Having recently talked to 3 different art students who seem interested in helping create the game with me, which I’m still calling Squares Game because it’s simple, I’ve been thinking about the breakdown of jobs in game development. Myself, I feel I’m a very capable designer, especially of the game mechanics, (which basically boils down to what does the player actually do, as opposed to making a shotgun feel amazing when it gets fired) and a capable programmer, but there are some things that are just simply beyond my ability.
As a brief overview, the programmers job is basically to implement everything. So I have to make sure the program 1) loads and eventually correctly outputs the game media 2) executes the logic of the game. Actual media creation is a responsibility that I was doing out of necessity, and am extremely bad at. I do however enjoy designing and implementing the logic of the game, which ranges from the actual on field action, to minor things like implementing a pauseGame() function, and implementing and designing the menus.
For starters, it is quite obvious that I don’t have any ability to draw. The game in it’s current state is made up of squares purely because even I can make squares of differing colour. It’s nice to finally get in touch with someone who can hopefully provide that and get excited about the project.
Put more explicitly, the job of the artist, or graphical designer whichever term is more appropriate, is to create thematically consistent imagery, for the entire game. When the user fires up the game, the first thing they see is the menu, and if it looks terrible and isn’t responsive (responsive meaning when they hover their mouse over the image it lights up, as an example, not that it is laggy, that’s programming), then they’re not going to be very charitable. It’s the artists job to make all parts of the game look and even feel damn good. After that, we progress to the game and we need to make that, again, look thematically appropriate and good.
That still leaves me with a game that is soundless. Ideally I would have a sound designer. This job would entail making music for the game, as well as all of the sound effects. Forgetting about the guts of the game, even the menu system needs little thematically consistent sounds that play when the user clicks a button, and thematically consistent music or ambient noise to play in the background. Of course, the meat of the game requires great sound design and implementation as well.
It’s worth mentioning that there is some overlap between all three of these. As a small example the person designing the menu graphics or sound needs to make sure that they don’t create a complex system that I can’t quickly implement. Likewise, the design of the enemies sounds and graphics is massively impacted by what those enemies actually do in the game.
AAA studios need to employ a ton of people because they make games that have a ton of expensive to produce content. When you make a “big” game with lots of linear gameplay, heavy scripting, voice acting, 3D graphics, etcetera, you really need to have lots of manpower.
I’m making a “small” game, with a focus on intense action arising from well designed enemy behaviour, a very limited scope of the game, only one battle arena, not in 3D, no online play, and many other design decisions. The end result is that I really don’t need a team of programmers, and I don’t need a team of graphic designers, and I don’t need a team of sound designers, I just need one of each who has the unique skills that are required to contribute the the project.
What I’m saying is that there really isn’t that much media to create. Compared to frankly ridiculous 18GB installs for some AAA games, I fully expect the game to have a final size of less than 100MB’s. As a bonus, that reduces the programming complexity massively. I can implement much simpler data handling, such as simply loading in the entire game at startup and only freeing it when the user closes the game.
So long story short, I’m really excited. It’s within my grasp to make a game that is small, but legitimately fun to play. Within the next few days I’m going to meet with the art students, and see if there’s some chemistry there. I had a promising initial meeting with all three of them, and especially one of them, so I’m quite hopeful here.