Rapid prototyping is an important part of development any game, and is an especially necessary skill when working on big titles. The ability to get something out that plays well and demonstrates your idea fast at the beginning of a project can mean the difference between the game adopting something new and unique, or just falling back to using a standard design that has been lingering in the industry for decades.
The key is that in that brief prototyping phase, you have to be able to produce something that makes an impression, and you have to be able to do it fast.
So, here is a quick collection of tips to really focus on.
- Your prototype should be throwaway. This means you don’t waste time optimising or writing good code you plan to use later. Also scrapping something and writing the system again is a really great way of working out the best way to implement something. Just like walking away from a tough problem, your brain has an amazing way of solving problems for you when you’re not thinking about them.
- Use third party tools. Sometimes you have to convince the studio to let you use a third party tool such as UE4 or Unity, but it’s almost always worth it as most custom game engines take far longer to get content into them. Again, push on the fact that these things are throwaway, so it’s ok if a quick mock-up is created in some other tool.
- Don’t be afraid of messy code. The point is to make this fast, not well. A nice tip is to encapsulate things (if you happen to be coding) in blocks of empty scope instead of using up time creating new classes.
//a simple block like this can encapsulate variables
without the overhead of writing a new class
- Don’t use anything other than basic container types. In fact don’t attempt to optimise in general/ This applies to all kinds of scripting. Your time is the most precious resource here, so use it as sparingly as you can.
- Look and feel is important. This is a little counter intuitive, but despite the above you have to remember that you can’t rely on people filling in the blanks when they play it like you do. It has to communicate what you are trying to achieve, so this often means - camera shake, hit-reactions, some basic effects, sounds and so on. these are linked with the basics of what makes something feel good so you can’t afford to miss them out.
- Sometimes polish will save your idea. If you’re lucky enough to work with leads that can see past cubes and debug text, then great, but recognize if this is not the case at first and get a modeller and animator to throw together a quick model and some basic animations before you show anyone. Showing a prototype too early can means its death before you’ve had a chance to complete it.