Friday, 17 January 2014

Rapid Game Prototyping

The following post features a collection of key theory alongside personal tips for prototyping games in a short time frame - specifically to be applied into a competitive game jam environment. This purpose of this this post is to further enhance my understanding of rapid prototyping approaches and related theories.

Rapid Game Prototyping - The art of building a game artifact in a short time frame either as individual or within a team.

Why You Should Care?

The art/practice of rapid prototyping has not only enhanced my ability to design games but has been a vital part of my personal growth - its valuable experience that every designer needs to experience. "It is widely understood that rapid prototyping is crucial for quality game development" (Shell 2008)

State of Mind

Building a rapid-prototype game can be immensely satisfying - it will enable you to focus; grow as an individual, gets people talking about your work and justifies your ruthless passion for making games. Above all, it's always so much fun! My enjoyment in playing games has been overshadowed in my enjoyment for making games really fast.

Working under a tight time frame can be tough, it definitely requires a very specific state of mind. "Rapid prototyping is more than just a useful tool in pre-production – it can be a way of life!" (Gabler 2005). You very much have to get out of the 'feature-creeping development mode' mindset. Be willing and open to the idea of throwing things away and wasting time. Let go of the idea of perfection and details. 

"Embrace the possibility of failure" (Gabler 2005) It is crucial that you embrace failure, it means that taking risks is encouraged and taking risks can make for creative innovation. I have failed a number of times in creating various prototypes (Crazy Climber Chris, MiniLD #48 concept) but they stand out as some of the prototypes that I have learnt the most from. The most challenging thing about failure is to not become too demoralised/unmotivated by the experience. Failure is a crucial as a part of success - view each failed prototype as a stepping stone to the next failed prototype. Be sure to document your failures, why they occurred, what you learnt and how you can resolve similar problems in your future projects.

Find The Core

You have to discover the essence of your game prototype, once you have found it separate it from all its supporting elements. An essence can be an emotional experience, a theme, a gameplay mechanic, an art style, a setting or scene. Give yourself enough time to explore the essence of your game. This should be a priority above coding/implementing features, designing levels or producing gorgeous artwork.


Done make the game bigger than it needs to be, otherwise you may find yourself walking into a predictable failure. Be thoughtful of the scope of your idea, it's essential that you prioritise both you and your team members work flow. Adapt creatively, change the plan and update the schedule. "Follow an implementation strategy, but adapt it to follow the ebbs and flow of the creative process" (Tulleken 2013)

Below is my own personal implementation priority list, feel free to follow/adapt where applicable to suit the needs of your own work flow:

1. Implement core-mechanic
2. Implement user controls
3. Implement difficult level
4. Implement easy level
5. Implement toy logic
6. Implement game logic
7. Implement AI
8. Implement feedback
9. Polish


If you ever find yourself stuck due to: bugs, level design, amount of content, tricky to implement code or undefined tricky controls - there is a number of things you can try and consider to overcome the problem.


1. Take a walk or break, grab something to eat/drink, refuel
2. Ignore bugs that are not game breaking
3. Cut out problematic features/content
4. Simplify It
5. Fake it
6. Hide it
7. Hack it


Further Reading

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