Dev Blog #1 Getting Started
Hello y’all! My name is Nick, one of the producers here at Milkshed Games. This here is the first of many Dev Blogs about our work on our upcoming project, RV Punch. Every week, around Monday, a new Dev Blog will show up on the website written by one of our wonderful team members. The subject of the blog will be anything from designing a new feature to the nuances of repository management. The purpose is to introduce you to the work we are trying to do, both so you better understand what really goes into creating a video game, and so you can learn more about our wacky family over here at Milkshed. We hope you enjoy diving into this as much as we enjoyed putting this together.
RV Punch’s creation was as chaotic as could be; the result of a spontaneous brainstorming session prompted by our professor, where it was one of a hundred or so ideas on a whiteboard. We had to prototype 3 ideas, and RV Punch just barely made the cut, mainly because we enjoyed racing games and we were surprised that we hadn’t heard of this concept being explored elsewhere. So, we thought, why not give it a try?
I’m glad we did, because it ended up being a blast, both to play and create, and is the main reason we formed the studio Milkshed in the first place, but that's a whole other story. Normally, we don’t have a concept already in mind when considering our next project. Internally, we have three phases that we put into pre-production for any project: core concepting, feature description, and prototyping. We’ll be diving into the whole process today.
Core concepting is exactly what it sounds like: we take a number of hooks or concepts and try to find their core mechanic(s), and then discuss the conceptual and technical feasibility of the idea. What we look for in a concept is accessibility and reliability. Accessibility is straightforward, but reliability is a little more complicated. It’s the ability of the core mechanic to remain engaging for both a long period of time and for various situations. If the concept is not malleable enough, then we’ll be fighting it for much of the project. Once we test some ideas and find one we all like, we move onto feature description.
Feature description is the process of planning out, in a few distinct phases, the content of the full game. This includes anything and everything, from basic mechanics to the marquee pieces of content like maps, characters, and puzzles. This is a very long list, so we don’t go into everything in detail. Mainly, we hammer out the numbers of things like maps and characters. We may have high concepts for things, like locations or themes, but the specific details aren't listed. After we finish this list, we discuss what the MVP would be and then speculate on how to transition that into a full prototype.
A MVP, or minimum viable product, is the smallest “bite” of a game you can take. It should incorporate every idea that is essential to the gameplay, showcasing a small preview of the complete product. The idea is that we then build from this small prototype out into a full game. The hard part is finding that core image of the game, making sure that we don’t overshoot or undershoot it. The important thing to find is the “feel” of the game and see if it aligns with what we had in mind in the core concepting phase. If it doesn't, we revise the MVP until we find what we are looking for or if we find that the core idea doesn’t pass the rigor we need it to. If it does go through, then we go to full prototyping.
Prototyping is more an art than a science, and it takes a lot of trial and error to really find that core image of the game. Something that you cut early could turn out to be a critical piece of the equation later on, or you discover an even more fun experience hiding in the systems of the original idea. Prototyping requires revaluation and re-framing of seemingly simple, almost boring mechanics. In fact, it’s our job as game developers to use basic concepts, like movement, and elevate them into fun and compelling experiences. When we feel the prototype meets the final vision of the game, that is when we have the decision to go or not to go into full production.
In terms of how far RV Punch is in development, we are in the MVP phase. It’s been a wild time; delving into the old prototype we made back in college and seeing all the cool workarounds we did for things like physics, driving, and even getting a controller to work. We are so excited to get back to working on one of our favorite projects, and we can wait for you to see the results. Tune in next week when our artist, Dylan, talks about his work so far, and why he became an artist in the first place. Until then, have fun and stay curious.