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Design Our game Boss 101 (using GameMaker) is done, some thoughts

Discussion in 'Game Design, Development And Publishing' started by Tim, Nov 26, 2017.

  1. Tim

    Tim Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2016
    Posts:
    187
    Hey all,

    You might know already about our game Boss 101 which we did entirely in GameMaker. If not some quick links below if you are interested:

    Boss 101 Development blog here in these forums
    Boss 101 Steam Store Page

    Boss 101 was a three and a half year project done by three people. Self-funded, no Kickstarter and no publisher. We’re incredibly proud and happy of the game and excited to see it out and being reviewed. I wanted to share a few thoughts about the development and using GameMaker. I’ll speak to things all people using GameMaker might be interested in and not just people doing “Boss 101-type” games. That said, please forgive me if digress.

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    GameMaker Overall and a team history

    We picked GameMaker over Unity (Unreal wasn’t looked at when we started). Our lead programmer Joshua came to the project with ten plus years of GameMaker knowledge and was wrapping up his computer science degree. GameMaker Studio 1 was a great choice and allowed us to get moving quickly. Personally, I think this had as much to do with Joshua’s familiarity as GameMaker’s ease of use. We had initial prototypes and game loops running within a month or so and it was full speed ahead from then on.

    My background is from larger game studios. I was the lead artist on Planescape Torment way back when. I worked on titles like Fallout 1 and 2 as well as the Icewind Dale series. I worked as a cinematic artist on the first Bioware game Shattered Steel (oh yah, I’m THAT old). I’ve worked at Sony, Obsidian and Vigil games. Some of my recent credits include the Darksiders 1 & 2 and back a little from there I was on Neverwinter Nights 2. My point in saying all this is not to impress you with a resume but to say “I’ve seen A LOT of game development in my time”. A lot.

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    Boss 101 was the most fun I have had on a project since maybe Torment. Great people, great fans and a really fun time. We made the game we wanted the way we wanted. The goal was always to give the player something fun to see and do. Enjoyable characters, story and gameplay were paramount and every day we asked ourselves “Is this fun?” We added, tweaked and constantly tested things. All the while we posted a weekly blog for the ENTIRE development period. You can see most of that blog on our Steam page but there is a version on the TIGForums here. https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=39867

    If you do check that blog you will see Boss 101 was a full time occupation with constant, documented progress. Sometimes twice or three times a week we posted screenshots of things we were doing in addition to the weekly write-up. My point here is we were serious and put everything out there for the curious (including a dev blog here at YoYo).

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    Prelude

    I wanted to drop a few thoughts on Boss 101 (and GameMaker) as sort of a mini-postmortem for those interested. I’m not the lead programmer (that was Joshua). I did handle design, art and animation and was responsible for organizing and creating the main development pipelines we used. I wasn’t alone in art either as we had an extremely talented pixel artist named Manon who really brought the whole thing up a notch with her amazing stylings!

    Let’s be clear, GameMaker works as advertised for the most part. If you are a single person team working on a small or medium scale game and thinking about diving into GameMaker then it’s almost a no brainer. You will probably be pretty happy and accomplish most of what you want. As with anything – bigger games and higher goals mean more work, so don’t expect to be coding or arting up the next World or Warcraft without a SERIOUS time investment. No engine will give you a magic bullet.

    For larger teams and games it can be a little more complicated but still a very doable proposition. I’d definitely recommend source control (you’ll have to research and use what is best for your own team) and organization in general. This list below is a little outside the “GameMaker” realm but I think it will help you immensely if you are doing any sort of development (with larger teams probably benefiting more from this).

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    The List


    Game asset folders and hierarchy will ideally be the SAME inside and outside GameMaker – what I mean is you store art assets in a Windows (or your OS) folder structure that you duplicate inside GameMaker. Believe me, it will be MUCH easier to find things down the line. Forget about laying crap all over your OS desktop and shoving it in folders called “Good Stuff from November” or something like that.

