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I and a couple of friends are doing a game on our spare time and we've finished about 80% of the game.. so all the obvious stuff and core mechanincs. We've done a couple of games before and we always have problems finishing.

The problem isn't that we're not passionate enough about the game, it's rather that no one of us sees those last details that need to be added, we've become blind somehow with the game. It's really frustrating. It can be stuff like.. "maybe we should have a pause function?" "Uhh, yeah, of course, why didn't we think of that earlier?"

Sometimes even though it takes a long time to realise the need, afterwards it's really obvious that it needed to be done/added.

Do you use any kind of checklist to force a finish or do you rely on your keen senses to know when it's done?

A checklist would be nice to have when estimating project time as well..

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If you intend to make a list, your questions should be marked Community Wiki. –  Noctrine Aug 1 '10 at 15:00
    
Converted to wiki –  Sean James Aug 2 '10 at 1:41
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7 Answers 7

Get Testers. (Though this might not be a direct answer to the question)

Really, asking for a checklist is imo too game/genre specific as it could be answered in such a generic way. However, I do recommend getting as many testers as possible and as much feedback as possible.

It is actually completely normal (imo) for a developer to somehow overlook completely simple but neccessary stuff for your games; testers on the other hand will most likely notice such things right away (at least that's what I have experienced).

So anyways, as for a rough sketch for a "checklist" (though I hope you understand as to why asking for a checklist with this few information is kinda pointless).

  • Polish. Even as a developer you will always notice if somthing is missing, because it just feels wrong. Though it's not always the important stuff, you can get your atmosphere right by polishing your game.
  • Is your game user-friendly? Can you abort your actions? Maybe even do some stuff via keyboard? Do your on settings?
  • Overall feeling. Does your stuff fit together? Gameplay, atmosphere, etc.
  • Help. Do you provide easy ways for the player to look up stuff, how something works, what he has to do (your current mission, objective, quest, pick something...). Can he see/read what exactly his skills/units/power ups do?

Though, as you may see in my list, it really is very genre and game specific.

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This is probably the only way I could see this question being answered reasonably. Without degrading into a list atleast. I think that having an objective third party (or collection of them) review your work is one of the most important things you should do. –  Noctrine Jul 30 '10 at 13:36
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Yeah I realise this is the way to go. I was looking for the non-existent easy way out. Thanks for keeping me on track. –  Phil Jul 30 '10 at 13:47
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You say this isn't a direct answer, but I disagree; it is the MOST direct answer to the question. –  Ian Schreiber Jul 30 '10 at 20:15
    
I forgot to mention, the list you wrote is exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for when asking. I believe the only "checklist" would be a very generic one but still very useful as every game would benefit from it. –  Phil Aug 1 '10 at 13:09
    
Really do have to have testers. Game, commercial app, book, whatever it is the author will always glaze over details. You are too familiar with the system. Now, the question really is, when are you ready for the testers? :) –  ManiacZX Aug 2 '10 at 9:05
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I think my checklist would be:

  • Is it fun?
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Although you were downvoted, you do have a good point. Lots of games are polished till they shine but they forgot to be fun. On the other end of the spectrum there are games that are barely finished but are runaway hits because they're fun (linerider anyone?). Of course, fun AND finished is what you should aim for. But you are right, you can polish a pile of sh!t till you drop - it'll always smell. –  Kaj Jul 31 '10 at 4:50
    
@Kaj, agreed. I heard of one development team (for a "AAA" game) who had the project lead say something along the lines of "Lets just get this finished, we'll put the fun in later". Unsurprisingly the game failed to do well even though all the "i's" were dotted and all the "t's" crossed. –  Grant Peters Aug 4 '10 at 10:22
    
I upvoted this as well - this is in my opinion the single most important check on the list: is it fun? Too many games today are just incredibly boring and not fun at all. Technically impressive? Yes. Fun? No. Innovative? Hardly. –  jacmoe Aug 7 '10 at 23:34
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I second testers. Serious testers. Log the bugs and missing features properly and handle them in priority order. Regression-test your resolved bugs so you don't re-break things.

Also, set yourself deadlines: sometimes you just need to stop. Set a date for feature-complete, then set a date for release. Don't be tempted to squeeze features in after you've gone feature-complete, no matter how amazing they will be. This is not a polish phase, it's for bug fixing.

And remember that last 20% normally takes 80% of the time.

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As they say: in game development the remaining 10% is where 90% of the time is spent.

The closer you get to the end of the game the harder it is to make a checklist (and the longer it's going to be). The crucial part is taking a step back, look at your project, find everything you can right now which is absolutely essential to get the game out, and work only on that. Write down everything else as notes. Then get it done and get it out there.

You're making an Indie game (I suppose), so no one is going to expect it to be 100% perfect. The important bit is to get it out there. Then collect the feedback, and make updates.

I think the core of your problem may be that, like many other Indie/Hobby developers, you probably didn't do much planning ahead of time. Issues such as "Oh, we need a pause button" are a sure sign of it. If the obvious things have slipped your collective minds, you haven't done a real good round of sitting back and writing down all the things you need to get done. Use as many related games for reference as you can while doing so.

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You are absolutely right. We did not do any ahead planning at all. To us, that's the most difficult part. We had a great idea that would be fun and instantly started coding and just made up the rules along the way. I would like to break this habit but don't know how really. –  Phil Aug 1 '10 at 13:11
    
An easy way to break the habit is to write a design doc (gamasutra.com/view/feature/3384/…). If you actually put in the effort, it makes sure everyone is on the same page and you actually know what you are going to do (though don't treat it like its set in stone, if something doesn't work out how you expect, go back and revise the doc) –  Grant Peters Aug 4 '10 at 10:19
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Some other "end-game" bits that people generally overlook: installer (use NSIS), error reporting/bug reporting, menus, dealing with low-quality networks (if it is a multiplayer game), cheating, game updates.

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In terms of making sure your game is polished, checking out what other AAA games do is always a good idea - you can get a lot of checklist items just from observing one really well put together game.

In terms of making sure your game is solid and you're ready to ship on your target platform, there are certification checklists out there for each platform. Many of the console developers have to meet such a platform specific checklist; Sony has the Technical Requirements Checklist (TRC), Microsoft has the Technical Certification Requirements (TCR) and Nintendo have their own process. Unfortunately, not a lot of this console checklist information is public without becoming a registered developer, signing NDAs etc.

Here are the requirements to meet "Games for Windows" certification, which are public:

In fact there are tons more of these kinds of articles from MSFT. A lot of this is dry and probably a bit silly, but some it contains really good advice:

Microsoft also hosts a conference every year called Gamefest. The Gamefest presentations cover a LOT of certification issues, but sadly you need to be a registered developer with an xds account to access them:

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You might want to start using bug/issue tracking software. This will help coordinate your efforts and give you a place to add tasks (e.g. "Add pause feature") as you think of them so that they aren't forgotten. If you identify an issue that you think is common to most games, add it to a list (maybe in a wiki) so you'll have a reference for next time.

Two (free!) examples of issue tracking software: Redmine and Trac.

Joel Spolsky has some helpful thoughts on this as well.

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