Hi, and I am the Business Manager of Starworks Studios, a new game development business. I apologise for the lack of code in this document as I am not much of a coder yet, however I understand fundemental game development strategies and so I hope you can all forgive me for that.
I will give several of my ideas and then I will talk about the game development industry as a whole.
Strategies to Achieve Success in Game Development
1) Create an open-ended game design and formulate it so that players can not simply 'walk' through your game, but have to work through puzzles and simple challenges to move up a level.
The Reason Behind This:
Players will quickly become bored with a simple 'walk through it from beginning to end' strategy in your game and will ultimately just place it back on their shelf for a year or two. This is not the scenario you want to be in, so try to include puzzles in your games so that it becomes more exciting than walking through a door and then walking through the next to reach the other side. For example, a basic level with puzzles could be where you are in a subway and you have to scout around for a lever to initiate an express train but you must make contact with an important non-playable character (npc) first. He explains to you about the railway business and then once he concludes speaking, you go off to find this lever. You move through the subway and come into a power station nearby, which is full of power lines which may hurt your player if you run into them and several mines and alarms which will alert enemy forces of your where-abouts. The alarms and mines are there by your enemy as the power station has been taken by the evil forces (aliens, maybe monsters or demons?). You have to use a scenario where you find a ladder that allows you to climb up to one section where you can climb over the first mine and then jump past the next one and you continue going through until you reach the end of the maze. You find a mine in front of the exiting door so you find a button at the end of it which deactives the security system within the building. You have then infiltrated the power station and you exit that building and find a hallway with several doors along the path (all locked except one). You walked through the end door of the corridor and it exited into a workshop that had some materials in there such as crates, a forklift, some pieces of timber (lumber for those of you living in the US) and an axe that you can pick up from a hook so you can use it as a weapon and a tool also (maybe destroying crates that block up doors and so on) so you move on and go through into another room and there, presented infront of you is a lever. You walk into the room and you find that the door behind you has been locked and so you go and pull the lever, however you find that after you do this, an alarm from a distance is sounded and militia men with knives come running through a door infront of you which is locked from on the player's view-point and so you fight them with your axe but you find that a security door is on the left and a few more come out after it opens and you find a few crates infront of a hole that you can crawl through, however, you do not know this until the boxes have been broken. You follow through the rest of the tunnel and find that it leads out back into the city, next to a nice house which you can enter and you find a med kit that replenishes your health. The game continues and goes on. This is an example of procedural game design that uses puzzles and triggers, which make you have to think on your feet about how to get past that particular bit. I hope you enjoyed reading about my made-up level that would work in a game in real life. I hope that it wasn't off-topic as some people may think, but then, the descriptions have to be given. On to my next part (probably nowhere near as long as this one).
2) Use Dynamic Music and Sounds in the best possible way that you can. Highlight certain important parts of the game with a musical score or some sound of some kind.
Use musical scores for action scenes. Why not use Age of Empires style music in an action scene, for example, think about the Combine from Half-Life 2. It would be great to have a score in a major area of battle with them as it adds to the atmosphere. It creates the mood of the game. If you want to create a horror masterpiece like the Doom series or the F.E.A.R game, place your utmost attention on lighting, shadowing and very importantly, music. A horror without music does not end up much of a horror (reason: lack of scary atmosphere). Why not hire an orchestra if you need to? It depends on the genre of the game. Shooters normally want some good music and sound to accompany the action moments, or even mystery moments.
The Reason Behind This:
It adds mainly to the atmosphere but also to the players's fun and their immersion in the game. Make a good soundtrack and expect people to play it for hours if everything else is of a high quality. Most people will listen to great music for minutes at a time or hours at a time, even. The more you compliment your game, the better it is going to be and the better it is, the better chance of seeing it on the shelves. Music can define the genre of a game sometimes. Classical music is best for the game but you can mix it with other elements of music if you like. It just adds to the atmosphere. If you place a soundtrack from your game on the developer's website, people who come by will have a chance of listening to it and finding out the quality of some of your work. If you can impress someone with your team's work or get someone interested in it, guess how much more chance you have of selling a copy to that person?! What if that 'person' is millions of people? It can happen. Just don't get too ambitious as you might not neccessarily achieve it and you will be more upset if you are too ambitious about the project.
3) Use the game engine to your advantage. It can be very powerful when utilized in the right way.
The Reason Behind This:
The engine can change the atmosphere (particularly the lighting and shadows) and if you use a powerful engine such as Valve's Source or id Software's Doom 3 engine, then it can considerably improve the realism of the game. Again, with lighting and shadowing it defines the mood of the game at that point. Doom 3 relied upon dark corridors and a great lighting model to scare you. It was because of this, that the atmosphere became more scary. It is great when you have an atmosphere or a tension in your game and players give feedback on the atmosphere. It means that the artists, sound fx engineers and programmers have done a great job on it. If you have a bad lighting model and don't use the engine to your advantage, it can push back the game into a place where it might not be published unless you fix the lighting to add to the atmosphere. However, it is normally just first-person action games such as Doom 3 or Half-Life 2 that need an atmosphere. Consider how much of a waste it would be to use the Doom 3 engine (or maybe a more advanced engine) for a Barbie game. It would not be needed unless they decided to add that in for the sake of it. Use the engine to your advantage, and use atmospheric effects as much as possible. This doesn't just mean the graphics subset of the engine, it includes physics and particle systems if you have one. Half-Life 2 uses Havok's physics engine to it's advantage as you can manipulate objects using the game's Gravity Gun. F.E.A.R. has a great particle system as you would see by looking at some of the game's screenshots or in actual play. Remember, Atmospheric Effects are very important if you are developing a first-person action game. And take full advantage of the engine you are developing with, whether it be a commercial engine that you have licensed or your own engine that you are developing.
This is it for Part I. In the next section, I will discuss more aspects of game design, then somewhere in this series I will talk about Design Documents and Publishers. I will eventually cover a section on storyline and plot development as this is one of the most important parts of a modern action game, and has to stand out from the crowd. If you have any feedback or ideas for this Game Design series, then feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And watch out for the business name of "Starworks Studios" on your next game package!
If you have any feedback for my game idea and storyline in my signature at the bottom of this article, then also feel free to e-mail me. Please note that due to the 2000 character limit, I was not able to write the full story, and if I did, it would ruin a special surprize.
Also note that I am working on another section for linear and non-linear gameplay that will be incorporated into one of the next articles alongside the storyline and plot development sections. Thanks for reading my article and I hope you enjoy the series!
See you in Part II!
Davin Eastley -- Business Manager -- Starworks Studios