I’ve gotten [a lot of questions] over the years from hopefuls who want to start with game development. One of the members on our Discord server brought up a good question - aside from the technical aspects of choosing an engine and learning to how to do stuff, how do you actually do the “softer” side of the creation process? How do you actually come up with what core gameplay should be for a game? How do you recognize when you’ve got a good and/or feasible idea? How do you go from a high concept like “flying” or “building” to actual game mechanics? And what exactly is “core gameplay” anyway?
We’ll begin with coming up with the concept of the game. Your game concept should be short sentence or two that describes exactly what the player will be doing, like “Cartoony kart racer on fantastical courses with deep drifting mechanics and kart-to-kart combat” or “Real Time match 3 puzzle game with attack mechanics and battle royale”. You may have heard of this as “the elevator pitch” - something you can say to somebody to get them interested in your game within the span of a few seconds. This is crucial for any game project to have - you absolutely need a strong concept to serve as your goal that the game’s development moves toward. You need something simple and unmistakable that you can refer back to and think “Will this idea help move the project toward this goal?” Once you have a concept locked in, you move on to creating core gameplay for that concept.
Core gameplay is the collection of literal actions players will perform in order to drive progress in the game forward. We call each of these actions a “core mechanic”. Core mechanics are usually verbs, like:
- Match 3
It’s really important to have an understanding of [gameplay loops] as a concept for this part, because you cannot have core gameplay without actions the player initiates at these different time frames. Your core mechanics will be the actions your players perform most often while playing your game. They will be the elements that other stuff is built on. They should also be the first prototypes you build. Each of these needs to be tested for feasibility and engagement. If the core actions aren’t fun, it will be very difficult to make the stuff that you build on top of the core mechanics fun.
Good core mechanics will interact with each other in interesting ways, leading to players to explore them and feel out how they synergize. For example, Call of Duty focuses on fast-paced run-and-gun action, which is the combination of two elements - running and shooting. How do these interact with each other? There’s a lot of play between player locomotion (mantling, crouching, proning, walking, running, sprinting) and player shooting (accuracy, weapon effective range, weapon type, reload times, magazine size). Good core mechanics will feed into each other to provide a rich tapestry of things for players to learn and have fun with.
There are apocryphal stories about Shigeru Miyamoto asking for plain, nearly-empty levels when playing new game prototypes just so he can experiment with the core game mechanics. The story goes that Miyamoto wanted to make sure that playing the game at its most basic level was fun by itself without adding in things like textures, graphics, lighting, bells and whistles. That’s what your core game mechanics should be - the game should be fun at some basic level without a lot of additional fluff. When you are starting off, you need to figure out just what it would take to prove out each of your core mechanics, what a prototype of that mechanic would encompass. It needn’t be production quality anything, this is just a test to make sure that the mechanic is compelling and interesting to the player on its own.
This is how you get started building a game. You need to establish a clear concept, then break that concept down into core mechanics. Once you’ve decided on your core mechanics, build prototypes for those mechanics and see if it’s fun enough. Then, once that’s done, combine your core mechanics into a single cohesive prototype to demonstrate how they interact with each other. That’s a demo of what the game should be, and a starting point where you can expand from organically by building more - more variety, more enemies, more things, etc. for the players to act on with those core mechanics.
The FANTa Project is currently on hiatus while I am
crunching at worktoo busy.
[What is the FANTa project?] [Git the FANTa Project]
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