Keys to Success Development Diary - Log #1


Welcome to Keys To Success’ first development log. I have been thinking about starting one for a long while now (Recording everything must be fun!) and to try and share the little bits of knowledge I gather along the way. So finally, I decided to write down the very first log. I feel like once the first has been written down, the rest will surely follow. I am hoping to find the creative and technical approaches to making good games through Keys to Success, and convey them through a development diary.  

So, Keys To Success is about to meet its first birthday; it was initially created during the Global Game Jam in January 2015. Looking back, I never thought of having the game grow to what I want it to be at the moment. Back then, the prototype was made for the jam, with an idea to offer and that was just it. But when the game won “Microsoft’s Best Game Award” and got the Imagine Cup Golden Buzz, I decided to try exploring the game more. I feel grateful for that.

But the game developed during Imagine Cup is different to the game I want to finalize. Bound by strict deadlines and demos to show for the competition, the current Keys To Success game version feels a little bit rushed to me. And at some later point, I felt stuck. And then, I started thinking and asking myself. Was this the appropriate game design? Wait, game design? Did I work that right in the first place? Maybe that’s it? Yes! It is! I just need to feel the game again, as a whole, before breaking it down to chapters and levels. With a little twist of a story maybe? Okay, getting somewhere!

Since I always liked stories and story-writing, I decided to level up that passion. I started with “Story and Narrative Development for Video Games” by California Institute of the Arts course, and it helped me organize my thoughts and explore the game more. Also, to further explore my game designer side, I completed “Introduction to Game Design” by California Institute of the Arts and now reading “The Art of Game Design” by Jesse Schell. If you're a game designer and you feel stuck, try those same things and it may inspire you with some ideas.

But the problem with game design is, you can't study it. There are no rules to make a good game - of course there are some basic rules, but not the definitive rules that developers are used to like a syntax! - and you'll never know whether whatever you're designing and pouring your heart into will ever be liked by anyone! I am not an expert, yet reading and watching game design videos made me realize that it's one of the things that you'll just have to go with it and try it out. Risky? Maybe. But it all relies on your self-esteem, and your belief that you'll find your inner game designer along the way. For nights now I've been boosting that up in front of the mirror. I am a game designer! I am a game designer!

Since game design is what the player will get to experience when the game is finished, you'll need to have an idea of what that experience should deliver, and what you want it to deliver. Because game designers make games to express themselves, as Edmund McMillen once said in Indie Game The Movie. And if you can't express yourself correctly, the player won't feel the game at all. The process sometimes gets a little tedious, and frustrating when you're stuck with no inspiration at all, yet you don't want to sketch anything for the sake of stuffing the game. I believe this step of game production requires real patience but not too much because the output of game design is the real soul of the game. So let's discuss this step a little bit.

It's advisable to start with the game's story synopsis first; a short description of the story you want to unravel. This helps determine the game's setting, environments and character design. (Which we'll get to discuss thoroughly in later logs). With this done, you will be able to extract the game elements that fit the game perfectly and doesn't feel off. This process mainly helps you decide the genre of the game and the core mechanics that fits it and conveys it best. 
Let's say we're creating a game about "a spaceship fighting off aliens". This really small synopsis gave us a range of possibilities and decisions to take. This defined the genre mainly as science-fiction, but that doesn't exclude the possibility of adding twists to the game and changing the genre. We can ignore the science and add a twist of steam-punk spaceships! A spaceship will probably fight off aliens with lasers, so it might turn out becoming a first-person shooter game where the player acts like a spaceship pilot. Or a platformer game with much simpler graphics and core mechanics, just evading and shooting. Or even an endless casual game with simple tapping and tilting! All those decisions are up to the game designer, what he feels and what he thinks fits the game best. And remember, don't ever think of technical limitations at this point and just let your imagination go loose as much as you can!

When you've decided what the game is about and how it'll be played, it's time to take the game a higher level and add the twists. How's the game challenging? How's it fun? It's the point where you think of the game elements and how they'll  interact with the player. Are there different types of alien spaceships? Will the player have more than one weapon to fend them off with? Will there be deadly asteroids getting astray that could help make the game more exciting? Will there be any pick-ups in space? You're basically working out ways to keep the player engaged and make the game more interesting.  It's important to remember that the game elements should be consistent with the game's setting and the environment that you've set its rules. You can have the spaceship shoot arrows, but unless you're making a sci-fi game with a medieval environment, it will feel a little bit off. Think creatively, but bound to your own world's rules.

So with all that being said, game design has been re-initiated in the game! While keeping some of the old concepts, levels and puzzles, the game is up for renovation! Even I am excited to see how it’ll turn up in the end! 


~Nourhan ElSherief


  1. Thanks for sharing this journey with us. It is very helpful, waiting Log #2 ;)

  2. I really like it :)
    I'm learning from what you do.
    Stay blessed.


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