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· written by Juha Paananen

How to Design Your Own Game Step-by-Step | Soba’s Guide

Are you a fan of games like Pokémon, World of Warcraft, or Sonic?

What many of us often forget about these hyper-successful games is the meticulous planning and design behind the scenes.

In this guide, we'll dive into the importance of planning and the step-by-step process to design your own game even if you have zero experience coding. It’s all possible with Soba. By the end of this article, you'll be equipped to start designing and planning your very own game, complete with actionable, practical tips.

Let’s get started.

Why is having a clear vision essential?

Before diving into the practical steps of designing a game, it's crucial to understand the importance of defining your game concept. A clear vision will guide you through the entire development process, ensuring that all elements align with your overarching goals. Proper planning also helps you allocate resources efficiently, avoid wasted time on unnecessary features, and maintain a consistent game experience.

The gaming industry is highly competitive, with millions of titles vying for players' attention. For example, 6,000-8,000 games are released on Steam each year.

To stand out, your game must deliver a unique and engaging experience. A well-defined concept lays the groundwork for a compelling game that will captivate your target audience.

The total revenue in the gaming industry expects to reach nearly $366 billion in 2023. This growth highlights the potential for success but also emphasizes the importance of having a strong game concept to make your mark in this competitive landscape.

How to design your own game

Now that we've established the importance of defining your game concept, let's dive into the first steps to designing your own game, starting with choosing a game development tool.

Choose a game development tool

Selecting the right game development platform is essential to bring your game concept to life. There are numerous tools available, catering to various skill levels and coding experience. If you're new to game development or don't want to learn to code, no-code platforms like Soba can be an excellent choice.

But if you know how to code, or wish to learn, you can opt for game engines like Unity, Unreal Engine, or Godot. These tools offer more control and customization options but may have a steeper learning curve. And check out our list of no-code game makers if that’s your style.

The ideation, research, and planning phase is the first and most crucial step in designing your game. Although the order of tasks may vary for different people, it's essential to brainstorm ideas, research similar games, and understand your target audience.

Some may prototype first to generate ideas, while others find inspiration by playing other games. Whether you’re making a side-scrolling game or an Obby game, you’ll want to have all your ideas in front of you.

Start by brainstorming ideas and picking your favorite, then look for similar games to learn from their successes and pitfalls. Additionally, it’s essential to know who your target audience is — who you want playing the game. This personalization helps tailor your game to their preferences.

For example, if you’re making a game for friends, it doesn’t have to appeal to a wide audience. You can include inside jokes or phrases only your group would “get.”

Next, organize your ideas and make decisions on which you’d like to implement. Keep this for reference later. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Game Title: Choose a working title for your game.
  • Concept: Summarize your game's core idea and gameplay mechanics.
  • Genre: Specify the genre(s) your game falls under (e.g., action, adventure, puzzle, etc.)
  • Game Objectives: List the main goals and objectives players need to achieve.
  • Storyline: Outline the narrative, including setting, plot, and characters.
  • Game Mechanics: Describe the gameplay mechanics, controls, and interactions.
  • Game World: Detail the game world's layout, environments, and level design.
  • Art and Sound: Define the visual aesthetic, character design, props, user interface, sound effects, and background music

You can use tools like Notion or Google Slides/Docs, and create mood boards to collect visual and gameplay references from other media and real life. Miro, Google Slides, and Microsoft Whiteboard are excellent tools for this purpose.

Now, make sure to check that your ideas resonate with your target audience. Maybe it’s posting on Reddit, social media, or asking your friends — get some feedback!

Once you have an idea of your game’s vision, define a single sentence describing what your game is about (e.g., "A fast-paced platformer set in a magical world").

Then, establish 3-5 main game pillars representing the fundamental aspects of your game (e.g., exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving).

If you’re totally stuck on coming up with ideas, go ahead and research other games and ideas. You can find subreddits where you can ask for advice, gather ideas, and gain assistance in your research phase.

