Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Capture the Essence. What IS the Game?

One of the challenges of building a video game as a project manager is trying to define the "essence" of the experience. You have to define that essence as early in the process as possible because it is going to help drive every aspect of the game for you. When there is a choice in development, you should always take the path that is most strongly tied to the essence.

For instance the essence of a game like Pac Man could be described as "collect dots and avoid ghosts." Once you have the essence, you write your game around that, which in turn generates the remainder of the features that support it.

The game's essence is inextricably linked to each part of development so that every aspect of the project melds into one. The project manager's role is to continually ensure that the game is on track and to ensure everything supports it, and continually redirect the team toward the goal as the project moves forward. When the team internalizes this behavior, the project begins to take on a life of its own. Your job, as a project manager, is to ensure that their creativity is allowed to flourish as long as deadlines are met. 

Additional features in Pac Man that support "collect dots and avoid ghosts":

  • Eating Power Pellets that allow you to eat ghosts
  • Earn additional points for eating multiple ghosts in a row
  • Enjoy mini-cut scenes that bring out the character of the ghosts
  • Collect special items at certain times
Question each of your project's features reason for being. Do they each support the main essence? If not, they gotta go. Or maybe they can be re-imagined. The choice is yours to explore.

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