The Problems with a Long Game Development Period 花費長時間製作遊戲,有甚麼問題?

 I have discussed the topic of “Game Development Cycle” with many developers, more specifically, how do you split your time between development and optimization, as well as how long do you want the development to actually take.

As my title might indicate to you, I’m someone who believes that a shorter development period is better. I have seen many games which takes the approach of spending a long time to perfect everything, the game Cuphead, which took 5 years to develop, is one of them. I have to admit that the duration of development is very much based upon the developers’ style, so I’m not saying a long game development period is bad. However, in my opinion, there are just too many people who are unfit for them.

Cuphead – a 100% hand-drawn game

Thus, the topic I would like to talk about with you today is not “the benefits of a short development period”, but rather, “the problems of a long development period”. I hope it’ll help you with planning out your development cycle.

So, let’s get right into it. If you plan for a very long development cycle, you may run into:

1. Coming up with many seemingly good ideas that you want to add in the game

While adding good ideas to the game sounds right, the emphasis here is on “seemingly”, what you perceive as good ideas may just be a façade. After working on your game for a few months or so, you might start to lose interest in it. That’s because what “interests” you is just a stimulus, and it is something that you will slowly habituate to.

This is why a game that seems boring for its developers after a while is actually very interesting for the players.

Those “seemingly good ideas” often end up providing a stimulus that is different from what the game originally provides, that is why developers would feel like those are ideas that must be added in. But after adding them in, the game might very much change. When the two styles of stimulus mix together, you might end up with a game that focuses on neither of them.

That’s why sticking to your original plan is often better than spending extra time to come up with new elements.

2. Too much content can make the game lose its focus

I’m sure many of you will agree that the more time you spend on a game, the more content it’ll have. Yet, many of you will probably disagree with me when I say that more content doesn’t mean its better.

Hideo Yoshizawa (Bandai Namco Studio’s former lead producer ) said in ゲームプランナー集中講座: When you have a core concept A, it is easy for you to come up with idea B, then incorporate idea B to come up with notion C. (It’s something you will come across a lot. For example, if you tell a lie, and that lie isn’t perfect, then you have to come up with more lies to cover uup your previous ones).

Yoshizawa’s opinion was that no matter how many ideas you come up with, they must revolve around the initial concept A. Only then will you be able to come up with a game that has a focus.

ゲームプランナー集中講座 by Hideo Yoshizawa

<figure></figure><figure>A->B->C->D is bad</figure>

If you simplify that, it means that the less content you have, the easier it is for you to have a game that maintains its focus. What’s more, when you limit yourself to only brainstorm around an initial concept and its offshoots, there aren’t that many “good ideas”. Instead of trying to put all of your ideas into the game, you should just choose the two or three ideas you are most confident in.<figure></figure><figure>A -> B & C & D should be the way to go</figure>

3. Loss of passion

Passion for a game will slowly fade when you are working at it all the time, sooner or later, you might reach a stage where you’ll want to give up, or slow down your development.

I’m sure the developers who felt this before will understand this: You started off with a great idea and developed very efficiently, but a the middle of the development cycle, your interest starts to wane, and it’s as if you lost your initial goal.

That is why I suggest developers to predict how long their passion for a game lasts based on their own experience, then try and finish their game before it fades.

So, how do you achieve a short development period?

After what I told you above, you might be itching to try to do things this way now.

But there are actually a lot of times where the developer does want to have a short development period, but the reality of progress just doesn’t allow them to do so. They end up dragging the development cycle a lot longer. Here are two ways that can help you prevent some of the problems from arising.

1. Plan for an optimization period that is at least three times your development period

Many people tend to think that the time it takes for optimization is shorter than development, but the truth it completely different. You can’t actually predict what you will need to do during the optimization period before your finish development, so you won’t have any ideas as to how you’ll handle the problems that arises.

The reason for this is also simple. If you know how to handle the problem, then it’ll be taken care of during the development process. What you handle during optimization are things that you couldn’t deal with during the development process, that’s why optimization is so troublesome and time-consuming.