Lastly, define your success criteria. For example, you could select making money, attracting a large player base, learning about game creation, winning awards, or showcasing your game in an exhibition… or maybe just have something fun to play with your friends.

Prototyping and concepting

In this phase, you'll test your ideas and vision by creating rough prototypes to explore your game's assumptions and mechanics.

The process of prototyping involves:

  1. Writing down assumptions about gameplay, tools, and workflow (e.g., how players interact with game elements, the tools needed for development, and the process of creating assets).
  2. Sorting assumptions by the amount of risk they bring to your game development (e.g., untested mechanics or complex assets).
  3. Creating quick prototypes to explore each assumption, focusing on one aspect at a time (e.g., character movement or a particular game mechanic).
  4. Keeping things simple and rough, as the main goal is to validate or invalidate your assumptions.
  5. Stopping as soon as you have an answer, then adjusting your vision and plans if necessary.

After enough prototyping, you'll have a clearer understanding of how to make your game and what the next steps should be for creating and finishing it. The prototyping and concepting phase allows you to refine your vision and make informed decisions about your game's design, ensuring a smoother development process moving forward.

Asset creation and implementation

With prototypes in place, it's time to bring your game to life by forging the assets. These assets include characters, scenes, graphics, music, sound effects, and other elements that make up your game's world. Plus, you can do this on paper or in a digital design environment.

And if you want a solid foundation for assets, a game maker like Soba comes with pre-built, ready-made assets waiting to be put into your game.

Characters: Design unique and memorable characters that fit your game's story and theme. Sketch out your ideas on paper or use digital design tools to create the character models.

Scenes and Environments: Develop the game's setting by creating detailed environments, backdrops, and level designs that complement your storyline and gameplay mechanics.

Graphics: Craft visually appealing UI elements, props, and in-game objects or obstacles to enhance the player's experience.

Music and Sound Effects: Compose an engaging soundtrack and sound effects that set the mood and atmosphere for your game.

Once you’ve got your assets created, you can begin implementing them.

Pro tip: Start with the assets that are essential to your game conditions. For example, start with the actions required to win or lose the game, like a flagstick or obstacle.

Here you’ll begin building your levels and implementing game logic. Each time you add an asset, a bug might occur. During implementation, there will be lots of testing.

But once you have the essentials covered, you can add what makes your game unique. You can go back to your vision and make sure you’ve included everything you want.

 Testing and iteration

The testing phase involves evaluating your game's performance, mechanics, and overall player experience to identify areas for improvement. Encourage and promote feedback from anyone who wants to try your game out.

Use the feedback from playtesting to make improvements and refinements to your game. This may involve adjusting gameplay mechanics, fixing bugs, or tweaking the game's balance. Remember that all great games undergo multiple iterations and updates.

Polishing (and more testing)

Before launching your game, it's essential to give it a thorough polish. This phase involves refining the game's visuals, audio, and gameplay mechanics to ensure a smooth and enjoyable player experience. Tired of the same obstacles in your Obby game ? This is where you can add variation and enhance the quality of your game before a full release.

Pay close attention to the user interface, making sure it is clean, user-friendly, and visually appealing. Double-check the game world's layout and design, ensuring it aligns with your vision. Carefully adjust the game's difficulty, pacing, and rewards system to create an engaging and challenging experience for players.

Finally, identify and resolve any technical issues, glitches, or bugs that could impact the gameplay by more testing.

Before you officially release your game, it’s crucial to test again and again. Every change you make could break something — and bugs aren’t enticing to new players. Plus, you might get insights you never thought of before with more testing.

Final thoughts: how to plan and design your own game step-by-step

Designing and planning your own game can be an incredibly rewarding experience. By following this step-by-step guide, you'll be on your way to creating a unique and engaging game.

Ready to start your game development journey? Give Soba a try and get started building your dream game today.

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