There are quite a few hurdles aspiring game developers have to keep in mind if they want to be able to make a good game. Some of them are obvious issues. Plenty of them are avoidable. However, even the most experienced of teams can fall prey to unexpected complications. When issues like these get bad, productivity falls, games get delayed, and people lose money and employees their jobs.
Learning about these issues is the first step in knowing how to prevent them. A development team can truly focus on creating content only after understanding what causes these problems.
Together, let's look at some of the more common problems that occur and find ways to mitigate the potential damage they cause.
1) Lack of long-term funding
Any game developer's biggest issue is a lack of funding. While having a small budget doesn't always affect a game's quality, it is less likely to succeed if there aren’t enough funds, as it means less money can be spent on marketing and polishing the game. However, not everyone has money, and even richer publishers are wary of sponsoring products of dubious quality.
Image courtesy of Emil Kalibradov via Unsplash
The usual best way to get over this issue is to learn how to market yourself and your game. Be willing to work out deals with publishers. While not every publisher might be interested, some of them are more than willing to cut deals if the product looks interesting enough and the talent behind it shows some promise.
Similarly, if working with publishers seems like too arduous a task, one can always go down the indie developer route. Alternatives like Steam Early Access, itch.io’s custom storefront, or crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter provide alternative means of scraping together some cash. Here, you won’t be bowing down to your publisher’s overlords but to an audience of peers and gamers. The cash they provide might not be as plentiful as what a successful game publisher can give, but the freedom of managing your own game without corporate oversight might be worth it.
When all's said and done, don't forget to consult professionals on how to budget your newly acquired funds. While their services might seem unneeded, they are instrumental in helping you understand just how much money you have and how long it's expected to last. This type of knowledge will give you the flexibility you need as you proceed forward to making your dream game come true.
2) Scope creep
Now that you’ve got the cash, you’re ready to make your game. But before anything else, you must worry about another trap you might fall into. Scope creep.
Scope creep is a term for when additional features and changes to your game are made without contemplating their effects on the project. Additional features are always good, but it’s a dangerous trap to fall into if your team isn't prepared for it. Management times can get overdue, budgets can get pushed beyond limits, and the promises you make to your public might not push through, resulting in backlash.
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Avoid all this by knowing the limits of your project. Learn the capabilities of your team, and play it safe. Additional content can always be made after the base game is done, but you never want to over-promise or overstep your initial bounds.
3) Unclear/confusing monetization
Now that you have an idea of how your game is supposed to work don’t forget to iron out how you intend to make money as well. Is it a free-to-play title banking on cosmetics and gacha mechanics for monetization? Is it a $20, $40, or $60 game you intend to sell? Will you include pre-order bonuses? Digital skins? It’s important to iron these out because without understanding how you’ll make money, you might risk making a project that can’t even pay for itself.
Just look at Riot Games’ Legends of Runeterra. Runeterra is a fantastic card game based on the League of Legends IP, with both PvP and PvE game modes for its fanbase to enjoy. While it was a good card game, Runeterra never made its development cost back. Riot later explained in a YouTube video that Runeterra not doing financially well forced them to scale down the scope of the game to recoup losses. While it still survives in the short-term, long-term support for it is uncertain, with most people who played it pointing to its far too generous monetization scheme as the primary reason for its downfall.
Image courtesy of Reddit user NoNewspaper2 via the Legends of Runeterra subreddit
However, just because you can make money off your game doesn’t mean you should try to make it hand over fist and over-monetize. Evolve was a sad tale of a promising asymmetric shooter that tried to do just that and scared off its audience with its egregious DLC list.
Image courtesy of a deleted user via Reddit on r/EvolveGame
The confusing DLC schemes it had, as well as the many versions of it on sale, only served to drive away potential customers. While it did try to cling to life with a rerelease, it sadly didn’t help. All that’s left of Evolve’s legacy is the memory of a good game that was never allowed to reach its true potential.
4) Strict deadlines
The problem of deadlines is ever-present, and while it’s frustrating to have your development time cut short, it’s best to work around it when possible. Deadlines are more than just a way for your publisher/audience to pressure you. It gives players an idea of when your game is releasing and helps pace your team’s efforts in developing and marketing your game. At the end of the day, you don’t want your game to release in an early, unfinished state. Likewise, a game never does well if it gets stuck in development hell. Learn to pace your team accordingly, and set a realistic deadline you’re sure to meet.
Image courtesy of Tim Gouw via Unsplash
Also, remember that it’s best not to set your release dates next to other high-profile games. Your potential audience only has so much time and money to spend at any one point. Releasing next to big games might make your potential audience choose to buy another game instead. EA’s fantastic Titanfall 2 is the core example of a good game sandwiched between the titanic franchises of Activision-Blizzard’s Call of Duty and EA’s own Battlefield. A Forbes article notes just how out-of-touch EA executives felt and how Titanfall 2 never had the chance it deserved when put up against such powerhouse gaming titles.
5) Bugs, glitches, and exploits
Lastly, when your game is actually released, be sure to set aside some time for bug-fixing. Your QA team will do the bulk of it, but your audience will naturally find issues needing patching. Be sure to get right on it and have your teams ready to patch any issues that may arise.
Image courtesy of James Harrison via Unsplash
It might be tempting to delay these bug fixes but don't. Nothing kills a fanbase faster than slow patching. Your audience might think that you're abandoning their game. While it’s normal for games to have issues on launch, it's up to you as a game developer to keep on top of these. Your audience will love you for it.
These are just some of the more common issues that arise during game development. There are plenty of different issues still waiting to be discussed. If you’re interested in learning more, be sure to join our Discord, and we’ll tell you all about them. Remember to subscribe to our newsletter as well. We’re more than eager to keep you up-to-date on the latest game development tips and tricks through these platforms.
This article was written by Alexander Cuaycong.