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Koji Igarashi, Daisuke Amaya and Takumi Naramura agreed to be judges for the recently held Game Development Challenge for Pixel Game Maker MV. They left some extremely informative nuggets of information for budding developers regarding designing and developing a game.
・Establish the importance of in game systems like money and stamina early on.
・Consider game balance when it comes to enemies. The number or strength of enemies should be such that the player will be able to realistically beat them all if they want to.
・Keep the control scheme simple, with the least number of buttons necessary.
・Consider how long the average player will play in one sitting and structure the game accordingly with save points etc. Try not to have huge sections which take too long to get through.
・Upbeat music with epic boss music is always a good idea. Something that is exciting for the players.
・Having a full suite of sound effects will enhance gameplay a lot.
・If your game is a block puzzle game for example, even if you know what you have to do, if you are unable to stack the blocks smoothly then it will just be stressful. So make sure you think about how actions feel.
・Knocking your enemy away on the 3rd hit is a good thing.
・It is best to start off with one theme or mechanic on a stage and introduce a new mechanic after the first has been mastered by the player. This prolongs the enjoyment players get out of your game and avoids the feeling that you are playing a really long tutorial.
・For games that remain on the same level and introduce new enemies as time passes, you can add objectives like stopping enemies spawning endlessly from the same location.
・If your game has multiple levels make sure you mix things up with the level composition and structure to keep players entertained.
Takumi Naramura 『LA-MULANA』
・Play feel is best when new mechanics are introduced over time.
・If a stage is long, then it should be easier at the beginning, slowly getting harder towards the end. This motivates players to retry if they game over and adds some variety to the play feel. Designing levels that require players to use all the actions right from the start can cause them to burn out. It is also important to add parts that feel exciting or satisfying.
・Look at things from the players perspective, for example how they would feel playing a level that stayed straightforward and easy and then suddenly became extremely difficult. Ask some people to play your level and get some feedback.
・In regards to action mechanics or puzzles, make sure your levels promote the gradual mastering of these game mechanics in a natural manner.
・Try not to make your levels overly long.
・Overly complex controls can confuse players. Try to keep buttons grouped up if possible.
・If you have to switch between many types of weapons, especially if certain weapon effects are required for specific purposes, it can have a negative effect on the overall play feel. Weapon physics and overly complex weapons should be kept to a minimum.
・If enemy attacks and movements are too perfect, it can make the game too difficult, so it is good to introduce a little “play”.
Koji Igarashi 『Bloodstained』
・The smoother and better the action feels, the more players will be motivated to keep playing.
・Try to minimize time when inputs are denied.
・If there is directional control while jumping make sure this persists even when you are falling. Double jumps shouldn’t require a directional input to pull off.
・Make sure the transition from rising to falling in a jump isn’t too quick.
・In games where you can stick to walls and slide down, then it makes the most sense if the character momentarily stops when sticking to the wall and then gradually increases speed while sliding down. It also adds credibility as a mechanic if different wall types affect sliding speed etc.
・It is best to show and explain clearly what pressing a button does.
・Keep button layouts simple.
・When designing bosses it is best to think about how players can dodge attacks instead of thinking about how players can attack.
・Don’t place hard to beat mobs right before a checkpoint. Make it easy for players to keep trying over to discover how to beat enemies.
・Making hard to beat enemies spawn continuously and requiring the player to deal with them will tire players out.
・Large enemy hitboxes will mean players take damage just by brushing past them and can lead to player frustration. From my experience, I have found that most players are satisfied if enemy contact hitboxes are small (significant contact required to take damage) and enemy attack hitboxes are slightly larger.
・Power up item hitboxes should be large, conversely, player hitboxes should be on the small side.
・Personally, I believe player attacks should hit even if they just graze the target enemy and enemy attacks should not register if they only graze the character.
・Make sure there is contrast between the foreground and background.
・Show the player how to play your game in the tutorial. You should try to convey the core gameplay concepts of the game to the players.
・If levels are monotonous and most enemies can be ignored then travelling long distances becomes pointless.
・If you have one hit death in your game, for example spikes, then retrying should be quick and easy to do.
・Have frequent checkpoints early on and solved puzzles or unlocked doors etc. should remain that way even after death.
・Don’t increase difficulty suddenly.
・If your levels have time limits then make sure it is clear to the player to avoid causing frustration. If your levels have tight time limits then make sure checkpoints are abundant so it keeps player motivation up.
・It is best if enemies or objects that can cause damage can be clearly seen by the player and they do not suddenly appear from off screen. if you feel like your levels are too simple then adding enemies or platforms that move a set distance can add variety.
・It is important that your game is consistent in regards to gimmicks or mechanics, for example, movable blocks or switches should appear the same throughout.
So, those were game development tips for beginners from 3 industry veterans but they all seemed to agree on the following:
・Don’t increase the difficulty suddenly and make sure you gradually increase the difficulty by adding new game mechanics.
・Keep control schemes as simple as possible.
・Keep levels focused and interesting to keep players engaged and motivated to keep playing.
We hope these tips prove useful for all you budding game developers!