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When I'm creating games, I really love the coding part -- designing, developing the main functionality and "core" part of the game. However, most of my games are reasonably small/easy in terms of coding, but require a lot of content -- whether graphics, levels, sounds, puzzles, story narrative, etc.

I find development speeds through the coding parts, but nearly halts when it comes to content creation -- it's tough, sometimes boring work.

What can I do to make content creation quicker and more interesting/fun? I'm already integrating content into a working game, and building/using tools as much as possible to quickly assemble my content.

Edit: my question is not about learning any particular labor-/time-intensive skills like drawing assets or picking out sound effects; it's about that psychological hurdle when you have to just sit down and grind out the rest of your game, even if it's not the most fun thing in the world to do.

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6 Answers 6

If making levels and puzzles bores you, then perhaps you should stick to being a programmer and stop making games. Level and puzzle design is the very meat of game design. It is what separates a good game from a crappy game.

If that's not enjoyable to you, then you need a new profession.

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Your answer doesn't really cater to my question. If I was not interested in game development, I wouldn't have developed games over almost 20 years. –  ashes999 Aug 30 '11 at 23:40
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This is no discussion board, but I still have to say that Nicol Bolas is exactly right. You should spend a lot of time creating levels, puzzles, story or whatever, not try to avoid it. The only way to circumvent it is by using a lot of stuff that can be generated procedurally. The best games are finely crafted worlds with clever level design, deep story including seemingly meaningless background information on the universe, or whatever else is relevant to your game (like Deux Ex, for example) or sandboxy games with a good amount of rich gameplay (like basically all good RPGs). –  TravisG Aug 31 '11 at 0:06
    
@heishe you have missed the point completely. I am not interested in circumventing it; I am interested in doing it better and quicker. –  ashes999 Aug 31 '11 at 0:15
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I agree with @heishe, though. Or at least, with the idea behind what he's saying. Focus on making games that don't require a ton of content creation. Something like Dwarf Fortress or nethack are almost entirely about the programming side, and very little about the art or level design side, and the Sim City games had lots of art, but everything else was focused on programming a city simulation. –  thedaian Aug 31 '11 at 0:29
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@thedaian I concur. It would be great if you could make this an answer. –  ashes999 Aug 31 '11 at 0:45

This really wont help make it fun, but what about using free assets you can find online?

Where can I find free sprites and images?
Where can I find free music for my game?
For making levels, what if you could generate them via code? This wont work for all types, for it does for some games.

If you just can't stay motivated through it, what about paying someone to do it, or teaming up with somebody? For me, I do all the coding and a good fried of mine does the art, story line, etc...

What about breaking it up into more manageable pieces? Maybe tell yourself you will do 2-3 levels per week, and if it takes you 3-4 weeks to do them so be it. At least you finished! I find this helps me a lot on mundane programming tasks.

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I already do this to accelerate my development, including paying someone for the really hard stuff (like pretty title-screens). My question is more about getting over the psychological barrier of "aw man, gotta do X more levels," for example, which is not as interesting as the development work. –  ashes999 Aug 30 '11 at 23:42
    
updated the answer. –  Joe Aug 31 '11 at 1:35
    
Okay, it's decent. Thanks. I'm doing this already -- two weeks prints (iterations) per game. –  ashes999 Aug 31 '11 at 2:24

I always come across this blocker when I'm making games, particularly graphics, sound and music, so I'm going to focus this answer on graphics, sound, and music.

Finding art or an artist has been hard for me. Then Google Sketchup came along and changed the playing field for me (at least on the graphics front). There are thousands, if not millions of models that you can use for free from Google's 3D Warehouse. All of the models on Google Sketchup can be used for non-commercial purposes:

"For the avoidance of doubt, you may modify, distribute, and create derivative works of Content uploaded by other users in 3D Warehouse" - http://sketchup.google.com/intl/en/3dwh/tos.html

FYI: I try to contact all of the modellers, thank them for their wonderful work, and tell them where I will be using it. I'd recommend you do the same.

Now... you may be thinking: "But I might want to make money one day!". And that brings me to my next point:

My game is presently free and open-source. This lets me use free resources like Google Sketchup and open-source music and sound clips. There are significantly fewer restrictions on content that you find if your project is open-source (or strictly closed source among you and your friends).

If I get to a point where I think my game is pretty awesome and I want to start selling it, all I have to do is freeze the open-source portion of the project (yes, sorry guys), pay an artist or two to change all the art & sound, add some new features to make it "better" than the free version, and away I go.

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Excellent answer. But what about broader content creation -- story, scenes, dialogue, levels, and so on? –  ashes999 Aug 30 '11 at 23:57
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@ashes999: To be perfectly honest, I have no clue. I have avoided games like RPGs for those very reasons. –  John McDonald Aug 31 '11 at 0:53
up vote 8 down vote accepted

There's a great post on Zen Habits about this. If you can force yourself to sit down and work on whatever it is, even if just for 5-10 minutes, that will break your barriers and get you moving on your project.

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+1 I've found that in myself in the past. Once you have the solution open, and you force yourself to make a minor change, or add some more comments, it can get you right back into it. –  John McDonald Aug 31 '11 at 1:03

Perhaps you can attempt to create textures and sound through programming? Via procedural textures, Generative music and dynamically composing sound, you could not only create a style that's specific to your games, but "program your art". Seems like that's the best way to program AND create content.

You can always use the procedural content as a starting point too. Have your code create a level, and you can fill in the details.

Clearly this totally depends on the type of games you make, but I'm sure it could make some of the more tedious aspects more enjoyable.

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PCG is great, but doesn't handle motivation and content creation like levels. –  ashes999 Aug 31 '11 at 2:25
    
I don't really do RPGs, but wouldn't it be possible to create levels programatically, too? As for the rest, you may have to slice and dice the problem and tackle different parts using differrent strategies. –  Kramii Sep 1 '11 at 6:16

When all else fails, there's always the option of finding a partner who is interested in content creation. If you have friends that play the type of game you're making perhaps one of them is interested.

Game enthusiasts who aren't necessarily programmers are likely your best bet. It doesn't even have to be people who've worked with game creation, many people with a deep love of games have the potential to create great content depending on their other talents (e.g. a writer, artist, someone who really loves puzzles, etc).

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