Design 1000 Game Dev Tips


100 Game Dev Tips
Participate in a collection of Quality Information intended for Indie Developers from all walks of life.
Hi guys, here are some general rules and notes to abide by/be aware of to keep the thread clean and purposeful:

  • All relevant tips are welcome, how ever look alike posts that are already in the list will not be added.
  • We have a huge target to reach, don't be shy to bring forth multiple tips that you feel may contribute.
  • Every 20 tips will have it's own spoiler.
  • This is a test run so feel free to suggest rules & notes so follow up threads may be more constructive. :)

* cracks knuckles *
  1. Keep one resolution. I see games on Steam that switch their resolutions and even window positions. Streamers seem to hate this.
  2. Never start a game in full screen. Oh I love full screen games and won't play them without full screen, but there's a catch, everyone's hardware is different. Some people can't view certain resolutions in full screen depending on V-Sync or Anti-Aliasing. It's nice to have a game save full screen or windowed, until they get a new monitor.
  3. When you start a game in windowed mode, stretch the window automatically that way players can see something the size of GameBoy's resolution on their 1080p monitors.
  4. When stretching a window, do it in steps of 1x 2x 3x 4x or even 1.5x 2x 2.5x 3x and so on. This will give you less chance of visual inaccuracies and problems.
  5. Don't pile sounds on top of one another in the same frame. The more you do, the louder they get for whatever reason. It can get deafening.
  6. Start the music and or sound volume at 50%... not 100%. Some games tend to hijack sound settings, so if someone has their sound real low and soft and then your game starts up at 100%, imagine the pain!
  7. Check for memory leaks by playing your game for hours at a time and watching the RAM / memory usage. Even a pinhole leak may increase the RAM usage exponentially.
  8. Menus or anything text and simple shapes tend to take up an exorbitant amount of processing power. So you don't need to draw it every frame. Make a surface, draw to a surface and then draw that surface.
  9. Spend time on your game's logo. If people get a sense of you spent 5 - 10 minutes on it, they get a sense of how much time you spent on your game.
  10. What's up with games that use a keyboard or controller to play, but they still need a mouse in the menu? Somehow developers can make an entire game that uses a controller or mouse... but can't figure out how to make a menu that uses their control scheme?
  11. Controller support. Get yourself a controller. Give a game controller support... unless it's some typing game or RTS.
  12. Let people know you have controller support. Seriously. It's the #1 question I get from people even before they play my games, does it have controller support? They usually ask this before playing, so it's best to smack them in the face with it.
  13. Stop the rumble with controller support. I like rumble. It's just something extra to show you care, but with GMS you need to STOP the rumble. If you don't, the controller can infinitely rumble. Like if a game is paused, stop that rumble.
  14. Let the player choose the rumble intensity. I've had people tell me 50% was too much and people told me 50% was too little. Let them choose.
  15. Rebindable keys. If your game has any kind of complexity, give the player rebindable keys. I remember a larger developer explaining "if you don't have rebindable keys, you may as well give a player a refund." There are players that have their own needs and ways to do things.
  16. Arrow keys + space bar is a bad combination. I'm lefty with a mouse. I use the arrow keys all the time. There's a catch. 2 arrow keys + 1 spacebar = 2 of them work. It depends on the keyboard. So when I see shmups that have arrow keys + spacebar it becomes an issue.
  17. Let the players know what the keys are. People sure hate hand holding, but they hate having to press an entire keyboard worth of keys to do something. I personally recommend X, C, shift, ctrl as the main keys. Even escape. Even something as simple as a menu... let them know.
  18. Z and Y should do the same thing. Why? Because the German keyboard layout has the Z and Y keys reversed. So all those games that have Z to shoot and X to jump... good luck playing that in Germany.
  19. Pause your game if it loses focus. As in someone clicks out of the window or alt tabs out of it. If your game is mouse based and they accidentally click out of it and another window gets called up over it... that's a problem.
  20. I recommend a global pause variable. Something that you can start your step events with if(global.paused == true){exit;} This will prevent your code from running for that object.
Hopefully these are some things that people never even think of.
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I am back again.
  1. Before you make your game, fake your game. Make fake screenshots to show people. Get their feedback on what looks good and what doesn't. Run with whatever look and or style people like.
  2. Make a level before you make the art. After you've sold people on the look of your game and after you've made mechanics, make the level geometry to let players and testers get a feel for everything. How it plays, what's good, what's bad. It's far easier to tweak a level with no art than it is to tweak it once art is in there. After making your levels, make the level feel special by tailoring it for that level.
  3. Use transitions rather than cold SCREEN A is now SCREEN B. Even Zelda 1 had transitions. Even Star Wars has a wipe. Have a diagonal bar wipe everything, spawn a bunch of apples to enlarge and cover the screen to transition. This will also hide double button presses.
  4. If you don't use transitions, have a brief cool down between button presses. Navigating a menu, going from section A to section B, you push a button... only sometimes the player can push it twice within a split second. I've seen menus with Steam games where if you hold the button down it will keep pushing from one menu topic to another, making it extremely tough to navigate properly. There's a catch though... people can notice 1/4th of a second and might instantly feel somehow your game is broken if they push confirm and the game isn't read. I recommend 1/6th of a second seems to be a sweet spot... or just use transitions.
