What goes into making a successful game? It’s a common misconception that it only takes a programmer tapping away at a keyboard and an artist designing all of the pretty graphics. In truth, there are many more aspects that must all work together to make a game a success. There are so many aspects that a single short blog could not do them all justice. For perspective, it’s common for large AAA titles to have teams of over 100 developers working in many different fields. Thus, the focus of this blog will be on five aspects that are often neglected on many developer’s first released game: marketing, level design, audio design, testing, and metrics.
Creating a consistent visually pleasing aesthetic for your game, writing an engaging story, and designing and implementing visceral gameplay features requires a huge investment of work. It’s easy to feel like those are the most important factors in making a game successful, and in many ways they can be. You can have an amazing game that people would love to play that only focuses on two out of three of those aspects. But if you release your game after only taking those steps, your success will be based entirely upon luck, and perhaps even luck won’t be able to save your game.
These five aspects have many intricacies themselves, and not all of them will apply to every case, but you can still glean useful insights from all of them. You must know and connect with your audience. There are rare cases of games that have no marketing becoming wildly successful from users sharing the game via social media, but banking on that happening with your game is like investing in lottery tickets. Without following good level design practices, your game might be fun to you, but the average player might only play your game for a few minutes before becoming too frustrated to continue. Good audio design can really add the polish that makes your game feel just right. Testing is often thought of as making sure your game runs correctly, but when you are designing a game, testing plays many more roles in making sure your game is accessible and that your personal bias is not too heavily influencing the game. Finally, when all is said and done, there are countless reasons to record the metrics of your players to not only improve your current game, but to create even better games moving forward.
Now, you might be wondering, who is writing this and why you should be listening to their advice? Honestly, I don’t consider myself a professional in the field, but I have done a lot of research and I have some first hand experience. My first ‘released’ game was a flash game on Newgrounds in 2005, it was unfinished and absolutely awful, but it was a starting point. In 2006 I released a game that managed to have over 1.3 million views and it received a small sponsorship. In total, I’ve worked on 8 sponsored flash games and one game that was recently greenlit on Steam. Beyond that, I’ve worked on countless unfinished projects. I’ve watched many games fail, and a handful succeed. If my advice can help someone create a successful game, or at least gain a deeper understanding of what goes into making a successful game, then I feel like my time was well spent writing this blog.