Declaration of Independence

Declaration of Independence
Prototype: Making Games in Seven Days or Less

Jordan Deam | 7 Jul 2009 08:10
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Of course, the idea isn't to create broken mechanics or games you don't care about, but rather to "try as many ideas as possible in the shortest possible amount of time with the fewest number of people," Gray says. From there, it's easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. "My process for designing games is like a Roomba trying to clean a floor," says Gabler. "Rapid prototyping means I get to make a whole bunch of stuff and just pick whatever seems to work best."

This time it's personal

Finding fun new gameplay ideas with clinical efficiency isn't the only reason indies often choose the rapid prototyping route. Developing without a budget (and without any team to speak of) means that the entire process is centered around you - so you might as well make sure you're having fun along the way.

According to Gray, prototyping is "the most exciting part of game development: tons of room to explore and experiment with quick results." Since expectations are low for a game that takes you less than a week to make, it's easier to stay focused on the parts of your design that are the most fun and interesting. And because you're spending so little time on each project, you're less likely to get bogged down by a single issue or theme. "Bouncing from idea to idea is extraordinarily appealing," Gray says. By contrast, "when you're developing a full game, it can take several months to see anything at all - months where the team can be plagued by self-doubt and low morale until something resembling a game starts to take shape."

There's also the prospect that a successful prototype can provide the foundation for a groundbreaking new game - an increasingly regular occurrence these days. "I think the idea of creating something remarkable in a very short time is seductive for pretty much everyone - especially indie kids who grew up with the internet and have shriveled attention spans," says Gabler. Indeed, he notes that all but one of the 2008 IGF (Independent Games Festival) winners began as a small prototype.

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Perhaps one of the greatest advantages of rapid prototyping is the way it lets a single developer's unique perspective come through. "The smaller the game team, the more concentrated the game's personality is - something that I think you can feel in World of Goo or Crayon Physics," Gray says. "I'm not saying it's not possible for a 150-plus-man team to create a game with consistent character, but it takes a strong personality at the helm and a lot more effort to coordinate everything." What takes months of careful wrangling for a major studio is a natural outcome for an indie prototype - after all, when you're making a game for yourself, it's unavoidable that your individual tastes will color the final product.

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