  5. Make the first levels last. First impressions go a long way, you need to know your tools, skills and mechanics, that's why you need to make your first levels last. You'll be skilled, confident and make a better first impression.
  6. What's that? Menu has 120+ menu items with only up and down to navigate them? Why force a player to press up 120 times when you can have them hold up for a split second (1/4th), then the menu will automatically go from menu item to menu item... faster at 1/6th or 1/8th a second, depending on the menu item amount. Allow people to still press a typical up, up, up for precision and immediacy, but let them hold up to avoid tedium.
  7. Escape and Enter are standard menu items... but what if shoot and jump were standards too? Always imagine 2 buttons. Shoot = Confirm and jump = back. This will make it more efficient for a player to navigate. You would still need to press escape to get to a pause menu. Oh and avoid using P for pause. It gets lost in the shuffle of all those keys when Escape sticks out like a sore thumb and no one will accidentally bump it.
  8. You need your own debugger in game. Show FPS, how many objects, X and Y position and a number of things that you specifically will need to test your game. Make a toggle switch for it.
  9. Cheat codes. Make yourself some cheat codes. Not just for fun, but for testing purposes. Invincibility, infinite money, you know it all. Amuse yourself, make all enemies into cats, do whatever it takes to make life easier and more interesting for yourself. While you're at it, make a level or map select screen. People appreciate those in game too once they've earned it of course. Players love cheat codes too. It can be a reward too.
  10. Why am I doing this? Give people a story. If you know that you aren't good at telling a story, make it comedy. Aliens have oppressed the world because your grandfather failed to make the microwave. Cut scenes and silliness can be a reward that makes your game special and stand out.
  11. Choice. Wow do people like to feel like they matter. Give them choice. Chose a path, chose a weapon, chose an upgrade, chose a level, chose who dies, chose who you fall in love with. Choice. It can give your game replay value.
  12. Progress and power ups. Some people get upset if they start the game with moves A B C D and end the game with A B C D. They want to unlock and feel progress while they push through. However, if upgraded abilities would utterly destroy the flow of your game, go for power ups. These will let the player change A to B so gameplay will be more dynamic. Something fresh, engaging and interesting, even if it isn't forever.
  13. Make simpler games and complete simpler games. You can build a perfect shack or a perfect mansion. Start with a shack first. Sure people can spend 5+ years making a perfect mansion, but build some shacks. Get feedback on those shacks before you go tackling a palace. Learn what people like and what they don't.
  14. Style sells. If you have a desirable style, people will notice, people will share, people will want to play your game. It will be far easier to get players. Plus, if you don't have a great style, someone else will. This goes back to the fake it before you make it. The style doesn't have to be expensive, high end and perfect. There's charm in imperfection and style even in ASCII art.
  15. Give flair to everything mundane. Put the work in. Why make a simple arrow pointing the way, when you can make it blend into your game. A bouncy cartoon arrow, a blunt electrical sign of an arrow, or just green lights or lights in general to attract attention to let players find the way. Everything simple can be made more elaborate.
  16. Movement is an extension of the previous. This is a video game... make use of the video part. Every screenshot, every moment can be dynamic. Add fog, add flicker, add jitter, add animation, add a breeze, add a weather effect, add bunnies hopping, and so on. Even static white borders can have movement patterns. Just make sure not to overdo it. Not everything needs to have 100 dancing flamingos with windmills in the background and skywriting while skydivers jump with smoke streams through a hurricane in snowfall.
  17. Never use on / off blinking. I like blinking, but here's why you should avoid it... screen shots. Blinking high scores, someone takes a screenshot... only they miss it. They miss whatever is so important they had to take a screenshot. Use colored blinking like white and yellow, white and grey.
  18. Have damage indicators and a bit of invulnerability. I've played a lot of Steam games that either have no impact whatsoever or no invulnerability. You need invulnerability to get away from what's damaging you. You need impact so you know you've been hurt. Flash a color, flash a screen, have a sound, move back, shake the character, shake a screen, lose health and so on. Don't forget enemies as well. It works both ways. They need the same impacts.
  19. .gifs show off your game better than static images. It's even better if you can make them loop perfectly. There's a cult of people that love the looping.
  20. Scanlines... lots of games seem to have them and want them, yet plenty of players absolutely hate them. If you have them, let a player turn them off. It's not that era anymore. I'm from the era, and I don't even remember scanlines. If anything scanlines give your game a more diverse look for the sake of variety. It can make a game feel fresh if you've played an hour without, to play an hour with. It's more than scanlines though, it's visual filters. Something to keep the game fresh.
I am up to 40.
* knuckles begin to hurt punching on keyboard *
  1. If you're making an RPG or Zelda 2 clone, make the overworld last. I see a lot of RPGs that make it first, then have to remake it or things turn out laughably close or laughably far because they just don't know the pace of the overworld vs the dungeons on the levels. The levels / areas should always be a priority. Don't paint yourself into a corner by making some grand overworld first.
  2. If you're making a MetroidVania, plot out the spine of your giant 100+ room map first... before you make what's in the rooms. Plan it in steps. Step 1, go here. Step 2, go there to get A, Step 3 go there to kill B. This should help you get a good flow going. Once you've made the steps of the spine, make the ribs of the spine. The off chute rooms that let the player explore and give the player non mandatory items.
