Part 2 of 9: Creating a Complete Windows 8 Game (minus the game) – Planning

(Missed Part 1?  Here you go: Part 1: Overview)

The first aspect of creating a COMPLETE game for Windows 8 is: PLANNING. 

By planning, I don’t mean figuring out your characters, level design, number of levels or anything that is internal to the game.  Remember, this is minus the game.  Think of it this way: you’re starting a company.  You have to invest in multiple facets to help your company succeed.  Protect your investment by doing some careful thought and planning.

Planning is all about:

  1. Understanding the environment where you’ve chosen to engage.
  2. Using that understanding to decide what are your goals in developing your game.
  3. Thinking through the steps that will get you there.

Understanding the Environment

This series presupposes that Windows 8 is the platform on which you’re choosing to create a game.  But, before you jump into the code, you should do a bit of research.

  • Get to know Windows 8 as an end-user.  If you can find a touch-enabled device, see what gestures you use often, what areas of the OS you spend time in, how you interact with the start screen, tiles, charms bar, etc.  This will help you understand how to make your game feel like it belongs on Windows 8, a natural extension of the OS.
  • Explore the Windows Store (and other marketplaces).  Check out the games in the different categories, look at their screenshots, descriptions, reviews, etc.  Try to identify what makes some games stand out from the rest.  If you have a game idea in mind, is there an existing game that does something similar?  Could you do it better?  If there isn’t an existing competitor, what about another marketplace…is there a similar game that is successful?  Do you think it would perform as well on Windows 8?  Though I’m not talking about game design, here are a couple of articles that call out some features of highly successful mobile games: Successful Casual Games & Doodle Jump & Angry Birds.
  • Play some games.  To complement the last point, what kind of games do YOU like to play?  What makes them fun?  What keeps you coming back to them?  Look for some stats about game/gamer demographics, learn who your audience is and tailor your game to them.

Set and Prioritize Goals

I did an informal poll which provided some common goals for hobbyist game developers are:

  • Make money – this may seem like a no-brainer, a little coin is always nice.  But, surprisingly my informal poll showed it is not always the main motivator.
  • Popularity/Street Cred – maybe you just want to feel special and your prime motivation is the number of downloads or high feedback/review scores.
  • Gain knowledge/experience – if you are pursuing a career in the games industry, it hopes to have a little experience under your belt.  Having a published and “successful” game does look good on a resume.
  • Class assignment – you just want a good grade. 🙂
  • Entertainment – you’re just looking for something enjoyable to pass the time with.

When you decide on your goals and prioritize them, you can define how you measure success.  Therefore, you can determine how to invest your time and efforts to be successful.

Think through the Steps

If generating revenue is your primary goal, you have to put a lot of thought into your monetization strategy, marketing, etc.

  • What will make your game unique/better than the rest?
  • Will it be paid, ad-supported, or in-app purchase?
  • Should you have a trial version? (yes is always the answer)
  • In what countries/markets will your app be available?  Will the monetization strategy be the same for each?
  • How will you market your app?  Will you buy ads in other games?  Speaking to a marketing expert is a good place to start.

Now that you’ve put some work into the understanding of the environment you’ll game will live in, setting goals and examining the steps to make your goals – it’s time to get started and prepare your game for the spotlight.

For more about planning and to get a head start of Part 3: Design, read the MSDN articles: Planning Windows Store Apps and Designing great games for Windows.

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