What NOT to Do When Making Games

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered some of the best strategies to use when making games, but what about the ones you should avoid?

If you want to succeed in game development, it’s equally important to know what NOT to do. Below is our list of the most common game dev mistakes that you should avoid if you want to be successful at making games.

Trying To Do It All

Taking on too much and trying to do it all is a frequent mistake that indie developers tend to make. Don’t get stuck on the false concept that since you’re an indie, you have to do it all or build everything from scratch. That’s not what being indie means. Being indie just means you’re making games without a large team and financial support from outside sources.

Think about it this way, when you’re an indie developer you’re a small business, an entrepreneur. And like any other business, you don’t have to do it all. If you try you’ll find yourself quickly becoming overwhelmed, falling behind, and on the brink of giving up. Avoid falling prey to this common pitfall.

When you’re making games, you have to map out a plan for yourself. Consider what tasks you’re capable of doing and the ones that are above your skill level. Then set a deadline for when you want to have your game completed. Be realistic and weigh out your options using that timeline. If coding and programming are a skill that you lack then consider using codeless software like Buildbox or any other tool that can help you get the job done. You can also hire a coder or programmer from outsourcing websites like Freelancer or Upwork.

Do you need game art? If making your own isn’t an option look into sites like Game Art 2D, GameDev Market, or Graphic River to purchase art. Another option is to hire an artist from an outsourcing site to do it for you. You can even hire a virtual assistant to help you with small tasks that need to get done. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it either. Post on forums and get input from other developers. You can also enlist the help of friends and family members with the development of your game as well.

Remember, trying to do it all will only slow down your progress. You’re not Superman or Wonder Woman; you are human. Most likely, you’re going to need some help. Think about your budget and consider your skill level and time restraints. Try to learn what’s necessary, do what you can, and outsource the rest.

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Skimping on the Art

Don’t skimp on the art in your game. This mistake is a game killer. Poor graphics or using low-quality art to cut corners and reduce costs will only hurt your game. Your game’s art is the first thing potential players and critics see. They use their first impression of the app to determine whether or not they’re going to give it a try. If you skimp on the art in your game, your game will look unprofessional and very low quality. Players will quickly dismiss your app and never download it. Don’t let this happen. Remember your art is just as important as your gameplay. It helps sell your game.

Examine your game and ask yourself, “Does my game’s graphics look as good as some of the top games in the same category in the top charts?” If the answer is no, then you need to create, buy or hire someone else to make better game art for you. We have an in-depth article on called, ‘How to Make Game Art’ with some great tips and list of game art asset sites that you can use that’s worth checking out.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a graphic artist to make your game art. Buildbox founder, Trey Smith, used the tool Pixelmator to create all of the art for his hit game Phases. There are tons of different free tutorials online that you can use to learn how to make your game art and graphics.

Creating Clones

It may seem like a good idea at first, but making games that are clones is a BIG mistake and HUGE waste of time. There’s no real retention or value in creating clones, plus if you get flagged, there could be some legal ramifications involved as well. Making games that are knock-off versions of other games is just bad business in general.

If you want to be successful, your game must be unique but familiar. Don’t copy. Aim to make a better version of a trending game instead of a clone. Each game that you create should have something special or different about it. When you’re making games the secret is to use a proven game mechanic but present it in a new exciting way. With this method, you’re able to create a unique game that also feels familiar to players.

Using the ‘model and improve’ method when you’re brainstorming game concepts will help you come up with great game ideas. Research the top trending games in your selected category or genre and study all of the games from independent developers. Download, play them and analyze all of the different elements. Investigate and find out what’s working and what’s not in each game. Then try to come up with new ways to change or improve on each aspect in the game. Use those concepts to form an entirely new game that’s unique but based on the same winning format.

Making Games Without a Landing Page

Every game should have an official website or landing page to call its own. Making games without a homebase will put your app at a severe disadvantage. Avoid making this mistake. You need a website for your game to make it easier for fans of your game, potential new players, and press to find and contact you. Having a nice landing page will provide you with a platform to promote your app, announce updates, capture emails, and build a whole tribe around your game. In today’s high-tech world, a site for your game is a necessity.

You can create your site using platforms like WordPress, Wix, Blogger, Leadpages, Unbounce. Always include eye-catching screenshots of your game, gameplay video, and a method to capture emails. Which will give you a way to contact people interested in your game and send updates or invites.

If you don’t have the time or lack the skill to make your site, you can hire someone on an outsourcing site to create it for you. Try to set up your website during the early stages of game development, so you can use it to help promote your game throughout the entire process.

Make sure your game has a site or platform that you can use to communicate with others directly. But don’t stop there, go beyond that. Get active in the gaming community and social media platforms as well. Network, socialize and connect with others to help build a following for your game.

Promoting Post Launch

Another game dev mistake we see often is waiting until the launch of the game to start promoting. To avoid making this blunder, start promoting your game early. Your marketing should start as soon as the development of your game begins, not when it’s finished. Create your app launch strategy early so you can get the buzz going way before it’s time to release your game. Always be promoting.

