Let's take a look into common mistakes independent game developers make when designing their games. The five mistakes I'm going to list here, are the ones which I keep seeing very often and also, do these myself as well. Let's dig in!
1 TRY TO FIT EVERYTHING IN
Game design can become very personal. After working with your game for a long time, you can start easily seeing the game as "your second identity" which can easily lead into thinking, that this game has to include all the stuff, you've dreamed of. When making a game and playing it on a daily basis, the gameplay can also start to feel boring for the developer. This can lead to thinking, that the game is missing something.
In some cases, this may actually be true. But it's good to consider this twice before starting to change the overall design of your game. It's important to get people playing the game as often as possible, who is not that "deep" in the design process.
Always try to remember the main purpose of your game, which you (hopefully) designed when making the first versions. Is the game a story-based game, or "roguelike" dungeon crawler? Is it for the casual audience to "do something fun" while waiting for a bus? You don't have to try and fit all possible aspects into the same game because at the end, the "extra stuff" isn't even the parts what the core player is waiting to find from the game.
Stick into the core design which you had and be consistent. Make the game for the audience, you had in mind. When starting to doubt your decisions, don't trust your own "instinct". Get people to play your game! Which leads into the second mistake on my list.
2 DON'T KNOW WHAT TO FOCUS ON
During the development process, you start to get fancy ideas for your game. Some of these ideas may be awesome and should especially be added into the game. But in most of the cases, these are the stuff which you personally find appealing, because you've played the game for so long already. To keep yourself focused into the right aspects, understand who is your player and try to find like-minded players to tell you, what the game is missing, or what it should not include. In my opinion, the developer becomes the most blinded one for the design decisions after developing the game for a month or two.
(Need someone to try your game? Why not jump into our Discord channel and share your progress. Remember to tell what kind of a game is it and who is it for! It helps a lot for the right people to get interested.)
3 FORGET MONETIZATION
If you're making a premium game, which is sold with a given price, the monetization is pretty "straight forward". But when you start to make a free-to-play mobile game, it's easy to forget the part that people who play your game, is supposed to pay as well (at some point at least). If not thinking of your monetization during the core design process, it may be hard to implement natural monetization model for your game afterward. This may lead to adding ads into your game into annoying places or trying to sell non-appealing in-app purchases.
When designing your game, start to think from the start, what is the stuff what the player SHOULD be interested in buying. Of course, this is just a wild guess at the start, which you should try to get feedback into as soon as possible to prove yourself right or start designing new ways to monetize.
4 WHO IS YOUR PLAYER?
The most common way of making indie games is to make a game "for yourself". This is not a bad approach at all, but you need to identify what type of user you are. This may not be obvious in most of the cases, and it may be hard to understand your main interests in game design. This may cause the game design to be a mess of multiple different stuff, which does not appeal for the "core users".
Always try to understand what type of players you're making the game for. Cut all the extra, and focus on the stuff these people find interesting. When you start to get like-minded playtesters around you, let them tell you what "extra" should the game include. By doing so, you will most likely stay on the right track.
(As an example, if you like playing Real-time strategy games, and you start to make one, it's wholly different to make a singleplayer RTS game, rather than competitive online RTS.)
5 TRYING TOO DIFFERENT
Let's face it. People are afraid of the stuff which is too different, stuff which are out of their "comfort zone". Always keep your game easy to hop into and give players the familiar tools to start with. This makes it more possible for the player to understand your game and get hyped of the "new stuff" you offer. Rather than dropping most of the players at the start, because they don't even know what the game is about and who is it for.
One good way to solve is your game easy to understand, is to think of the "trailer feel" of your upcoming game. What are the main features you will present and how those are presented during the gameplay? If you can't visualize it, then prototype it.
Keep yourself working with the "first idea" you had, don't get side-tracked with fancy new ideas until you have a playable first version, and you've playtested it with people you think SHOULD be interested from it. Then you're more ready to start making new decisions for the game design, with the player feedback and a game which is fun to play.
- Make an assumption of your core player
- Make the game for that player
- Test it with those players
- Start iterating with your interested players
If you don't get interested players, you are (most likely) either making the wrong type of a game for the wrong players. Don't get too depressed if this happens, since you've saved months (or years) of work by seeing the outcome at the beginning. Start iterating, or dump the project for good to start a new one. That's the core of making games!