Prototypes: Seeing the potential with very little

This week we finished a very quick prototype to see if the game play for “Game #3” has any potential for being fun. A simple prototype; all the ‘action’ in game isn’t actiony yet and for the most part it’s just menu after menu after menu to set up 15 seconds of fun. I use the term ‘fun’ here loosely too, since menu hopping isn’t that fun and there is only 1 (one) image in game.

I know what you’re thinking ‘Holy Cow! That prototype sucks!’ Possibly thinking even worse things about it; but from my game designer point of view though it exactly what we needed. It proved that the gameplay was challenging at some levels of play, but easy at others. One co-worker said ‘I can’t believe how fun this is!’ And I couldn’t believe he was having fun with just the prototype!

Eye candy is great for the consumer, but as a game designer you need to see beyond the bells, whistles and shiny objects to see the meat and potatoes of your game. At this early stage we need to assess the timing, challenge and if we get that feeling you have in your gut that this is the right – or wrong – game. In the past, we’ve made pen and paper prototypes or developed some to play on our phones. Codify looks like an excellent tool to try for quick prototyping if you’ve got an iPad handy and you’re a do-it-yourselfer.

Just having this prototype confirmed that I could trim 3 months worth of features for the initial release of the game and it still be an awesome game. We just didn’t need them because the core game play was more fun than we imagined! It also helped me realize I needed to slow the pace a bit. Originally described in the game design document (a monster at 34 pages – double the size of Pickpawcket’s) the game pace would have been hectic and frantic. Slowing it down by 50% made it feel good – at least at this early stage.

Bottom line: try playing your game before investing too much time in it. You may be in for a pleasant (but not always) surprise.

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