  3. Manditory backtracking? Change things. The room gets flooded, the room has stronger enemies, the room lets you break blocks to find a secret to make traversal easier, you have a new item to make things quicker, the power is out, the power is on and everything is awake. Any number of things enhance the experience that give players twice the content for less effort than making new rooms.
  4. Make the player wonder "how do I get there?" Bait the player with something. An item they can see on a cliff, an NPC beyond a river or some sort of goal. Even a checkpoint on a map that gets people wondering how to get to somewhere. Is there a puzzle to solve to get there? Is there a power? Or is it just a goal to make the player take the long route to get it.
  5. Let the player know what they just earned. Before text was in games, Link held things up, Mario and Metroid briefly halted things and gave the player a sound cue. Now people seem to want names to identify things and lore to describe them. Don't force the player to read the lore, just have that as an option.
  6. Even something as forgotten as your menu speaks volumes about your game. Make it easy to use, streamlined, but deep. The important things should be first, while the lesser important things should be deeper inside. Get people in and out as efficiently as possible.
  7. RPG towns are up for debate. A lot of people want dramatic lore with NPCs that feel real who you could have conversations with for hours... but what's the real point of your towns? Is your game all about the dungeons? Make the town a place where the player can quickly get hints and equipment before getting out of there. Like a five minute stop versus a one hour stay. Give people a reason to return to towns by altering what NPCs say and opening up areas. It gives a sense of progression.
  8. Offer terrain diversity in each area. Offer some sort of hindrence to restrict the player, because they might not know it, but players love restrictions. Rivers, tall cliffs, lava streams or pits. This will help you punctuate the game with color. This goes for both top down and side scrollers.
  9. In platformers avoid jumps to narrow platforms. You can still have big gaps, just make sure the landing space is big enough. If you're trying to make a game that's a needle and or pain platformer... avoid what I just said. Those people thrive on challenge.
  10. Lots of players hate lives and just want to plow through a game... but going back to giving players choice. Make difficulties or life restrictions. Easy has no lives, medium has 3 or 5 per level or per game and hard has a single life. You can always give the player more lives and continues.
  11. Difficulty isn't just everything does more damage, modify enemies, tweak how many bullets they fire or their speed or the speed of bullets. You can make the game feel entirely different on a higher challenge.
  12. Remind the player what they should be doing in the pause menu or somewhere. Someone works a job 2 weeks and comes back to your game... will they remember what to do or will they just get confused and go to a different game? This is probably why a lot of games have save points before cut scenes. So you can drop in and get informed. Oh yeah... don't forget to be able to skip cut scenes if it's been a player's 50th try.
  13. Offer a tutorial, the controls or practice... always. People hate tutorials, but they do get 2 - 10 hours deep into a game, go away for 2 weeks or 2 months, come back to a game and completely forget how to play. That's why it's important to make tutorials, the controls or a practice area always available at any time.
  14. While I'm here, I may as well mention repeat even the simplest tasks every so often in order to remind people yes you still have this level 1 ability. I've seen games hours in that call back to the simplest ability that I didn't use outside of the tutorial. I forgot how to do it. That's why it's important to keep every ability fresh in the player's mind.
  15. Colors are the most important thing in your game. It might be more important than good art. Blues dotted with oranges. Always have a base color hue that you can tweak to be brighter for foregrounds and darker for backgrounds with a bolder color to make things pop and stand out. Even Super Mario Bros 1 was incredible at color scheme. If you have ugly colors, your game will look ugly. Oh and make sure your player always stands out no matter what crazy color combination you have.
  16. Have different mounts to diversify gameplay. Hop on a horse, hop on a dinosaur, hop in a tank, hop in a chopper, hop behind a turret or shield. This will diversify gameplay. What do the mounts do? Give you buffs, debuffs, advantages to traversal like speed or height? Flat out change a gameplay froma platformer to a shmup?
  17. The bigger the world, the more optional fast travel you should have at least later in the game. This will make it infinitely easier for people trying to get 100%. If your game is level based, go for a level select. Have pipes, have airships, have ships, have giant insects to fly on. Any number of methods to make a game's life easier. If people get bored of your game back tracking so far... will they end up hating your game?
  18. Secrets... wow do people love secrets. It makes them feel special and it gives your game longevity. I remember someone's mind getting blown there were secrets in a modern game. You might want to call attention when someone has earned a secret such as a sound cue or bluntly telling them.
  19. Old boss fights? Make them fresh again. Not every game has the budget or time to have 2 boss fights, so they reuse the same boss over. Just make sure the boss fight is different. Also.. if you're doing boss fights, use the rule of 3s... not 5s, unless there's a harder difficulty.
  20. Have fun making your game... because in 2 months or 2 years making the game... it won't be fun and you need to keep it fun for yourself. How do you do that? Program something stupid, silly or entertaining to you for the game. Even if you have a super serious game, it will add levity and you can always make your goofyness a secret. Super scary game? Make a secret happy dog room. Bored of making the same platformer? Add a mini game. It will give you a break to enjoy your own game while still working on your game.
You sort of killed the thread lol
Yeah... I was wondering if that would happen and I should have probably just made my own topic. Site's 100 ways you can be a better developer. You won't believe #100.

