C# – Personal Project Planning

c++project-managementxna

I want to design a 2D game idea with C#/XNA. Between school, project inexperience, limited resources, and other things that may cause me to bail on the project I am going to try to plan it out before I jump in:

  • What are some key aspects you've noticed in a successful personal project?

  • How did you (successfully) draw revenue the project (besides asking for donations)?
    (Note: this is not the main purpose of my project but would be nice!)

  • How do you plan non-programming aspects like window layouts (UI), flow of game, and look and feel?

  • How do you bring an abstract idea of a game and making into a real product. What tools do you use in your sketching and planning?

  • With limited resources (artistic talent and money), how do I create some of the art resources I need (besides stock art)? Or should I not worry about that until I have a finished product?

  • Finally, how do you break barriers in your code (may it be knowledge, time, or perseverance)?

Best Solution

What are some key aspects you've noticed in a successful personal project?

I suppose this largely depends on your definition of success. I consider a game project successful if:

  • It's fun. Enough that I want to play it after I've finished.
  • I learn something in the process of making it.
  • I actually complete the project, where complete is defined as having art, audio, and any other assets adequate for the style of game that I'm making.
  • It works under 'field conditions', rather than simply on my own machine/hardware configuration.

In my case, every project that I've considered successful has been one that I've done some serious planning on and committed to seeing through to completion. That's the biggest step for me to get past. A casual project that is the product of a bored weekend usually won't get finished.

How did you (successfully) draw revenue the project (besides asking for donations)? (Note: this is not the main purpose of my project but would be nice!)

Heh. Haven't managed this yet. But then, that hasn't been a concern of mine enough to do the work required to support it. Someone already mentioned the potential revenue from XBLA for XNA projects, which is a very easy avenue to success if your project is the sort of thing that translates well to the console. I've looked into it, but it isn't really appropriate for my projects so far.

How do you plan non-programming aspects like window layouts (UI), flow of game, and look and feel?

Pen. And paper. I draw a lot of screenshots as guides and I'll usually have some kind of artistic theme in mind to go along with the gameplay. Rapid prototypes help here too; everything from making mockups of menus and various screens in a drawing program to making some simple interactive stuff in a throwaway project.

Write everything down. I take lots of notes and I've been known to have a laptop with notepad open on it sitting next to my development machine, to save me the trouble of alt-tabbing away from my code to type a quick note on what I'm doing. Some great ideas come out of the process of trying to make other things work and if you don't write it down, it didn't happen.

How do you bring an abstract idea of a game and making into a real product. What tools do you use in your sketching and planning?

Work iteratively as much as possible. I hate to sound cliche, but the whole agile model works really well for games. Start with that core 'fun' idea you have that inspired you to make a game in the first place and get that working in code. Maybe it's a single mechanic that you want to build puzzles/levels around or maybe it's more of a look/feel that you can capture in a single environment/level/whatever. Either way, if you can get a single example of it working right, it becomes a good check on whether the idea is actually viable and will likely give you some ideas of the different ways it can be implemented. That might seem kind of vague, but more specific advice would depend on any number of other factors (your choice of genre, audience, the specific ideas you have in mind, etc.).

With limited resources (artistic talent and money), how do I create some of the art resources I need (besides stock art)? Or should I not worry about that until I have a finished product?

Peter Molyneux of Lionhead has said that he used to prototype all of his games with ascii art. If they were fun with that limited level of graphics, then they were worth continuing. While you might not be able to get that simple with some genres (and an ascii 3d shooter might be novel for it's own sake...), certainly worrying about finished art, audio, or other assets is something that can be saved for much later. In the end, if the game is fun to play, then getting an artist willing to work with you becomes a lot more trivial. I have, on many occasions, used copyrighted assets during my prototyping phase when I just couldn't stand to look at my own art any longer. Just be sure that you have anything like that replaced before you start distributing your project...

Finally, how do you break barriers in your code (may it be knowledge, time, or perseverance)?

Not sure exactly what you're thinking about here, but breaking barriers is what writing code is all about really. You're finding creative solutions to interesting problems. The web is a great resource for general knowledge, but in the end, it's your own time and perseverance that will create something interesting.

Best of luck.

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