Prototype, Test, Refine Game Development
The prototype-test-refine game development process is a widely used approach for creating and improving video games. It involves creating a rough prototype of the game, testing it to see how well it plays, and then refining and iterating on the prototype based on the results of the gameplay test. This process allows developers to quickly identify and fix problems with their game, as well as gather valuable feedback from players. By following this process, developers can create more engaging and polished games in a shorter amount of time.
We build tools to help implement this process and make them available on the Unity Asset Store. In this article we discuss what the process is and how you might apply it.
Phase 1: Prototyping
Creating a prototype is the first stage of the prototype-test-refine process. A prototype is a rough version of the game that is used to test the core gameplay mechanics and gather feedback. It is important to create a prototype as quickly as possible in order to begin testing and gathering feedback as early, there is little point in carefully crafting a level for a game mechanic that is not enjoyable. It is therefore important to keep the scope of the initial prototype small and focused, as this will make it easier to test and refine.
You should aim to create levels that are approximately how you expect them to be, without getting bogged down in the details. This will allow you to quickly get a sense of how the game plays and identify any problems that need to be addressed. By rapidly creating a prototype and focusing on testing the gameplay mechanics, you can get valuable feedback and begin iterating on the game as soon as possible.
Phase 2: Gameplay testing
Conducting a gameplay test is the second stage of the prototype-test-refine process. This involves getting players to try out the prototype and provide feedback on their experience. There are a number of ways to do this, including playtesting sessions, surveys, and online platforms such as itch.io.
Releasing the prototype on itch.io, possibly as part of a Game Jam, is a good way to reach potential players and gather a wide range of feedback. Itch.io is an online platform for indie game developers to distribute their games, for a fee or for free. By releasing your prototype on itch.io, you can get valuable feedback from a diverse group of players and begin iterating on the game based on their feedback.
It is important to gather as much feedback as possible during this stage, as it will help to identify any problems with the game and inform the refining process. Be sure to ask players specific questions about their experience with the game and encourage them to be honest and detailed in their responses. This will help you to get a better understanding of what is working well and what needs to be improved. By releasing the prototype on itch.io and actively seeking feedback from players, you can take the first step towards creating a polished and engaging game.
Phase 3: Refining the Prototype
The third stage of the prototype-test-refine process is refining the prototype based on the feedback from the gameplay test. This may involve making changes to the gameplay mechanics, level design, art style, or other elements of the game. It is important to iterate on the prototype until it is polished and enjoyable to play.
One key aspect of refining the prototype is improving the level design. Level design plays a crucial role in creating an engaging gameplay experience. Based on the feedback from the gameplay test, you can make changes to the level design to highlight the enjoyable aspects of the game and address any problematic areas.
For example, if the feedback from the gameplay test revealed that players were having fun with a particular mechanic, you could incorporate more opportunities for that mechanic into the level design. On the other hand, if a mechanic was causing frustration for players, you could reduce its presence in the level design or modify it in some way to make it more enjoyable.
Another way to refine the level design is to focus on creating a cohesive and immersive game world. This may involve making changes to the art style, music, and overall atmosphere of the game. However, you should be cautious about trying to bring cohesion too early. The prototype-test-refine process is an iterative one, focusing on cohesion in an early iteration can cause problems later as you may need to add or remove elements based on further feedback. Generally, earlier iterations will focus on gameplay while later iterations will focus on cohesion.
There is alse a balance to be struck between iterating on the prototype and gathering additional rounds of feedback. While it is important to make refinements to the prototype, it is also important to gather fresh perspectives and insights from players. Be sure to strike a balance between refining the prototype and gathering additional rounds of feedback in order to create the best possible game.
Use the prototype-test-refine Process for Maximum Impact
To effectively implement the prototype-test-refine process in your own game development projects, there are a few key action items to keep in mind:
Set clear goals for each stage of the process. This will help to keep you on track and ensure that you are making progress. Start with a simple Game Design Document
Be open to feedback and willing to make changes to the game based on what players are saying. This will help you to identify and address any problems with the game and create a more enjoyable experience for players. However, also remember this is your game, you don't have to follow all player feedback, just the feedback that makes sense to you.
Keep the scope of the prototype small and focused. This will make it easier to test and refine. While the prototype-test-refine process is also used in full game design, it can be especially effective in prototyping ideas for mechanics and levels.
Be patient and don't be afraid to iterate on the prototype multiple times. The prototype-test-refine process is an iterative one, it will take several rounds of testing and refining before your ptotoype is considered complete.
Be willing to throw away the prototype and start over when moving from the prototype phase to true game development. While it can be frustrating to have to start over, sometimes it is necessary in order to create the best possible game. Starting out with the intention of throwing away your prototype gives you the freedom to cut corners during the prototype-test-refine process. This allows you to move quickly which is critical to the successful application of the process in prototyping. While starting over can be time-consuming, it can ultimately save time in the long
The prototype-test-refine process is a valuable tool for game developers looking to create engaging and enjoyable games. The process consists of three main phases: creating a prototype, gathering feedback from players through gameplay testing, and refining the prototype based on that feedback.
The prototype phase involves rapidly creating a rough version of the game to test the core gameplay mechanics. The gameplay test phase involves getting players to try out the prototype and provide feedback on their experience. The refine phase involves iterating on the prototype based on the feedback from the gameplay test and refining the game until it is polished and fun to play.
By following the prototype, gameplay test, refine process, developers can create a game that is engaging and enjoyable for players. By getting feedback early and iterating on the prototype multiple times, developers can identify and address any problems with the game and create a final product that is of high quality.
Vegetation Wizard and Terrain Wizard are incredibly useful tools for the prototyping phase of the prototype-test-refine game development process. They enable developers to quickly create rough versions of terrains, complete with texturing and vegetation. Rather than being random are aligned to an overall design outline. This allows developers to get to the playtesting phase without getting bogged down in the details.
By using Vegetation Wizard and Terrain Wizard, developers can rapidly create prototypes and get a sense of how the game plays, ultimately leading to the creation of more polished and engaging games. Check them out on the Unity Asset Store.