Mommy's Best Games, Inc. is an independent game developer founded in 2007. Our seventh game, currently in development, is Pig Eat Ball on which we started working in 2013. This is behind the scenes thoughts about game development and marketing.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Prototyping and Rough Design

With the DBP contest over it's time to get back to core development. That means finishing the game on time! There are a number of new levels blocked out and I've separated them into two groups. One group is to be finished by November 1st, the second group is additional levels to be finished mid-way through November. Why would we have two finish dates? Because unfortunately Microsoft hasn't released exactly when Xbox Live Community Games will be launched and we want to be ready for launch. From various internet rumors, it seems likely it will be some time in November, but we're not certain when.

Originally I was planning on the game releasing in December, but having the potential release date of the game pushed closer in time does wonders for figuring out design priorities. It was clear what levels we should include in order to finish by November 1st. Originally there were over 40 levels outlined (I was completely delusional at the time) and close to 60 monsters from small to gigantic. There will be more like 9-12 levels in the game, but these will definitely be the most action-packed and distinct levels from those originally envisioned.

Recently, I've somehow managed to convince Jack Mayer to help design some of the levels. Jack brings many years experience with him along with Xbox 1 development time! In order to make the most efficient use of two people (myself and Jack), we decided early on to rapidly prototype the enemies and the new levels. Jack is roughing in the level as I am prototyping the enemies. The rough art consists of building a skeleton for an enemy, and just using colored blocks on the bones. I do animate them but in a much less detailed manner. The programming for the enemy is created, but again not near to the same quality the final version will reach. The amount of polish for the prototype itself is a balancing act. The more polished you make it the more problems you may uncover early, but the more work it takes away from the final pass on the enemy or level.

Here's a test level with a prototyped enemy:
And for contrast here's a finished level with completed assets:

The benefit of all this early work is now the level designer can get the gameplay (enemies, hazards, vehicles) in place, more accurate, and more fun than without using prototypes and just jumping straight to polished assets. In addition we can find level art needs previously unknown, new enemy art needs, and generally new ideas can be figured out early on, rather than trying to shoehorn them into the finished assets. For the current level and enemies prototypes we identified the need for: new hazards on a climbable enemy, new attack abilities to balance an enemy's attacks better, and new environmental hazards to be used throughout the level to vary level pacing.

Without this early work we either would have never made these improvements, or we would have wanted to make them but at the cost of much more rework down the road.

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