One day, you came up with a great concept for a game. You explored every nook and cranny of this concept and researched everything: from the genre to the ambiance, from the story to the characters, from the mechanics to the features, and from the art style to the sound. So what do you do now? At this step, it’s time to prototype.
What is Prototype
Essentially, prototyping allows you to get a sense of how the object will function, how it will be designed, and how it will look in a simple, yet effective way. This means using basic objects like cubes and spheres to represent a player, an enemy, or even bullets. However, if you’re going to replace it with actual assets, why even prototype when you can skip to developing the assets and inserting it into the game?
Importance of Prototype
Even though it seems like time used to prototype can use towards the actual development of the game, there are multitude of reasons why you shouldn’t skip prototyping.
First, essentially anything you’ve worked on during prototype can be carried over to the actual development. From movement to AI to artwork, all of the work you did can be quickly and easily modified to fit the final project.
Second, it lowers the risk of wasting time during development. If an item, like a feature or a character, doesn’t work or cannot be executed properly, it’s better to get rid of it during the prototype phase and waste a few days/weeks rather than when you’re deep into development and need to go back to modify/remove said item.
Third, it prevents, or at least lowers the amount of time, one team is sitting around doing nothing while waiting for another one to complete their tasks. As a programmer, it is unwise to sit around until the art team is done with the main character to start programming. Moreover, it is unwise for the art team to wait until the logic execution is complete before they start designing enemies, characters, etc.
Fourth, as multiple teams are working together, it gives you and your group a chance to quickly create a build to allow other teams to test out their projects. Each team can communicate what they need to add, modify, or remove from the build to ensure the game can be shipped out in a timely fashion.
Lastly, it builds morale. Nothing is more devastating than working on a project only to realize something went wrong in the early stages and things need to be scraped. On the other hand, the opposite is true; if you see the game grows from a simple cube to looking like an actual game, it will help boost the your morale and confidence that you’re close to completing the game.