Monday, 31 October 2016

Prototyping In Game Development!

In game development, prototypes are hugely beneficial. Essentially they are a test an idea or a concept, in a very simple rudimentary form, ideal for showing whether an idea has merit or will actually work. These can come in different forms: In a typical small piece of a program, with basic code to represent the idea or in a physical form like a paper prototype used to communicate the idea of the game before anything has been coded. (BORYSOWICH, 2007)

There are also different purposes of Prototypes, some of which are used in games in different ways:

  • Proof of concept/Concept Prototype - A high level prototype or overall vision, this in games is usually represented by the 'core game loop'
  • Feasibility Prototype - This is used to compare and contrast different solutions for specific situations, this is more relevant to technical approaches to the game as opposed to the design. For example: Comparing the feasibility of different lighting systems.
  • Horizontal Prototype - More commonly used as a way to define the function of various buttons, menus etc, can be visualised in a paper prototype. 
  • Vertical Prototype - A stripped down but working, complete system. Ready to implemented, usually data orientated. So something like a character inventory system that works, ready to be migrated to the main game.
  • Benchmark - A 'Visual' prototype, used for a projects art direction, materials and texturing. A small sample scene to demonstrate the potential look of a project

Why prototype?

A prototype is used for the purpose of finding the correct solution to a problem, to whether an idea will work or not. Without prototyping developers will be going in blind attempting to make a full game project with preconceived ideas on how things will work without actually knowing if it will. Prototyping is essential, especially if you are an indie developer looking to come up with experimental gameplay. Prototyping and experimentation goes hand in hand.

In a development cycle it is useful initially as a way to figure out all the core game mechanics in a controlled environment, without focusing on non-important elements. This is used to implement the 'core game loop' which I talk about here Core Game Loops, which is the highest level game mechanic which the player will be repeating through most of the game. In FPS games for example that may be running around and shooting enemies. When that basic feature is implemented and feels good to play then the next feature is worked on and prototyped. This iterative process is whats needed to construct a game.



The developers behind 'World Of Goo' created the initial game using rapid prototyping techniques they honed in the Experimental Gameplay Project. (2009) World Of Goo (2008) was originally a small game called 'Tower Of Goo' which was created by one person 'Kyle Gabler' during the experiment. After the experiment Tower Of Goo received huge praise and around 100,000 downloads, so development began on a full game using the same core concept.

Other uses

Prototypes are also useful in game pitches, where a playable prototype is used as a way for possible investors to judge whether they want to support a project or not, this can be seen on Indie-fund.com where they ask for a playable prototype to show the game's unique qualities.

Game-jams are a similar concept of building up a core game concept very quickly, quite often popular games in game-jams can go on to be released as full games down the line. This is the same situation for Sigtrap's SubLevelZero (2015), which started of itself as a game-jam project.


Sources:

1. Experimental Gameplay Project (2009) [Webpage] Available from: http://experimentalgameplay.com/ [Accessed 31/10/16]
2. GRAY, K. GABLER, K. SHODHAN, S. KUCIC, M. (2005) Gamasutra - How To Prototype A Game In Under 7 Days [Webpage] Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130848/how_to_prototype_a_game_in_under_7_.php [Accessed 31/10/16]
3. Sigtrap Games (2016) [Webpage] Available from: http://www.sigtrapgames.com/sublevelzero/ [Accessed 31/10/16]
4. 2D BOY (2008) World Of Goo [CD] PC. Mastertronic Group.
5. SIGTRAP GAMES (2015) SubLevel Zero [Online Steam] PC. Sigtrap games.
6. Prototyping at Hyperspeed (2015) Available from: http://gram.gs/gramlog/prototyping-at-hyperspeed/ [Accessed: 24/10/16].
7. BORYSOWICH, C. (2007) Prototyping: Types of Prototypes [Webpage] Available from: http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/enterprise-solutions/prototyping-types-of-prototypes-14927 [Accessed: 09/11/2016]

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