Finishing Touches: Polishing Your Game
As Mort-A-Mania creeps ever closer to its kickstarter campaign and eventual printing, we have never stopped changing the game. However, the changes we are making continue to get smaller and smaller; where a few months ago we were overhauling major mechanics and redesigning card layouts, these days we are tweaking phrasing and adjusting color shades. While it feels good to be finally polishing the game to a sellable state, it is also incredibly nerve-wracking. Every little choice, from whether to include an extra word on a card to choosing between 15 nearly-identical fonts for the body text on the rules page feels like it has earth shattering consequences. To help other developers along, I want to share a few of the things we have learned along the way toward adding the finishing touches to a game:
Nothing is permanent until final print. Little changes can often feel big, and can be even more terrifying if they affect commonly criticized features of design like fonts and colors. But don't let the analysis paralysis take hold of you -- nothing is permanent until printed. No one will judge you if you change your kerning size every day for a month, as long as you get it right in the end. Don't try to make every decision from the get go; instead, just go with your gut in the beginning, and don't be afraid of changing down the road. By being open to continued tweaking instead of taking a one-and-done approach, you are much more likely to end with a product that you are actually proud of for a long time.
Ask for lots of input. The key to getting good input is quantity. There are a lot of people in the world, and a lot of different opinions that come with them. If you only ask a few people for theirs, how can you know if they were good? By getting as many opinions as possible, you can get a good feel for what things are real issues for the game, and what was simply an issue with that reviewer. Not everyone will like your game, and that is OK. All games have a target audience, which means all games have an untargeted audience who will probably not care for them. Learn to accept advice that will improve your game (even if you don't like hearing it) and pass over advice that makes your game into something it is not (even if it seems like really good advice). Remember: when getting feedback, quality is great; but quantity has a quality all its own.
Remember to step away. As with any project spanning months and years, it can be very easy to get too close to your game and miss the forest for the trees. If you focus for too long on any certain aspect of the game, or even just spend too much time thinking about it as a whole, you will lose perspective. Great aspects of the game begin to feel flat and dated, and the project can feel like it is beginning to spiral down. Do not fall in! When you start to feel this way about the game, step away. Take a day, a week, even a month away if you have to. When you come back to it, you will feel a sense of clarity that you didn't have before; the game will feel fresh again. You might see that a certain aspect that you loved before was actually stifling the game, and the only way to see it is to step away and disconnect. Alternatively, you may find that your concerns were unfounded and your overanalysis led you to forget how good your work had already been. Regardless of what was causing it, the only cure for burnout is rest. Be sure to step back every now and then.
These are just a few of the things we have learned on our journey of game development. If you have others to share, let us know below!
--Dakota W. Winalow