Game Development: Everything Affects Everything - Toby Woolhouse
Games Development is a profession where, more than anything else I’ve encountered, everyone’s work affects everyone else’s. I don’t just mean in the vague “Every single part of the game affects the final product” way.
I mean in the day-to-day, “The thing I’m working on will change the thing you’re working on” way.
This can be seen in obvious ways, what the designer wants the enemy to do changes what we build for it, but also in the un-obvious ways.
An artist adds some fancy new objects to the level. Now the level designers now have to go and adjust enemy placements to not be stuck inside of the environment, because those cool looking spawning animations that we just finished a week ago just happen to move the enemy through those fancy new objects, which breaks the game in the process.
Each game is made of so many moving parts and dynamic situations that we can’t account for all of them upfront. No game designer or producer could define the myriad of possible edge cases and outliers that are possible to prevent these from ever occurring. And as a result, we need to pivot and respond when these occur.
It also affects people’s work regularly. Two people will be working on tangentially related tasks, not realising that decisions they make may be clashing with each other and require one (or both of them) to re-do their work.
So how do we solve this then? How do we prevent these from happening, and mitigate for when they do occur?
Firstly, having a team of people who understand the big picture goals of the project, and how each discipline will contribute towards that is highly important. Knowing where one department’s work starts and ends is really valuable. Even better, is having team members with experience in other departments, who know where the edges of different disciplines stitch together to create a full game.
Lastly, as much as you can’t fully prevent it through planning, understanding the priorities of the final gameplay experience will help reduce the likelihood of people’s work clashing. If everyone has a clear picture of the game’s core values, they’ll have better assumptions about what the preferred outcomes of any given piece of work is, which should ensure fewer wasted efforts.