there to fund your game. Publishers do PR and marketing, they help get your games noticed by human beings who might buy your games. For Pillars of Eternity, we partnered with Paradox. They weren’t funding the game, but they were marketing and distributing it in certain territories.True, there are a lot of games that come out without publishers. Overhype Studios went without a publisher for their title Battle Brothers. But given how crowded the market is right now, it can be very difficult to get traction if you are small team.
4. Budgets are all over the place. We have games that have well over $100 million dollar budgets. And we have games that have $30-50 million and even $2 million budgets, sub-$1 million budgets. And crowdfunding happened in 2010. We started seeing other sources of funding for games.
5. Dev teams now are kind of more welcoming. It’s not quite there yet, but progress is being made.

So what does this all mean?

The way I see it, small teams can now be commercially successful making games that are more personal, that resonate with niche audiences. And I really think that’s going to be the way to go for the industry in general. It’s going to grow the market of who plays games, because people who might not have been catered to 10 or 20 years ago now find games appealing to them, aesthetically or mechanically.

That doesn’t mean that the big teams are going away, but it does mean that many more people are going to be able to make small games with small teams and find commercial success.

Look at the following games that came out in the last decade.

· Kentucky Route Zero. The first episode came out in 2013
· Gone Home, 2013
· Stardew Valley, 2016
· Night in the Woods, 2017
· Dead Cells, 2018

They are all games made by small teams. And they all found very cool niche audiences and did very well.

So I want to give some advice for the road ahead. It’s focused at junior level or associate level devs and people who only want to get into the industry. Here it goes.

Don’t start at a big studio

I would caution against going to work for a big studio right away.

1. First of all, there’s not very much room for personal expression, if any at all.Large teams rally around a vision. It’s like building a pyramid. You got one or two fancy folks up at the top, and then you have hordes and hordes of people that are doing all the manual labor, executing that one vision.None of those people pulling that block is going to go up to the foreman of the group and go like, “What if this were a cube instead? What if we put a big blue stripe down the center of it? That could really add a lot!”That’s what working on a big game team is like. A huge number of people are all taking a vision from a central directive. And the more people are on the team, the less input they have into that process.
2. Second, you have limited exposure to the people at the top that are making all the decisions. If there are a hundred people on a team, the head of the project simply won’t have time to talk to everybody. Moreover, there may be many layers of management between staff level employees and even a discipline director, design director, programming director.
3. Third, work is often very highly specialized on large teams, so it can feel very repetitive and draining. And you’re going to do it for three years straight. Building props like cans and boxes. Obviously we all have to do that stuff, but on larger teams, it becomes more specialized and more repetitive.
4. Fourth, big projects or big studios don’t ensure safety. Some people will go to big studios because they have a sense that big studios and big projects are safer. Well, not really! Big projects also get canceled, with associate and junior devs often being most vulnerable to layoffs.When projects get canceled, you can discover that you have worked for years and have nothing to show. I knew some people who worked at exclusively big studios for six or seven years, on three different projects, which all got canceled. And because of NDAs, they weren’t allowed to show anything that they had worked on. And that’s rough when you’re trying to then find a new job. Big studios can often have very draconian NDAs.
5. Finally, big projects can take a serious physical and mental toll. The larger the team is, the less personalized everyone’s relationships are. And the more you become kind of a cog, which can lead to you suffering a lot in the process.

Don’t get me wrong. It can be really cool to work on a big game, but there’s a lot of dangers that come with it. Besides, it’s even not that much more satisfying than working on a smaller project. Whether it’s 10 or 12 million people that have played Fallout: New Vegas or a million people who have played Pillars of Eternity, it comes down to finding a niche audience that really appreciates your game. Then I think it’s going to be satisfying either way.

Make what you’re passionate about

I think you should work on what you’re passionate about. Well, sure, easy for me to say! But given that this market is so crowded, there is not a super compelling reason to sort of cynically make something that’s just appealing.

Take Disco Elysium. The team behind the game expected to fail, but they still really wanted to make this game. And when it came out, it was very well received.

So don’t work on something for the sake of chasing a trend if it doesn’t appeal to you. First of all, it’s probably going to show in what you make. Second, it’s not going to do that well because it’s competing with so many other games that are probably trying to do the same thing. And third, you’re going to get really dispirited and burned out.

Don’t be afraid to work remotely

I don’t just mean working from home because of COVID-19. Working with people who might be in a different hemisphere is getting increasingly possible logistically. Moreover, it might be one of the best ways to work for certain teams when they share a common vision and enthusiasm for an idea.

Take Mordhau. It was made by a largely Slovenian team that also worked with people from all over the world. It wasn’t a physical studio for a lot of the developers. It was just a workspace online.

Don’t live to work

The first three or four years I was in the game industry, I really lived to work. At one point, I went over 300 days going to work even on weekends, even for holidays.

Have you read articles about retention in the industry? Tons of people drop out before their fifth year in the industry. It takes a heavy toll on people, psychologically, physically, emotionally. It takes a toll on people’s relationships.

So if you want to survive in the industry, don’t live to work. There is life outside of your job, and spending time doing other things will prevent you from burning out.

Experience things that are not games

Sometimes I see a team of passionate developers who share the exact same references to the exact same games and pieces of media, discussing the same movies. There is some benefit to that because you have certain shorthand in communicating, but it also means that your perspective is quite narrow.

