The Planning Process

Just sit down and plan it.

The planning process of a game is crucial to it’s success as a completed game. Before the art, before the code, comes the concept. With so many flash games out there, it’s the concept that will make your game different from everyone else. So before you start coding all your advanced algorithms and drawing up glorious characters and enemies, set aside some time to plan your game.

In this post, I aim to help you learn how to structure your planning process and provide you with new ideas and concepts for you to include within your game to help it become a hit. While this post can be applied to mostly any kind of genre, we are going to start with a common genre; the shooting game.

What is a shooting game?

A shooting game is a genre of games in which the character’s main objective is to shoot his enemies while trying to stay alive. Kill or be killed, shooting games can be in the form of an arena type game or a level based game. Arena style games are usually focused on leveling up and purchasing new weapons. Level based games are pretty much the same thing, except you’re moving from one area to the next as you level up and purchase or unlock new weapons. For this planning process, we are going to be focusing on the level based style of game, since run and gun concepts are easily moved to arena style games.

What type of viewpoint does a shooting game use?

Boxhead Zombie Wars Shooting Game

Overhead or side view. Most shooting games work better in the overhead viewpoint because it gives the player the best vantage point to see enemies around him and lets the enemies come from all sides, instead of the mere two sides that a two sided viewpoint would give. However, other shooting games prefer the side view for exactly that reason. It simplifies the directions, lets players concentrate more on aiming or using cover, and adds a certain amount of platformer type of gameplay for variety.

Setting

The setting of a story is the time and place that it occurs. Your setting will usually determine the types of characters, enemies, and weapons that will appear in your game. For example, if your game is set in medieval times, it wouldn’t make sense to outfit the player with modern guns and armor. Here are a couple ideas you can use for your setting.

Plot

Now that you’ve picked a time period for your game, let’s give it some backstory. Plot gives your game a purpose. It is the goal your main character is fighting for. Why is he shooting people? Is he an insane maniac bent on world destruction? Perhaps he is fighting to save his love?  Regardless of the reason, give players a plot they can rally behind that really touches them and makes them want to complete the story. You can do this by revealing pieces of the plot one at a time; by completing levels the player is granted access to new pieces of the plot.

Characters

Good characters are crucial to a game’s success. They are the face of your game. People will think of them when they think of your game, not only because spent half the game staring at the same character, but because your character should relate to or inspire them on an emotional level.

I’m not saying you need hours worth of character development, but you should take into account what your character conveys to your audience. This means that the clothing he wears, the actions he takes, and even the drawing style you use for him should be in tune with mission in the game. For example, if you are on a quest for an ice cream cone, don’t make your character one of those serious, tough guy types. It just wouldn’t make sense to the player. Instead, he should be a cute, fun character that conveys the silliness of the mission he is on.

Audio

The audio part of the planning phase is just as important as the rest of your game. With great audio, players will be able to immerse themselves in your game’s world. Each well time gunshot, explosion, and sound effect will help them connect to the character within the game. However, with bad audio your game will quickly become annoying and even unplayable.

The first aspect of audio to consider are the sound effects. Since we are making a shooting game, you’re probably going to be firing and hitting enemies a lot. That accounts for a lot of sound effects, that could easily become unbearable if done wrong. To avoid this problem, you can include several sounds for each event (such as firing, hitting enemies, enemies dying, explosions, etc.) It gives your game variety and helps prevent monotony.

Speaking of explosions, try to make them appropriate for the size of the explosion being produced. You don’t want a massive booming sound for minuscule grenades. Save that sound for c4 or bombs. And if you really want to go all out on the sound effects, you could pan sounds from the left or right speakers, depending on which side of the screen they are coming from.

The second, optional audio aspect is the music department. A nice, fitting background loop from a sound designer or loops library can bring out the best in a game. For example, if your game is cutesy and fun, it probably isn’t a good idea to have a metal song in your game. Take some time looking around at different loops you could use, then pick one and please… give us the option to mute it!

Weapons

It's zombie killing time

Well, we are making a shooter aren’t we? We’re going to need a plethora of brilliant weapons. Whether you’re using ranged weapons or melee weapons, you’ll need to fit your weapons to your plot, setting, and game type. Feel free to be creative, actually that would be a plus, but don’t go overboard. Make sure the weapons could be found in the area and time period the game is set in. A soldier in WWII wouldn’t be found using a laser gun. Likewise, your character probably shouldn’t be finding a heat-seeking rocket launcher just laying there in the middle of a field.

Enemies

This is the point where you’ll be glad you decided to put so many cool weapons into your game. All the better to blow up those enemies with. We’re starting to see a pattern here, but I’ll reiterate it. Enemies should fit with the rest of the points outlined in the planning process. Why is your character fighting them? What did they do to become opponents of your main character? Do they fit into the setting?

Once you’ve got a reason to hate them, start designing your various enemy types. Give your game some variety so players don’t get bored fighting the same types of enemies over and over again. Mix it up with this list of enemy types you can choose from. If you want to get really creative, have different attacks and death scenes for each type of enemy. It’ll give your enemies some randomness and uniqueness that will keep the player guessing.

That’s it for the planning process of a shooting game. Keep these guidelines in mind when making a shooting game, but don’t feel like you can’t break them. Sometimes it takes going outside the constructs of the genre to make a truly great game.

Related posts:

  1. 10 Things to Consider when Planning a Game
  2. Sounds for Your Games
  3. Music for Your Games