5 Things Never to Do When You’re Creating Games

By September 1, 2017Game Business Blog
'game dev mistakes'

What shouldn’t you do, when creating games?

After analyzing thousands of games, here at Buildbox, we’ve discovered that there are five mistakes that new game creators constantly make. Avoiding these common game design errors is important if you want to be successful in the game business.

Below are the top five things NEVER to do when you’re creating games:

Character too big

#1 Character Too Big

Making your game characters too big is one of the biggest mistakes that we see in games. It’s also an easy mistake to make, especially if you’re new to game design.

For some game developers, making game characters, large may seem like the thing to do. Maybe they’ve devoted a lot of time or money creating the perfect superhero or monster character for their game and want to show it off. Or they believe by making it larger it will make the game more fun and unique. New game creators often assume that it’s better to make their game characters big because they’re much easier for players to see.

Although these reasons make sense in theory, when you’re creating games you should never make your character too big.

Here’s why:

In game design, size matters and bigger is not always better, especially regarding character size. Your character should be small and proportionate. When you make a game with characters that are too big it’ll seriously affect the gameplay and your player’s overall experience in a negative way.

A well-designed game has balance, and when your characters are bigger than normal, it makes the game feel off. Large characters also take up large portions of the screen which distracts from the other elements of your game like cool backgrounds and obstacles. The larger your character, the more difficult it is to clear jumps, fly, or maneuver through various zones. It makes the game harder and less fun because the character is less agile. In physics based games, larger characters carry additional weight which will ultimately slow the game down.

If you make your characters larger than necessary, your game will not only look unpolished, but it’ll also look unprofessional. It’s important to remember when you’re creating games to avoid making your characters too big.

It’s best to aim to make your game characters small, especially for mobile games that will be available in the App Store or on the Google Play platform. Most of the top games have little characters. Games like Trey Smith’s Phases featured a small white ball as its main character, and it was a huge success. The game .PXL which was created by a Buildbox customer and published b Appsolute Games is another great example of how you can use small characters in your game and be very successful.

When you’re first starting out creating games, it’s always wise to use small characters. From a level design perspective, you can do much more with a smaller sized character than you can with a large one. This opens the door up to exciting possibilities. Unlike big characters, which limit what you can do you’re able to build more interesting game design concepts. It’s easier to come up with unique ways to spice up your gameplay and make levels more challenging when your characters are small. For example, you can add secret tunnels when you have smaller characters, which is very hard to do with big characters. Your game will instantly become more fun and exciting.

When you’re creating games, try to make sure your character size is correct. The earlier on during the game design process that you do this, the better. But at any time if you notice your character may be throwing your game off you should adjust its size. A good way to determine if your character is too big is to take it and impose it on a popular game like Super Mario Bros. You might be shocked by how much smaller this ideal character size is in comparison. Game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto knew what he was doing.

You can actually check your game’s character size against any popular game or classic to get a good idea of how much smaller or bigger you may need to make your character. To do so, just take your game’s screenshots and load them into an image editing software like Photoshop or Illustrator and compare it to whichever popular game you choose and adjust accordingly.

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#2 Game is Too Slow

Similar to making your characters too big, making a game too slow will also cause major problems. A lot of game creators think that making their game slower will make it easier for players, but this is far from the truth. In fact, it’s the complete opposite. A slow game makes it more difficult for players to time jumps to avoid obstacles or to move from one platform to the next.

If your game is slow, your players will quickly become frustrated and feel like they’re being cheated out of a good score. When you’re creating games, you never want your players to feel cheated. If they do, it’ll result in not only poor player retention but bad reviews as well. Your game’s gameplay should feel balanced. It shouldn’t be too easy, but it shouldn’t feel too hard either.

When you’re creating games, you want your game to be exciting to players. A game that is too slow paced will be boring, and you don’t want to bore your players. Both frustration and boredom are two of the biggest culprits for players losing interest in a game. If it’s too slow, your game will quickly turn from fun to hard and dull in 15 seconds flat.

Avoid this common mistake. Try to give your game a nice flow for good player retention. Make sure it runs smoothly. Check for slow pace or slow moving characters that could potentially put off players. Check for bugs that could be slowing your game down as well. Remember, a lag of any kind will ruin a player’s experience. So, it’s important to prevent this by making sure that your game is never too slow.

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#3 Game is Too Hard

Making your game too hard is another big mistake that we see game creators make. You should never make your game so difficult that players feel like they can’t win. We discussed this topic in-depth in our article called the 5 Secrets to Game Design. When you’re creating games, you have to find that perfect balance of difficulty, challenge, and fun. Every great game has nailed this. It’s paramount that you do the same with your game’s design.