There are dozens of different ways that you can market your app. You can blog about your game on your website or create a developer blog to document the making of your game. Post teasers and sneak peeks of your game on social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook. Post YouTube videos to promote your game. Show gameplay footage or VLOG a day in development. Just remember to start early. The earlier you start, the better your odds will be for success.

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Impromptu Game Development

Winging it or ‘impromptu’ game development is another mistake to avoid like the plague. When you’re making games, it’s critical that you have a game plan. Don’t jump in and start making games without having a concept in mind. Try to come up with at least three concepts before you start creating your game. When you have multiple ideas it’s easier to pinpoint the best game design. Options can also prevent you from getting stuck on a particular idea that’s simply not working. When game creators try to wing it, they often find themselves lost. It’s important to avoid this and hit the ground running, as the saying goes, without any major stumbling blocks. Research is paramount. It’s essential that you know what’s trending and what games are dominating the charts. Having this type of information at your disposal will help lead you towards success.

Browse through the top charts in the platform of your choice. Jot down anything that stands out to you. Read the game’s description, check out the reviews and comments. Google the game and its developers. Dig deep and find out what they’re doing that’s working so well. Also look for the mistakes that they’ve made. Use research tools like Google Trends or App Annie and discover all you can to help you create your strategic plan.

When you’re making games, always take the necessary time to do some research and create a plan for your game project.

Not Testing

Testing is an essential part of game design. However, many indie developers neglect to test their game before releasing it properly. Testing your game is important. It’s the only way you can find out if there are any obvious bugs, errors or major issues within your game. Also without testing it’s difficult to tell whether or not your gameplay is balanced. Balanced gameplay is crucial for success. You want your game to be in the middle when it comes to difficulty. It shouldn’t be too easy to the point where it’s a bore, but it shouldn’t be so hard to beat that it’s frustrating either. Testing allows you to gain valuable feedback on where your game stands on all three of these aspects.

Try to test your game using beta testers. They provide the best feedback. You can use beta tester sites or find testers on your own in gaming forums and game dev communities. Friends and family members can also help with testing. Gaining feedback from testing is critical when you’re making games. Try to get as much feedback as you can and make any changes you need before you launch your game.

Publishing Too Soon

Rushing during the development process and releasing a game before it’s ready, is a common mistake among indie developers. A game that has not been polished is a game that’s not quite finished. Never publish an unpolished game. Adding polish is an important final step to take before you present your game to the world.

Polish is a term frequently used in game development that refers to the overall quality of a game. It’s consistency and cohesiveness throughout your game. A polished game is free from errors and bugs. It has unique features that make the players’ experience more enjoyable. From the art style, UI, and controls, all the way down to the core mechanics, everything is cohesive within a polished game.

To add polish, you must first review your game. Pay close attention and look for any small details or aspects of the game that if tweaked could help improve the game’s overall quality. Polish can range from adding better characters, enhancing sound effects, additional features, color themes, button functions or placements to fixing unwanted errors. Any improvement small or large that you can do to make your game visually or gameplay-wise better will add polish.

Remember, don’t make the mistake of publishing your game too soon. Take the necessary time to sit down and examine your game. Look for any minor details that you could improve on. Also, use your feedback from beta testing to help you find weak areas in your game. Make the required changes, re-test, and review again. Repeat until your game is polished.

Going Big, Then Going Home

There’s a saying that goes, “Go big or go home.” Unfortunately, too many new game creators apply this when making games. They make these big overly ambitious plans to make this complicated game. Put all their time and effort into it. Then when they hit a roadblock or get burnout they just give up. Avoid making this mistake. When your’e making games, it’s important to keep in mind that you can always make more games. Don’t try to stuff every good idea that you’ve ever had into a single game.

Pick a game category, do your research, and decide on a game concept that will work well with your vision. When you have new ideas or features that come into play, write it down and save it for your next game. This is extremely important to do when you’re new to making games. Start small and go from there. You can work your way up to bigger and more complex game projects when you gain more experience.

To prevent burnout schedule specific times to work on your game. Try to stick to your plan as much as you can. If you’re starting to get frustrated or mentally exhausted, then take a break. Stretch, listen to music, go for a walk, watch a movie, meditate, play a game, do whatever you enjoy doing that helps you relax. Then come back to the issue or problem later with a fresh perspective. Sometimes you may need more than 30 minutes to 2 hours. Maybe you’re at a point during your game development process where you’re not sure which direction to take or have some higher priority things that you need to attend to and juggling both is taking a toll. If so, take a scheduled extended break.

Give yourself a week or whatever amount of time you need to step away from the project and clear your head. Set a reminder on your phone and calendar and schedule the day and time when you’re going to start back on your project. Don’t be afraid to take a break when you need one and step away for a bit. It’s better to take a brief break than to throw in the towel and give up completely. Never give up. Great things take time.

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Neglecting Previous Games

Lastly, don’t forget about your previous games. Remember when you’re making games, the development process is never over. You should always strive to improve and update each of your games on a consistent basis. Neglecting your previous games is a small mistake that can have big consequences later down the line. When you neglect to update, fix errors or bugs, add new levels, characters, or even features to your game your overall player engagement will steadily decline. You’ll lose players consistently over time, resulting in poor retention and less than desirable revenue.