So, as the subheading says, please leave yourself triple the amount of time you planned for development to optimize. 

In other words, if you plan to complete a game within a year, plan for content that can be completed within three months, not one year.

2. Insist on it being short!

Surprises are always going to pop up, whether a colleague has a family problems, or a colleague need to take an exam etc. All of these “surprises” will cause your development to come to a halt. If you continue to develop according to your original plan, then it means that you’ll have to delay your planned release date.

But, there’s actually something else you can do. Insist on a short development cycle, try to change your development plans so that you can still finish in your planned period of time.

Of course, you definitely have to have a very well managed timetable to do this. Please don’t do all the simple stuff first, and the difficult stuff last like all procrastinators would do. Handle the core tasks as soon as possible. Only then would it allow you to selectively delete planned content as needed.

Take part in the Global Game Jam, and train yourself to complete a game before the hard deadline

Conclusion

Hopefully my words can act as food for thought for you guys to consider whether you are suitable for spending long periods of time to develop a single game.

Oh, what I believe to be “short” is fully developing a game within 6 months, but this can vary depending on the person, so just use it as a reference.

P.S.

This is already the 13th game I’m taking part in developing. If we are to include text-based games and mini-games, then I’ve helped with the development of over thirty games. I was overjoyed when I received twenty something applications when I started the latest round of recruitment. But our team is truly unable to support so many, so that forced me to refuse quite a few of them.

Now, I want to state that publishing articles is a really simple thing.

Game development isn’t math, there isn’t a 100% correct answer. What’s more, even authors of mathematics-related articles might end up making enemies of someone just because of their choice of subjects. It is very normal for some readers to dislike you.

If 10% of my readers end up disliking me every time I make a post, then they might stop following my posts, and won’t change their mind about me. After 10 articles, that means 65% of the total number of readers dislike me. That’s over half! That’s why I feel like writing articles, regardless of the industry, is something that will draw people to dislike you.

Choosing not to write anything is a way to stay out of it.

But it is very obvious that every industry needs a people’s voices to be heard. Choosing whether or not to write an article is just a question of whether you love the industry more than you love yourself.

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我已經跟不下十個創作者討論過「遊戲製作週期」這個議題。即如何分配製作和優化的時間,以及如何決定製作時長。

正如我標題所述,我傾向認為「短時間製作」較好。然而,我見過很多「十年磨一劍」的好遊戲,例如《Cuphead》便製作了五年。我認為遊戲創作是很取決於創作者風格的,因此也不否定長時間製作。但是,在我看來,不適合長時間製作卻又花很長時間製作的人,實在太多。

《Cuphead》傳說中的全手繪遊戲

因此,今天決定跟大家分享的,不是「短時間製作的好處」,而是「長時間作的壞處」,希望大家計劃製作日程表時,可以有多個根據去考慮。

如果把創作週期安排得很長,很可能會遇上以下情況:

一、製作途中經常會想到好主意,以為是神來之筆,便想加進去

聽起來很有道理,但其實很可能這所謂的「神來之筆」,是一種錯覺。當創作者對著自己的遊戲半年,會認為遊戲的趣味在漸漸失卻,那是因為所謂的「趣味」是一種神經刺激,待久了就會逐漸麻木。

因此,一隻對於創作者而言是無聊的遊戲,對玩家來說可能很有趣。

相反,「神來之筆」多是有別於遊戲原本趣味的刺激,因此它會令創作者覺得「我必須要加上去」。當加上去後,遊戲便很容易變質,原本的趣味跟新種類的趣味混合,很容易兩邊不討好。

所以,與其花額外時間推出新玩法或元素,倒不如堅持原本的計劃。

二、遊戲的內容很多,容易失去重心

用越多時間製作的遊戲,遊戲內容理應越多,這點相信沒人會反對。然而,如果我說,內容豐富不一定是好事,這點卻沒甚麼人站出來同意。

不過,吉沢秀雄(Bandai Namco 首席製作人)在《ゲームプランナー集中講座》一書中說過:假設有一個核心的概念A,思考點子時,很容易由概念A構思出意見B,再基於意見B的加入,想出一些新的點子C。(其實這種事很常遇到,就像你說了一個謊,當那個謊不夠完美時,便要再想下一個謊言去蓋住前面的謊言)

