Prototyping for Fun And Profit...
So here we are, ready to start development of our first game. We have the time, the resources, and the game idea itself. Where do we start?
Since both Charles and I are tech guys, we knew we could implement our game idea without any problem and make it sing and dance at a silky-smooth 60 fps. But would it be fun? Now that we have these brand-new designer hats, finding that always elusive fun factor is a big concern. The idea of waiting for a couple of months before we could tell if our game idea was fun seemed too risky, so we tackled that problem first and head-on by prototyping.
We could start at the bottom, write some low-level input handling, some graphics rendering, a basic asset pipeline, and all the other usual suspects. The problem is that, even if we try to keep things as simple as possible, it would still be several weeks or even months before we can actually start implementing the game itself. And even when we do, we'll always be running up against incomplete technology and having to spend time fleshing it out as we try to make a game come out of the other end.
Instead, we decided to start with a prototype. This isn't supposed to be a "prototype" that eventually morphs into a shipping game, or a prototype that uses the same technology as the production code, or even a prototype that's used to impress the big-wigs to squeeze some money out of them (ha!). No, all that stuff detracts from the ultimate goal of our prototype. Our approach was very similar to what Chris Hecker and Chaim Gingold described in their GDC presentation. We had the need to answer one very specific question: "Is our game idea fun?" And we wanted the answer as quickly and cheaply as possible. Everything else was secondary.