Spending time away from work, doing other things that you are really into goes a long way.

Your interests will help inform your games. Do you know the origin story of Pikmin [real-time strategy and puzzle video game series published by Nintendo that focus on directing plant-like creatures called Pikmin]? Game designer Shigeru Miyamoto was working in his garden and just had the inspiration for these little Pikmin creatures. That’s a whole series of cool games that came out of just a hobby of working in the garden. And those bits of inspiration will come from seemingly nowhere.

Mod before developing

Even if you’ve completed a game development course, it’s useful to do modeling before or even while developing something.

If you work on small-scale projects, the number of people contributing is relatively limited. So is the number of assets. But when you mod a shipped game, seeing the scale and scope of all the assets and how they work together is very illuminating.

I sometimes like jumping into files and mods. I’ve been doing this 20 years just to see how people do things, how they structure dialogues, how they organize files, what their workflow is.

Modding can help you learn a lot with relatively limited liability. Because if you screw up a mod, it’s not that big a deal.

Start small

Whether you’re modding or making a game, start with a small idea and work outward. This is not even unique to junior and associate devs. Sometimes people who’ve been in the industry 10 years still get their scope too big. And then they’re stuck because they’ve committed to building something that is beyond them. Start small, plan on building from a solid base, understand that you may have to contract at various stages of development.

Work with people who are not like you

The game industry is now a little more diverse than before. So try to work with people who are not like you, people who don’t necessarily look like you, who don’t have your outlook, who don’t have your background.

There are many ways to be different from you. And all of those perspectives can contribute to broadening your understanding and ultimately making your game better.

But here’s the important thing. You actually have to try to find those people. I used to have a very naive idea that all you need to do is to wait for them to apply and then you just hire them. But it’s not that easy. They might be naturally hesitant to enter a space where they don’t look like anybody else. So you have to actually reach a hand out and invite these people.

You and your details matter

Your own background, the details about your life will matter. And they should go into the game. Then it feels personal and real. There are billions of people on this planet, and you will probably find some people who are sympathetic to the experience that you went through.

Build on your experiences

I worked on a bunch of isometric party-based fantasy role-playing games. And each one that I worked on allowed me to build on the previous one.

When I worked on Fallout: New Vegas, I was not expecting to work on a first-person console and PC shooter RPG.

So I had to learn a lot very fast. And I brought all of my RPG experience into the project to try to make it work within that new environment. So as you develop your career and your experiences, try to use whatever you’ve made, don’t just throw it out.

Make something that stands out visually

In a marketplace that is flooded with so many cool games, if you can make something that stands out visually, that will go a long way.

I’ve heard it said that if you can make a GIF of it and put it on Twitter for people to share it, do that.

Make things that stand out conceptually

There are certainly things that you can criticize about Papers, Please, but it’s built around an incredible idea. The game puts you in the shoes of someone working at border crossing, checking passports, doing all these mechanical things, but also dealing with the reality of the people that are coming through this process and how it impacts your life.

So you draw people in with the visuals, and then your idea gets people hooked.

Lucas Pope did something similar with Return of the Obra Dinn as well. Beautiful art style, and a very cool murder mystery to solve.

Cool visuals and cool concept! Again, easier said than done. But as I said before, the uniqueness comes from little things.

Give people and the press a story

It’s so hard to get attention for your game, especially if you’re a new dev or a small team. You might think that announcing your game is enough of a story in itself, but on any given day, there may be 20 other games being announced as well. No game journalist has the time to preview all of them.

Think what makes you stand out. These personal things, beautiful visuals, cool concepts, intriguing mechanics.

Not everything you put into a game needs to be revolutionary. But you have to give people a good story.

We had Big Head mode in Pillars of Eternity in an age when nobody did that. We decided to have it because I thought it was funny. Now that’s a story to tell, that’s a thing. In The Outer Worlds you could kill everybody. That was a story, something to talk about.

So give people something to latch onto with your game. They’ll share it organically. And the press will probably also run it because they want people to click on their articles.

Help each other

The last thing I want to say is that you should help each other. As junior devs, you will make up the majority of the workforce that is making games.

Share your techniques and your design philosophy freely with each other. People will give you feedback. It will inspire them and they will also, in turn, feel more open about sharing their processes with you. For a lot of game developers, when they’re starting out, especially if it’s on small teams, there aren’t established production pipelines and techniques. Many teams don’t have producers. So talking about your processes on small teams is very helpful.

As for critiquing, it’s important to know that if people don’t ask you for a critique, you probably shouldn’t give it unless it’s your job. But if people ask you for your opinion, do it in the genuine spirit of helpfulness.

Watch out for the well-being of the people that you work with. I think it’s a very common trap for junior game developers. We all overworked, and no one around said anything about it. I didn’t expect anyone to say anything, but I do wish that more people had said, “You should go home. You should take some time off.” So help people watch out for themselves.

When you see people suffering, people who are not getting the support they need, who are not getting compensated properly, work to help them and represent them, talk to them about what’s going on and they will appreciate it. And again, if you need it, they will help you. And again, actively draw underrepresented people into this profession and make them feel safe and welcome. It’s an active process. They’re not just gonna float in through osmosis. You have to actually reach a hand out, find them and welcome them in. I don’t have a clear answer for how to do that. But it’s work that needs to be done. And we got to keep trying.

(source: gameworldosberver )


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