他提出,即使想出多少點子,點子都必須圍繞最初的概念A,這樣才是一隻有重心的遊戲。<figure></figure><figure>《ゲームプランナー集中講座》吉沢秀雄</figure><figure></figure><figure>A->B->C->D 是不好的</figure>

可以保守一點地說,遊戲的內容越少,遊戲就越容易保持重心,而且在「不能超過兩層的 brainstorming」限制下,真正的「好點子」其實佔比很少。與其把所有點子實現出來,倒不如選兩三點最有信心和有趣的。<figure></figure><figure>A -> B & C & D 才是好的</figure>

三、熱情失卻

當你對著同一款遊戲很久很久,熱情會慢慢地消耗,到了一個地步會想放棄,或者減慢開發速度。

試過這種感受的創作者,應該都明白:當初一鼓作氣,以極高效率製作遊戲,到了中期卻「再而衰,三而竭」,好像失去了初衷似的。

所以,按經驗判斷自己的熱情能維持多久後,就應該盡量在那段時間內完成遊戲。

要如何實踐短時間製作呢?

說了這麼多,可能你開始心動想試試短時間製作。

不過呢,其實很多時候,創作者不是不想短時間製作,而是製作的進度追不上,被迫把日程表拉長。這裡分享兩個方法,可以預防一部分的問題。

一、預留製作時間三倍或以上的時間做後期優化

很多人以為優化時間應該會比製作時間短。但事實上,你在完成製作前,無法預測任何的優化工作內容,並且你對於如何解決它們,毫無方向。

理由很簡單,如果你能解決,早在製作時期已經順便處理了。遊戲中未優化的內容,都是些創作者不得不容許出現的東西。所以要解決它們,是格外的麻煩和耗時。

因此,如副標題所說,請預留製作時間三倍或以上的時間做後期優化。

這樣一來,一隻預計花一年時間完成的遊戲,內容量不可以是一年能剛好能完成的,而是應該思考三個月的時候能完成多少。

二、就是堅持要短!

意外就是意料之外,成員家中有事、進入考試週等等因素,都會令製作進度突然停滯。這時候,如果按著原本的內容量去製作,那基本上是要延期了。

但其實也可以「堅持要短」,嘗試更改製作計劃,去讓時間維持在原本的預算中。

當然,要做到這一點,時間表要編排得好,請不要像拖延症患者般把容易的放前,難的放後。而是把核心的東西放到最早做,先完成必須完成的,這樣才能在後面刪內容。<figure></figure><figure>參與 Global Game Jam,訓練自己在硬期限前完成遊戲</figure>

總結

說了這麼多,希望大家能多思考一下,自己是否還適合長時間製作一款遊戲。

對了,我所認為的「短時間」,是半年以內完成一部作品,但這因人而異,只供參考。

題外話:

上次新作招募,屈指一算原來是我的第十三部參與製作的遊戲了,如果算上文字遊戲和小遊戲的話應該是第三十多部了。最終收到二十多封應徵訊息,實在令我喜出望外。不過,我們團隊無力負擔這麼多人,因此也忍痛拒絕了不少人。

然後我要開始說說網上發佈文章其實是甚麼一回事。

遊戲創作不像數學題,沒有100%的正確。就算是數學相關的作者,也會因選材而樹敵。所以有讀者討厭你,是無可厚非。

假設我每篇文章引來了10%讀者討厭,而他們很可能不會再看我的文章,不會重新對我改觀。十篇之後,所有的讀者中,就有65%是討厭我了,這已經超過一半了。我認為無論是誰是任何產業在任何文化,寫文章都是樹敵的行為。

不寫文章,是一種明哲保身。

但很明顯地,任何一個產業,都需要有人願意為它發聲。是否決定寫文,在於你是否愛產業過於自己。

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