Good luck to anyone who dares read through them all.
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No! We can't let it die! Not when I just found this thread! So here's my two cents' worth. Note: Most of these apply to games that are more story-based than not, so your actual mileage may vary:
  1. When you're beginning to create your game, figure out what aspect of your game has the most impact on the rest of the game and create that first. We're talking pause functions, inventory systems, cameras, etc. You may have a really cool feature you want to implement right away, but if it's only used sparingly in-game, it'd be smarter to get your infrastructure in place first. Build your house before you start arranging the furniture.
  2. If you're planning on having music in your game that's tied to your main characters (your hero or villain's theme, etc.), write this before the rest of your music. You'll never know when you'll want to lift part of a melody or recreate the entire song with different instruments (part of your main character's melody plays in the music of their hometown, or a character's normally upbeat tune slows way down for their death scene). Remember, you're not creating individual songs. You're creating one unified experience.
  3. Don't worry about how bad a graphic artist you are. One poorly drawn character is a poorly drawn character. A bunch of poorly drawn characters in a poorly drawn world is an art style. Consistency is more important than quality.
  4. Sidequests aren't just for padding a game's length or the player's EXP. They should be used to help flesh out the world of your game in ways your main story don't, or can't.
  5. If you're using a multi-character party or give the player a choice of characters to play as, make them unique in terms of gameplay, not just visuals. Give everyone abilities that are unique to them, make them stand out, and make them more useful in certain situations than other characters. For a good example of how this works, look to things like Borderlands or (glances at the picture to the left) Final Fantasy VI.
  6. Once you have your character or characters with their unique abilities, design enemies (and environments) with these abilities in mind. Good enemy design tests the player's mastery of their given skills or forces them to use them in new ways.
  7. While we're on the subject of enemies, Ken Levine once said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that, if given the choice between having your villain piss of the player, or piss off their character, piss of the player. The more the player hates the bad guy personally, the more invested they'll be in your game.
  8. While I'm quoting, in Stephen King's book On Writing (which I highly recommend; Not all of it can be applied to game design, but a lot of it can), he says "Never tell us a thing if you can show us." I'd say for games, you could also add, "Don't show us a thing if you can make us discover it ourselves."
  9. At some point, especially when you're just starting out, you'll be tempted to doubt yourself when you get an error and can't figure out why. You'll be tempted to give up on your game until three hours later, when you discover that enemy_health = 5 should have been Enemy_Health = 5. Don't doubt yourself or your ability design your game. Plenty of triple-A titles have crippling bugs, and Zelda II had a character that literally told the player "I AM ERROR." It happens.

One last thing before I stop boring you all. This one is the most important of all:

10. Crossbows. Always. Every game can be made better with crossbows. Tetris, Madden, your game, my game. Crossbows. Think about it.


Click Bait! The topic says 1000 and the OP says 100.

Can I has my money back?
At this point I should just fill in the rest of the 900+ and release it as a book. "1,000 Terrible Tips on Game Development."


I wish someone told me this, so I'm putting it here.

First step of any project. Go into global game settings, and turn off "Interpolate colours between pixels."

And for developing in your gaming skills. Another thing I wish someone told me. But It's largely unrelated.

The sooner you put down the d@#n sniper rifle and pick up an AK the sooner you can stop sucking so bad.