As we’ve seen in the previous posts, application of good marketing, level design, audio design, testing, and metrics can push your game to the next level. Now your first few games may not have enough resources to properly cover the five topics that were previously discussed. Deciding on whether to thinly spread your resources or to focus on just a couple areas can be a difficult decision. Many of my games have had to forgo resources on two to three areas just to reach a finished state. Finding an acceptable balance, cutting corners, and ultimately deciding when your game is finished are all decisions that game developers are forced to make.
There are many factors to consider when choosing which areas to focus on. You need to consider what you wish to accomplish with your game first and foremost. If profit is one of your main deciding factors, then marketing will have a high priority. Conversely, if you plan on building up a loyal fanbase by creating solid games you might consider allocating more resources towards level design and testing. While working on my latest game, Recursion Deluxe, I allocated the majority of my time on level design. While I did do some marketing, it was not nearly enough and our game failed to reach a large audience. However, the game has had 100% positive reviews on steam, which I doubt would have been possible if I didn’t spend so much time focusing on the level design. I can’t tell you what is best in the long run, but you will need to decide what your focus is to determine how you will balance your resources.
Unless you have an endless budget, or no time constraints, you will have to cut corners somewhere in your game. You might need to reuse assets by recoloring them and making minor tweaks. Perhaps levels are reused by flipping them and making minor tweaks. Where you cut your corners will depend heavily on what type of game you are making. If you are making a very casual game, you might go for buying the rights to pre-recorded audio instead of having custom tracks and sound effects made for your game. Remember that your goal is to create a finished game, and there are countless games that have failed due to lack of resources, be it money or time. Cutting corners is a necessary evil that if done strategically can save you a lot of resources with an acceptable impact on overall quality.
Your game will never feel finished. It may be hard to accept, but unless you have very clear design documents and do not stray from them, you will need to release your game before it feels finished. There are almost always features, levels, unfinished songs, and more that get cut out of a released game. Many projects will have set deadlines or imposed deadlines from budget constraints that make it clear when a project will be released. However, there are self funded projects that can continue in development for a very long time before ever seeing the light of day. I’ve had projects that were re-written multiple times before I eventually ended up dropping them. I would suggest giving yourself strict deadlines on personal projects so that you don’t fall into a rut or get tempted on rewriting your game multiple times. In many cases, it is better to finish your game and start a new one than to spend the time rewrite it. You will gain more knowledge with some metrics and player feedback from a released game than you will rewriting your game. If your idea was really something you wish to rewrite, then you can make a sequel or a revamped re-release with the knowledge that you gained from your first release. Even though your game doesn’t feel finished to yourself, many players will not even know that there were features missing and will still enjoy your game if your core mechanics are enjoyable.
You should now have some intuition on how to balance resources, cut corners, and accept the final state of your game. Even with minimal resources allocated to the five topics previously covered, you should see an improvement on your overall game quality. As you continue to make games, you will have more resources to spend on areas such as marketing and metrics. The knowledge you gain may be disheartening at times, such as the piracy rate of your game, but there is plenty to learn that will lead to better decisions in the future. Synergize your level design, audio design, and testing to create truly memorable gameplay experiences.