GameDev Thoughts: A Few Common Pitfalls To Avoid In Indie Game Development

First off, good controls are essential. Make sure that your button layouts are intuitive and match up with gaming norms. This means that you typically shouldn’t have your pause button on “D” or something odd like that. Similarly, make sure your controls actually feel responsive, with very few frame delays. Controls with delayed responses aren’t fun to use and will simply cause frustration. Finally, make your controls as comfortable as possible. This ties in with intuitive layouts as well, but this also involves how often you’re holding buttons or rapidly tapping them. If you’re not careful, your layout might cause cramps, so try to minimize these potential problems as much as possible. Most control problems are fixed by playtesting rigorously and figuring out what works and what doesn’t; there isn’t a magical fix for every game.

Next, consider how long your tutorials are. It’s obvious that a player needs to know how to play the game, but you’ll lose players if you have them waiting for too long. While an exceedingly long tutorial might be a sign of an overly complex game, you can minimize the problem by breaking it up into chunks and only displaying information when it becomes relevant. The best tutorials are the ones that you don’t realize you’re actually playing. Integrate your tutorials seamlessly into the game itself by properly segmenting it so that the player isn’t too overwhelmed.

Another pitfall to avoid is poor aesthetics. Gameplay is always number one when you’re reviewing a game, but poor visuals or sound will definitely leave a bad impression and may stop players from giving your game a chance in the first place. You’ll have to consider if your visuals are inside of the “Uncanny Valley.” Your art should either be fully realistic or stylized, because anything in between will just look cheap. Even though that stylized art is easier to make, it’ll appear more “complete” and leave a better impression. Don’t plan on going for realism unless you can hit the nail right on the head because it’ll just worsen your game overall otherwise.

Besides the game’s overall look, you also should pay particular attention to your game’s user interface. The UI is usually shown to your players for the entire gameplay loop, so if it looks bad, your game as a whole looks bad. This can also cause players to quit before they give your game a chance if you show this gaudy UI in trailers or screenshots, so you should do whatever you can to avoid making a bad one. Remember, when it comes to UI design, less is more.

Finally, don’t include unnecessary voice acting. Only add voice acting if it is truly professional and fits the game. Just like with the other aesthetic factors, if your voice acting is bad, your game feels cheaper as a whole and will leave a worse impression. If your actors aren’t capable or your microphone isn’t good enough, don’t even try to add any voice acting; reading plain text is oftentimes much more enjoyable than having to listen to cheesy acting.

Important Takeaways: Bad controls make the game harder to play for everyone, so make sure the controls are intuitive, ergonomic, and responsive. Avoid making long tutorials because players don’t want to have to wait through them; either make your game less complex to allow for shortening the tutorial or break the tutorial up and only show information when it’s relevant. Aesthetics are the final factor that can make or break a game’s quality from the eyes of a potential consumer. Avoid the uncanny valley by going either full realism or stylized and make sure your UI isn’t tacky since it’s usually with players for the entire game.