Updates help you establish a loyal fan base. They prove to your players that you’re serious about your game. And that you also care about the player’s experience enough to maintain it. All of the successful games update on a consistent basis. So, it’s wise to do the same. Try to schedule regular updates at least once a month, even if it’s just to address a few bugs. Also make time to do significant updates introducing new levels, characters, items or game modes. This can be done monthly or every couple of months to help keep your game fresh and fun.  

You can also use updates to promote your game continually. Supercell’s Clash of Clans does an excellent job of this. They’re constantly updating their game and promoting each new update with teaser videos, announcements and more. It’s a great strategy. Another way to make the most of your updates is to utilize the release notes section for your game. Avoid writing the standard ‘Minor Bug Fixes’ or ‘New Game Mode.’ Instead get creative. Try to get people excited about your latest update. Tell them about the cool new characters and surprises. Updates are important to keep your game alive. Be persistent and make time to schedule them regularly.

Remember, when you’re making games, what you don’t do or neglect to do can hurt your success.

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.

14 Comments

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

  • Nice article. It is great to read a positive or at least constructive article for a change. To many recently have been about the downside of the industry and very negative. It is realistic, for the most part, which we all understand but its not terribly helpful and very depressing to constantly read about. So again thank you for at least trying to stay positive and give some constructive ideas to increase those small odds we all face. If you have time please check us out and let us know how we are doing :) Will be looking forward to reading more from you guys.

    seedsofmagic.com

  • Great article. I appreciate it that you went into depth of each thing which seems so common and simple to us all, yet when we start to work at it, we totally ignored them. Including art design, trying to cut corners and thinking people will like your game (which you yourself weren’t even sure you will want to play it!).

  • Alan says:

    Great article. Thanks Tiana,
    Working on an app to play a board game that I came up with over 30 years ago.
    I first wrote it for the Amiga in C++. Now ported to C#.
    Hardest part is to make it play at different levels of skill. I can make it unbeatable or really dumb, but something in the middle is harder.

    This is my first commercial game. I hope it’s possible to make some money on this style of game.
    Will try to market it to Asian Markets.

  • F. Sin says:

    Great article!
    (I´m from Brazil by the way, working on my first game) ;)

    • Tiana Crump says:

      Thanks! :) That’s awesome hope it’s a BIG success!

      • F. Sin says:

        Thanks Tiana!
        I´m trying to create a fun 2d platformer game, but with some (actually many) replayability factors.
        It will be focused in Boss Battles (and Secret Bosses, fight them all to have a Special Final Boss Fight and an extended ending/storyline).
        Also, enemies and bosses have variations (like a lottery – with Alpha, Beta or Omega versions (with different attacks and difficult), so every time you play, you will never play the exactly same game again. Since you might fight different versions of the same boss, to fight the secret bosses will be really challenging (just defeat the regular boss with full health).
        Many stages (not all) also will be made of some small parts that makes a complete stage, but these also will have 3 versions.
        For example, the first stage might actually be made of parts 1C 2B 3C 4A 5’fixedpart’ 6A 7B 8C 9’fixedpart_boss_stage’ or but will be changed at random to other parts in another time you play the game from the beginning – the lottery is done only one time when you press start.
        And some other secrets to be released each 15 days after game is released in the game´s website. And the best part: No DLC (I´ll even put this on the trailer).
        Of course, the most important challenge is to make a working demo with all this ideas with one single stage (even with the Secret Boss and a Secret Minus World -1 ‘buggy’ stage will be there – secret stages will have special tasks to achieve, like defeat 30 frogs in Stage 1).

        • Tiana Crump says:

          Wow,sounds like it’s going to be a great game! :)

          • F. Sin says:

            Since it is my first game, I´m hoping to create a fun game with many fun ideas, but after I saw many designers talking about replayability, I thought it could be fun if you´ll never get to play the same game ever again, because it will change everytime you play it.
            And many hidden things (even a secret mascot will be hidden all stages, like a “Waldo/Carmen San Diego kind of character” that you can make appear if you complete some other tasks, in the same way you reach secret stages in this game).
            Also the idea of the alpha, beta or omega came after I saw some people doing Boss Rushes in some games without even getting hit, so I liked this idea and put in my game, but with a twist – you will never know how to deal with the bosses since they might look the same (but will be very clear wich version of the boss you will fight, with big name appearing like this Boss Tengu ‘Omega’ in the boss introduction), but they will have different behaviors/attacks based in which version they are (For example the Boss Tengu ‘Alpha’ is male, Tengu ‘Beta’ is Female and Tengu ‘Omega’ are both at the same time, but with some new attacks and even a combined attack).
            And as soon as I have the demo finished, then I´ll proceed to the next stage – making a website for the game, press release, a very cool trailer (about 1min/1min30) talking about game mechanics and a little gameplay.
            Then start working in the other stages and secrets (since there will be NO DLC, it will have many other features to act like it, but hidden in the game, everyone likes good secrets – like having a Konami Code even in some websites).

  • Noah says:

    Great write up as always Tiana! Thanks for the insight!

  • GAN says:

    Bravo! Thanks!

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