    Get a game loop running quickly in GameMaker – a game loop is the most basic playable unit of your game. It’s a round, or a level. Something the player does and loops back into a main screen. Our game has a shooter core mechanic so we made a game loop were you shoot enemies and return to our Command Center. Everything evolved from there and it’s a good place to start if you want to make a game. Getting the thing people will spend the most time with up and running early means it gets the most testing and polish.

    Use tools you feel comfortable with – get the right programs for the job. Free stuff can work very well but if you have to toss down some ducats then do it. For example you can do little sprite touchups and creation in GameMaker’s editor but there are better (and free) options if you look for them. Still, it’s your decision and if it helps – we tend to choose programs still in active development or with large communities around them. Doing this helps us if we hit a roadblock and need help or advice.

    Work as much as you can “in-engine” – by this I mean you should look at assets in game and using any appropriate controls as much as possible. Doing this will force you to see the game as your customer and help you figure out things like options screens, game pausing, scoring and the like.

    Put core features in first – “first things first” is the best policy for features. Important or key features of your game should go in first. This varies from game to game but for us it was our Make a Boss. We allow the player to roll bosses procedurally. To do that we had to make over forty boss ‘sets’ for the game to use. Guess what we did first? Yep, that was in during the first three months of development and I’m so glad we did this. The next three years saw this area evolve and grow into a really neat centerpiece.

    In short – do all the hard/core systems first. It will make your lead up to launch a much nicer affair.

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    Do it to a finish – As much as possible do EVERYTHING to a finish. By this I mean avoid too much placeholder art and rough stuff as you go. This is a complicated subject so allow me to explain. The idea here is you want to try and finish things since that will help you understand what you REALLY need to do. Read that again. I believe in the finish or attempt to finish you will discover what you need to do next.

    It’s always tempting to grey box in a million things and say “Now I only have to art it up and code a few things”. Trust me that NEVER happens. Ever. Not in all my years have I ever seen or heard of any one dropping a few art assets in after a grey box room and shipping a million selling blockbuster. Taking the time to do things to completion (or near completion) is your best bet.

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    Hang in there – I’ll leave you with this one. games are awesomely fun to make and if you have a passion for it - HANG IN THERE. Making anything good takes time and moreso for a game with big ambitions. Work on your project as much as you can and let it guide and draw you along for the ride. Keep time in perspective too – you probably don’t pick up a new instrument and expect mastery with a few YouTube lessons. You get better over time with practice.

    Mostly dream as big as you want and just remember the bigger the dream the bigger your commitment to your dream will have to be.

    Thank you and if you have any questions or comments, please ask.

    Remember to live your dreams!

    -Tim

    Boss 101 Steam Store Page: http://store.steampowered.com/app/380920

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  2. andev

    andev Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2017
    Posts:
    444
    This is looking really good! Happy to see it on steam, I hope it sells well!
     
    ParodyKnaveBob, Joshua Allen and Tim like this.
  3. Tim

    Tim Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2016
    Posts:
    187
    Thanks so much! Appreciate the kind words!
     
  4. Niels

    Niels Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2016
    Posts:
    828
    Wow you worked on some of my favourite games ever!!
    Definitely will check this game out!
    Really hope it will be a commercial success for you guys.
     
  5. Tim

    Tim Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2016
    Posts:
    187
    Thank you so much! Looking forward to your game too - looks very interesting!!!

    -Tim
     
  6. Online Handle

    Online Handle Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2016
    Posts:
    242
    Great post. Very well written, and a lot of important points are expanded on.
    This is a great resource for any game developer to look at.
    (also not to mention the free advertisement for your game. It looks great)
     
    ParodyKnaveBob and andev like this.
  7. bobula13

    bobula13 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2016
    Posts:
    89
    I really enjoyed this post and your thoughts on the gamemaking process.
    Also, the game looks incredible, I'll make sure to check it out!
     
  8. Tim

    Tim Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2016
    Posts:
    187
    Thanks! Really appreciate the look and your kind words. We kept a detailed blog too on a few sites (including this one). The hope there was we can inform other game makers and give them some ideas about making their own projects.

    Thanks so much. It was a fantastic experience! Appreciate the support too!

    -Tim
     

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