The new year is approaching and I've been reflecting on what I've accomplished in 2022, and I've started thinking a bit about what I want to do in 2023.
In 2022, I advanced some addons I maintain for the Godot game engine, like SG Physics 2D and the Godot Rollback Netcode addon. I participated in the Godot Wild Jam #45 and made First Person Shoveler with an awesome team. And I localized Retro Tank Party into 9 languages (among some other small improvements). Most recently, I ported the WebXR module to Godot 4.
That's a lot of great stuff! But I didn't really get to explore or experiment with many new game ideas. In other words, there wasn't a lot of actual game design in there - mostly just game programming. And I'd like to make sure I remember to make time for design too!
So, in the new year, I'd like to start regularly making more prototypes, like 1 prototype per month (or weekly, or biweekly, or whatever).
Do you have a similar practice? Or is this something you'd be interested in trying too?
Not a game jam!
My first thought was:
Are there any groups out there focused around making prototypes?
It'd be great to have a support group of people working on the same thing. But I couldn't find any. (If you know of one, please let me know!)
There's lots of game jams, but what I have in mind is something different...
In most game jams, the goal is to produce a "complete" game, with: game loops, art, music, sound, menus, etc. Of course, game jam games have a very small scope, but they include all the things - maybe they're more like little vertical slices?
And game jams are awesome! Completing a little game is a great experience, and you can learn a ton of things you might not learn otherwise, like scoping, finishing and polishing a game.
But I want to focus on making prototypes!
What is a prototype?
I'm sure there's a few different definitions out there, but to me:
A prototype is a tiny slice of a game, that aims to test a single idea.
Every prototype should start with a specific question. And if I can articulate that question and write it down, it can help make a more focused prototype that doesn't "accidentally" turn into a game. :-)
Most prototypes are for testing a game mechanic, but personally, I think you can prototype anything, including an art style, or a way of doing procedural music, or a tone/voice (in writing).
You test the prototype by getting other people to play it and seeing how they react to it. Some things just can't be known about an idea until people actually play with it.
However, a prototype should only include the absolute minimum necessary to test what the prototype aims to test! If you're not testing music or art - don't include music and use placeholder art.
And, equally importantly: stop as soon as the question is answered. If the answer leads to another question (which it probably will), then write down that new question, and start a new prototype.
The new prototype could certainly reuse some of the code/assets from the previous one - that's an easy way to do "the absolute minimum necessary" - but it's good (at least for me) to be clear about what I'm doing, to avoid the trap of adding new things just because I think they'd be cool.
The whole point is to try lots of things and iterate quickly. To do as much design as possible, and as little of everything else as I can get away with.
If I find any ideas that I want to build into a fuller experience, great! But then I'm not prototyping anymore. And that's fine, so long as I save some time on the side to do more prototyping. :-)
Who's with me?
Anyway, that's what I've been thinking about. :-)
If anyone else is interested in embarking on an adventure of prototype creation with me, please let me know!
Maybe I could make a channel on my Discord for it? Or, we could coordinate using tags on Mastodon or something? I don't know, I haven't really thought that part through.
Or maybe I should just start making lots of prototypes and annoying my friends with them. :-)
What do you plan to focus on with your gamedev efforts in 2023?
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I believe game jams have…
I believe game jams have dominated over this idea of prototypes because prototypes aren't really testable by most people and hence, there is no (positive) feedback loop. You cannot show off a prototype either (like, it doesn't even belong to github or a portfolio)
I love the idea though, but it just doesn't fit the public format. You do a prototype of something solo, ask for feedback from close ppl (friends/family) since they will see it as trash quality, with a question of "hey, could this work? like the concept behind it?", and then expand it into an actual experience (videogame, book, whatever)
As for game design prototyping, I have found that there are so many unique games nowadays, and just by playing them, you soon get overwhelmed by game design ideas - at least for me. The problem with *prototyping* game design, is that balancing is more important than the idea itself in the "could it work" part, and in the end, its part of a greater whole, so you end up with... a "game jam prototype" (minimum full package game), to see if the game design really works.