GameDev Thoughts: The Fallacy of Chasing Perfection in Game Development

Creating a game and declaring it as a finished product is an absolutely wonderful feeling. You have a tangible product from your hard work and dedication, and this product is ready to be received by the world. All is good, right? Unfortunately, this feeling is bittersweet, as often many developers see their final game as “less good than it was envisioned to be.” This mindset is flawed as it is impossible to avoid this line of thinking even among the best games ever made.

Your product’s development can be summarized as an equation of sorts: Your vision plus the compromises you make along the way will equal your final product. I had never really thought about it this way until recently, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Every developer wants to make the best game they can, but perfect games will lead to infinitely long development times. For all practical purposes, there is no such thing as a perfect game. It’s sad that the sacrifice has to be made but since perfection is impossible we have to make do with what we can.

For me personally, I just aim for at least an 8/10 rating when it comes to testing. I have a system in place where I’ll send the build to gamers and get their thoughts. Striving for a perfect 10/10 rating close to impossible, and you can’t argue that there aren’t diminishing returns for trying to cross that road. Luckily, there is a mindset that accommodates this idea. Think about it this way: the main difference between an 8/10 game and the theoretical perfectly rated game is how well the game caters to its target demographic. It’s completely possible to make a 10/10 game if you prioritize certain types of people, but there’s no way you can make a game that will be rated a perfect ten by every person on the planet.

From my experience, I believe one of the better development models is to make an above-average game (in terms of perceived ratings) and then deploy it in the Early Access phase on Steam or simply plopping it on GameJolt or Itch.io. Once the game is out in Early Access (or on storefronts) you can start getting feedback that you can utilize to mold the game into a “perfect” game for that audience that’s interested. You can just keep polishing and polishing until you have your 10/10 rated game, at least to the target audience. Even with a “perfect” rating your game still isn’t perfect due to differing opinions in people, but since you can’t just create the perfect game you have to make cuts somewhere along the line, and since it’s impossible to cater to everyone you may as well focus on pleasing a specific audience.

Important Takeaways: Many game developers suffer from a feeling of disappointment with the end result of their game. This is due to them falsely believing that creating a perfect game is possible. Developing a game is simply an equation that comes out to “Your vision + your compromises = your final product.” There will have to be at least a few compromises somewhere or else you will never finish your game; development has diminishing returns after a certain point so you can’t just endlessly polish your game into perfection. In order to make the best use of your forced compromises, try to focus your audience and cater to their desires. Release your game into early access once it’s decent and get feedback to polish it into a “perfect” game, at least to that audience. You can’t make a game that everyone will call perfect, but you can certainly focus on making one that SOME people will call perfect… and maybe that’s all you really need.