Feedback to Developer: Series Introduction & First Game
Most of my gaming time revolves around game preservation nowadays, with the remainder of the time mostly going towards game development, writing reviews and other articles, and a very small remaining portion dedicated to playing the occasional game for fun. My software development skill set is quite rusty and the only games I’ve developed over the years were for class projects or learning exercises, so as I venture into my first legitimate project — I want to help ensure I avoid many of the pitfalls common to new developers.
Not only that, but I know what it’s like to be a creator and to create your first thing. I remember my first musical composition. At the time, it seemed brilliant and filled me with joy. Separating my own emotional attachment to it and switching my brain to analysis mode, it’s obvious the composition is utter trash. Same with my first attempt at writing a book, first sizeable piece of software, etc.
With the rise of popularity of Steam and it’s relatively lax requirements to sell your game on the platform, it’s become commonplace for projects that would barely be passable as a university project are marketed at AA or AAA prices. New developers, seeing the plethora of junk (and some outright criminal enterprises utilizing games as a cash-printing apparatus), are often tempted to upload their early iteration of their first game to Steam. Some even try Itch.io, GameJolt, Kongregate, BYOND, or numerous other platforms first and receive positive reinforcement which triggers a belief their product is worthy of being sold next to Half-Life 2, Skyrim, and Red Dead Redemption 2. “It’s Early Access, bruh!” is an often heard cry from communities and developers alike, mistaking a legitimate alpha or beta version of a game with a game that is so early in development that deciphering what the end state of the game will look like is impossible.
Enough of my rambling. The goal of this series is to pick an occasional project and offer to help test, provide detailed notes and suggestions, etc. I’ll be taking on the role of the hypothetical community working-in-tandem with the developer for these early access games (I might actually be the entire community for some of them). Advice will extend beyond the game itself and focus on numerous often overlooked aspects of game development including: business (operations and financial management, marketing, etc), maintaining physical / emotional / spiritual well-being while undertaking a stressful project, community management, etc. Development skills including source control, documentation, unit testing, abstractions, scripting, etc will be covered with the developer as much as I’m personally able to or at least resources will be located for the developer.
I believe that intent matters and whatever I can do to separate the outright criminals from well-meaning but inexperienced developers on Steam hopefully helps a few additional quality titles reach a completed state. Hopefully with some extra support, a developer that would have otherwise quit out of frustration or suffered an emotional breakdown either finds their place in game development or at least has a softer landing when they realize that game development is not their purpose.
The first game for this series will be: Dungeons of Honor, available on Steam.