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Don't plan ahead - Game dev tips

A topic by kuupu created Mar 07, 2017 Views: 535 Replies: 6
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Hi folks, we started a Patreon today, we'll post about game development and share a little of our experiences with the community.

In this post we talk a little about the strugles of starting a new project and what we can do to keep things as simple as possible.

Don't plan ahead

This may sound weird, but trust me, you don't know what your game will be and there is no point on planning something you don't know yet. You may have a general idea of what you want to make, but the distance between what you want and what you'll actually create is really huge.

So, am I saying you should go like crazy implementing wherever you want? Absolutely not!

After some time developing games I figured that most of our pre conceptions are misguided by our biases: the games we play, the movies we watch, everything shapes our perception of what is good or bad. So we tend to plan things that are not necessarily good for our games, we make things that we think are good in general, regardless the context.

Making a shooter? So of course you'll need a reload system, 27634 different weapons, bullet sponge characters… or... do you actually need it? Every element of a game is there for a reason, at least in good games, the reload time is probably a downside of a powerful weapon, or a window in which you are vulnerable, this vulnerability will have a reason too, to balance the game or adjust the pacing.

When you start to plan a game in really early stages you will have answers for questions that were not asked, you'll establish a form without a function.

Let's grab Exodemon as an example.

I started the Ludum Dare 35 with something in mind, I wanted to make a first person shooter, something in a more old fashioned way, something like Doom, something like Quake.

So I started to implement the character's movement, it should be fast and sharp, but why? Well, some of the enemies in Doom shoots slow projectiles, the character should move really fast in order to circle-strafe the enemies while dodging the projectiles. This leads to another issue, if you can dodge bullets, these bullets should hit really hard, and they do, in Doom you can get killed in a blink of an eye if you stay in the same place for too long, so you have two options, high projectile damage or low main character health.

I figured out most of the speed you feel in these games are not directly related to movement speed, but instead to the non stop action pacing, you should move fast because enemies shot regularly and you must dodge these shots. Compare this to a modern shooter, you can't dodge bullets, so you need to take cover and wait for the right time to attack, this waiting is what makes the game slow, not necessarily the movement speed.

You see, I didn't decide for health and damage upfront, the movement mechanic and the bullet speed led me to this issue, so I tested a few times, decided this was not the feel I intended for the game, studied the games I was taking inspiration from, then I changed the values and tested again, and again, and again, until I felt it had the right values.

The same goes for the enemies, they are billboards that always face the player, I made it this way because I had 48 hours to finish the game and there was no time to model the enemies in 3D, Doom uses sprites as enemies, but I didn't have time to make more than one perspective of each enemy. Again, I didn't plan about having sprites as enemies, the image I had in my mind was of 3D low poly enemies as seen in Quake.

To summarize, you should start with a simple and concrete idea, right after you need to start to experiment and prototype, you need to search for those questions, the ones you need to answer, never the opposite way.

I think of game development as a living creature, it grows, evolves and heads to a natural direction, you as a creator can bend this direction on a specific way, but if you try to bend it too much, it will eventually break.

I hope this can help you at the start of a project, keep it simple, start testing everything as soon as possible and in no time you should have a cool prototype in your hands.

You can find the original post here

Thank you, I hope this post can help you in your game development journey!


I understand and agree - but unfortunately many developers just instantly think they're AAA studio quality, so therefore everyone on the team MUST know & plan ahead - or else! This just frightens and angers the workers. Why can't people just calm down, and acknowledge that a game, is just a game. Yes, it can generate A LOT of money. Then things become serious.

A ludum dare - for me would be impossible unless I cheat by reusing code or whatever.


You touched 2 of the subjects I intend to cover on future texts.

The first is: YES, you should plan.

This post was a response to two situations, people who don't make things, they stay on this planning and thinking forever, and for people who think they really know from the start how the game will work, without any tests and prototyping.

So in a future post I'll cover how to plan on a effecient way.

And second, begginers who target AAA experiences... this will need a lot of work be writen hehehe


Hey, just keep praticing, if you check our LD page you can see how we were able to make better and bigger games each time we participate, it's an amazing exercise!


And lastly, thank you for reading :)


As someone who is planning out their first game, I'm a little confused. Is this to say that I should forget about my ideas for random events to make my survival game more interesting to players? Or is this to say "Don't start on the random events, until you have your island created"? Or are you saying to go even smaller than that? How far ahead is too far?

Sorry if I sound rude, I'm eager to hear your advice.


Hey, awesome question!

I believe the first thing you should concern is:

What exactly is your game?

If you are making a action survival game, go for the action first, make the character move in a good way, a good camera system, maybe some actions as jump and attacking, just enought to feel what the game is, if this part of the game is bad, everything will fall apart, it doesn't matter if your events are awesome and or not.

If your game is not a action title, you can start with the events, maybe a text based adventure with your events can be enought to expose it and find if people think your events are interesting (

The thing is, content should be the last thing unless event IS the game, for instance in Exodemon I made all the controllers (character, enemy, itens, etc) before making the first level.

What I mean is each of these systems should work well alone, but the basic ones will work as a pillar for your game, if this pillar is weak the game will fall apart.

I hope this can help you! :)