Past two game projects that Headshot Labs has attempted, have made me think about an important issue. How to verify that you are developing the right thing without building the full game and releasing it. What is the process of cost-effectively making games as business? Is lean game development the answer?
I see a big tendency among game developers to start with a prototype to “test out a game idea”. Prototype will not be scrapped, despite sucking, but instead polished, new features will be added etc. It never feels like the prototype is quite ready yet. It always has something missing from what you imagine the finished product to have. No matter where you start from, you can always make it a good game, given enough time. This process leads to a dead end. There is no way of knowing for sure if improvements creates any real value for the customer. Or if the thing you are improving is worth improving at all. A lot of betting without knowing the odds of winning – not a way to beat a game.
After a lot of googling, soul-searching, game pitching contests, sleepless nights and talking to people, I’ve come to conclusion that there are few essential components for successfully making games in addition to the development efforts. Probably there are more, but at least I have a much better direction now.
Unique Selling Point
I feel like there are many names for the same concept. Entrepreneurs call it value hypothesis, media people call it USP, game designers call it game values. If not exactly the same, at least deeply intertwined. Looking from each perspective, it reflects the same thing. Put simply it is the problem that you are solving for a player, who might or might not be aware of the existence of the problem. It may be the need of living through a certain fantasy, it might be a more convenient way for playing, it can be a lot of things, but it needs to be important enough to pay money for it.
Recently had a discussion with Antti Kirjavainen, the author of this fantastic article. Explained him my struggle with the search of a better process for creating games and he led me to a book called “The Lean Startup”. Exactly what I needed. I had a rough understanding of what it means to “be lean”, but now it is actually starting to make sense how to apply it to game development. Looking around, I see that every successful game company seems to be doing it in some way or another. After all, lean is all about maximizing the value and minimizing the cost. Which is just a fancy word to describe how effective economy should work.