Opinion: Making games should be fun

It’s no secret that some parts of game development can be stressful. But there are ways to make the development process much more fun. James Cox, general manager of YoYo Games, has some top tips
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Creating games is very rewarding, but it can also be tough. Inventing and developing a game can be
difficult. When you add questions about funding, distributing, marketing, discoverability and competition, it can get really tough. However, these things shouldn’t stop us from having fun during development. Certainly, these things do not prevent that amazing feeling we get when we see our games in a digital store or on a shelf.

“Ok,” you may say. “A great feeling at the end is good, but how do I have more fun along the way?” Well, as with most things in life, there are plenty of options. Here’s some of the ones I’ve discovered on my journey through the games industry, often learnt from my colleagues and friends.

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Developing great ideas is good fun, reworking months of effort is not

James Cox, YoYo Games

There’s no substitute for good ideas, but game ideas can be rather subjective. Subsequently, having your great inventions shot down by others can be difficult to accept. However, when we get feedback we should look for the reasoning and interestingpoints in any criticism. This will help us iterate on our ideas to make them even better. A key point here is getting feedback as early as possible. Developing great ideas is good fun, reworking months of development effort is certainly not.

Good ideas are always needed, but without good people those ideas can’t materialise. Whether we’re making a game on our own or working as part of a team, everyone needs to be talented at what they do. It’s good to find out what everyone’s talents are and what they enjoy doing. Learning new things to improve our skills is also great. Transferring a job to the right person can work wonders. Maybe even drop a feature if the talent is not available. With good people working on the right things, making great games is a lot more enjoyable.

Picking the right tools is very important. Using a good tool will save time and make development more pleasant. The most important aspect here is picking the right tool for the right job. Some tools specialise in 2Dand others in 3D. Some tools cater to certain genres and others to different parts of the game making pipeline. Most often a combination of tools will be best. Even on the smallest hobby project some research into what tools to use is time well spent. After all, painting your wall with a toothbrush would not be much fun, whereas one of those paint spray guns is awesome.

As we develop and sell software for making 2D games, it’s no surprise that we’d recommend some tools. Good tools are discussed and recognised across our industry including several tool categories in the Develop Awards. This year we won the Design & Creativity Tool Award for our GameMaker Studio 2 software. We routinely use other people’s tools as well as our own and they make our development more efficient. So, a big thank you to all the tool makers out there for making the games industry more fun for us all.

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Designing our games to be achievable while maintaining a sensible work-life balance is key. We need to say no sometimes, to others and to ourselves. Achieving a good work-life balance can have a direct impact on productivity. How many of us have worked on a bug unsuccessfully all day, only to come in refreshed the next day and solve the bug in ten minutes?

Ambition is great and necessary but not at the cost of failure. Working on a game in development forever or having a game cancelled because it’s too late is definitely not fun. Making a select set of high quality features, well that is a lot of fun.

I strongly believe the joy we have making games will shine through in our finished products. If we have fun making something then chances are people out there will enjoy playing it. And, most importantly, wherever our journey takes us at least we had fun along the way.



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