Advice: Maintaining Vision
Why is it important to have a vision for your project?
A brief look back reveals to me that I began this endeavor in the summer of 2012, and although on the surface it can appear to have gone through several evolutions, the same essential vision has always remained the same.
This is important to reflect on because I believe that the validation, support and offers of collaboration I received early in the project was to do with the vision. It must have been so, because I certainly did not have anything of value to show in those first six months. Only my enthusiastic ramblings about a monster collection video game set in a world of undead monsters, and what the player could expect to do in that world.
With projects of this length, there are many ways which the design, art, engineering, features and story change as the project progresses. Video games in particular are notoriously long projects and it can be difficult to know when to deviate from your path or stick to it. Many developers consider the essence or vision of their project to be: what experience do I want the player to have?
I built a concept of the essence of my project by choosing a genre of video game, and reflecting back on games I had played in that genre, made a list of what features and mechanics of those games I enjoyed and added to my experience, and removed features and mechanics I did not enjoy or felt interrupted my experience. This is absolutely not the only way to design a video game, but this certainly helped me settle early on about what were the fundamental elements of my video game that would almost certainly not be changing. Or if they did change, it would become an entirely new project.
Of course it is very important to be flexible. During the construction of the video game I have encountered many obstacles, and to overcome or avoid them always added or took away some small essence of the video game. But settling as early as possible on the fundamental mechanics and features of what the player will and will not be able to do, will help you steer the project with confidence when you encounter turbulence and obstacles.
This is doubly true when working in a team and ensuring everyone has the same core vision in their respective roles. For example you don't want your concept artist designing monsters with kangaroo inspired legs if you know that there will be no jumping in your game, or your programmer coding a health bar if you know that the player will die from one hit of any kind.
This also makes it a little easier to walk away from a project. If you are working on a video game, it can be easy to fall into "feature creep", constantly making changes and concessions until it is warped beyond what you had first intended. But if you have a strong vision, and find yourself bumping up against too often or in ways that make it feel compromised, it may be best to throw it out and start over. It is important to know there is nothing wrong with that decision, and that starting over can be a great positive step, even if it feels scary or like you've failed. Show yourself patience and kindness and you are more likely to make the right decisions.