The goal is hit somewhere in the middle, in terms of difficulty. Not too hard or too easy, which we’ll touch on more later. Although extremely hard games can be fun to some, most players find them frustrating and often feel cheated. If you’re trying to get your game published or want your game to be a hit on the charts, you should never make your game too hard.

You don’t want to build a game that’s solely at your level because as the game’s creator you’ll be better than most people at playing it. Remember, what you perceive as easy may not be for someone else. To gain a better perspective on where your game is at, you should playtest.

Playtesting is an excellent way to gain valuable feedback on your game. Have your friends, family members, co-workers or even strangers play your game and gather their input. To help gauge how hard it is, when you’re playtesting instead of asking them what they think, watch them play. Pay close attention to their facial expressions, reactions and keep track of how long they play. Did they instantly die or played through several levels? Judging by their expressions not what they said, do you think they were having fun?

Try to playtest your game on as many people as possible to help you determine how hard your game actually is.

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#4 Game is Too Easy

On the opposite spectrum, making your game too easy is also a huge mistake. When you’re creating games, and you make your game way too easy, players will quickly lose interest. Much like games that are too slow, it will feel dull and boring.

Your game has to have some challenge to be fun. There are multiple ways that you can do this, but one of simplest methods is through the use of obstacles or enemies, depending on your game’s genre. Obstacles can be in the form of spikes, rolling balls, pipes, deadly laser beams, bottomless pits, rotating platforms or anything your imagination can think up. There are endless possibilities and combinations. The same goes for enemies. It’s completely up to you what you incorporate into your game.

When you’re creating games, make sure you include various objectives and obstacles that will challenge and engage your players. Additional features like power-ups that increase speed or multiply coins are also great to add. Power-ups add a dose of excitement into the mix, which can help make your game more challenging. Players might have to jump across a pit of spikes and onto a moving platform in order to snag a cool power-up that gives them super speed. It’s all kinds of different scenarios that you can create.

If you’re having a tough time coming up with interesting gameplay ideas, do some research. When you research other games and reverse engineer them you’ll have a better idea of which direction to take your game. Choose the App Store or whichever store for the platform that you’re planning on launching your game on and pick the top popular games in that particular category.

Study the games by checking out their page, researching the developer, and playing them. Take notes as you play the game and write down anything that stands out. Pay attention to the obstacles and gameplay mechanics for ideas. Never copy. Instead, model and improve on the game’s core concept.

Modeling and improving is one of the best ways to create a game that’s unique but still familiar. The goal is to make your game challenging but not too hard nor easy, somewhere in between. Never make your game too easy.

game not polished

#5 Game is Not Polished

The fifth and final mistake that we see game creators make is not having their game polished enough before its release. A polished game is one that is not only free from errors, but every aspect of the game from the graphics and UI to the gameplay mechanics are cohesive. Unfortunately, releasing an unpolished game is frequent mistake developers tend to make. New game creators, either completely skip this process or they rush through it leaving certain areas unpolished.

This is a BIG mistake if you’re trying to make games professionally. Publishers, game reviewers, and most players prefer games that are high quality and polished. Adding polish should always be your critical final step before any launch.

So, how do you add polish to your game?

It’s easier to do than you think. To begin the process, review and play your game. While you’re doing this, look for any areas that could use improvement. If you notice the tiniest thing wrong, fix it. Check to make sure all of your images are correctly aligned, and nothing is out of place. Also, check your art style and theme to see if it’s cohesive with the rest of your game. Manage your assets to ensure your game’s file size isn’t too large to avoid a slow loading game.

During the polishing stage, testing is important. Use play testers to help catch any bugs or inconsistencies that you may have missed. Try to gain as much viable feedback as possible and use the suggestions to fix and add more polish to your game.

Always remember when you’re creating games, never to skip this essential process.

In the video above, Trey Smith goes further in detail on these five common game dev mistakes. Whether you’re new to creating games or have been making games for awhile, this 30-minute video will give you some deeper insight on exactly how you can make a game successful. Watch as he shows you how each error can significantly affect your game’s overall design and playability. Then follow along as he demonstrates different ways to correct each mistake.

If you’re creating games, then knowing how to avoid these five major mistakes is key.

For more tips, you can also check out our previous article, What NOT to Do When Making Games.

Tiana Crump

About Tiana Crump

Tiana Crump is the social media manager and staff writer for Buildbox. She's an avid game enthusiast with 5 years professional writing experience primarily focused in online, social and mobile gaming.

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