Gamedevs Should Not (Exactly) Copy My Criteria to Make a Successful Game

I don’t expect anyone to make a game that perfectly fits my model of what a good game should be and ignores everything else typically involved in making a commercial game, including me.

The reality is, my idea of what a good game is impractical and conflicting with making a popular or best selling game. I judge games and enjoy games for aspects that I would not prioritize during development, and a lot of aspects of making a successful game fall outside the scope of my work. I try to write articles incorporating this broader perspective too, because I’m interested in it, but the core of my philosophy is about making what I would consider a good game, rather than a successful one.

Of course, I still think that someone interested in designing a game should listen to me to some extent (why else would I write?). I still think that I am providing a unique and helpful perspective, but success will always be a medium between my perspective and what’s actually effective to reach and appeal to a wider audience than just me. There are certainly aspects of my writing and philosophy which overlap with general success, but the line is always going to be up to the developer, and it’s never going to be completely clear.

I don’t care about art quality. I like Slap City better than Rivals of Aether, or Smash Ultimate, even though people tell me Slap City is ugly. However making a good looking game has a very high return on investment, even if the game is ultimately bad.

I care about focusing very hard on a model of gameplay where all the elements you build can interact in the same space at the same time, rather than segmenting them off into their own game modes, even when different gameplay styles may create a more broad appeal for a game.

I don’t tend to reward a game for performing well on UX, such as avoiding unskippable cutscenes, having clear and understandable menus, or pacing itself well to avoid exhaustion. These are issues I care about, but they don’t tend to factor in nearly as much as a single-minded focus on depth. Hence, Ittle Dew, which has SUPERB UX, was a game I liked a lot, but only gave a 6/10.

Of course, I imagine that one of my strengths is also that I acknowledge my and my model’s limitations, so you can understand my perspective, and correct for it as necessary.

In making a game for myself, I would invest in compelling graphics and story, despite my analysis on this blog almost completely ignoring those factors. I do buy into the Naughtydog idea that visuals attract attention easily, story medium, and systems the least, while holding attention the strongest of the 3, even if it’s the opposite for myself. A mixed approach is a clear winner sales and popularity-wise, even if my personal ambition is for the best gameplay I can deliver. Being a purist is fine as a critic or connoisseur, but as an artist or developer, it’s a weakness. If a game can’t find its audience, then the best gameplay in the world goes to waste.

2 thoughts on “Gamedevs Should Not (Exactly) Copy My Criteria to Make a Successful Game

  1. dwarfplayer June 18, 2020 / 7:06 pm

    That makes 100% of sense. I often need to work with something similar in my area (arts/storytelling/games), where I have an ”ideal” of what should be done but ends up always constraining myself. I need to take into consideration time avaliable and the developers desires (I cant obligate a fan of JRPG to eliminate an anime style). With well known or more experienced clients it is easier to get into a better shape, but often times we need to constrain ourselves, and to be fair, I consider this to be a very fun part of the job.


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