How to Scope your game

I saw a video from the Extra credits channel on “How to start your game development” the other day, and it inspired me to write about it, showing my  own point of view on the matter.

An important aspect when making a game, in my experience, would be to define the Scope of your game project. And by this, i mean to limit the features and functionalities that your game will have.

Why? Because ambitious games takes a long time to complete. And this may lead to abandoning the development of your game because the lack of resources.

I’ve read several times about developers that simply stopped or cancelled their games production due to the lack of money, time or just because the game grow so much that it become practically impossible to finish it. Remember this: Projects with smaller scopes are easier to polish and complete. And since the last 10% of completing any tasks requires about a 80% from the total effort. It’s a nice practice to keep things simple.

Think for a moment. On the number of people that was involved in the development of a relatively small game as Mega Man. It was just a jump and shot game (looking quickly at it).

Back then “The Mega Man Team” was comprised of about 20 people. they worked on Mega-Man 2 around 20 hours a day, for severals months. That’s about 50,000 hours of man power.

For a regular lone indie developer it would be impossible to finish a project this big.  Even with the faster computers and high-level languages that exists now.  So, if you manage to make a simple game, for example… like a jumping box. Consider your game a big achievement.

Even Medium-Size games like Mega-Man took a lot of resources, people and time to produce


Based on these facts. My advice would be to Scope your project. Reduce it to the minimum possible spectrum of functions and features without loosing it’s basic idea. Fortunately you can always add additional features in the future.

When i was working on my first big game Elliot Quest i had to drop many ideas to make the game smaller. But later i was able to adde new ones. I discovered during the development that a game a is like a living being. It evolves you can change things on the way. Theres no need to stick to the plan. So it takes me to an important conclusion:  Don’t make a Game Design Document. Those things are worthless. Instead, write random ideas on paper and start working on the computer and see what happens. And keep the game simple from the begining, you will be adding functionality as needed.

Another advice.use your time wisely — Do the creative work while taking a long shower. Make doodles on newspapers or whatever while traveling on the bus. Play other’s games! Copy and steal ideas from others. Make new ones from the ideas you stole. Keep everything in your head and some papers.

Elliot Quest Overworld is an island because i wanted to limit the world


Here’s a quick list of things that helped me to design my game Elliot Quest using a small Scope:

  • Start small. Scope your game to the smaller frame time and stick with the less features possible. You can always add more features later.
  • When using a big framework/engine like Unity3D. Resist the urge to use every feature the engine can offer. Stay with a low profile whenever possible. Use only the basic features even if that means making just a jumping box.
  • Drop and let go. What is not working on your game, should be discarded. It’s better to have wasted a few working hours than spoiling the whole game with useless and conflicting parts.
  • Take your time–don’t rush things. Do the intellectual and creative work wile doing passive activities. So when you are in front of the computer you will know exactly how to proceed and this will save you time.
  • Don’t let ignorant the people affect your moral with bad feedback. Most of the players “non-developers” will tend to compare your game with AAA games. Just Ignore those commentaries!
  • And most important. Be realistic. You are making a game by yourself [Applauses]. Don’t expect to create the next Final Fantasy or Fall Out, you’ll never do, at least no as a single indie developer. Know your limitations and use them to your favour.


Working on your game with a smaller scope will allow you to stay in control of your project. Limitations are your best friends, they will trigger your creativity and imagination. And that traduces to make better games.

Additionally don’t stick to a rigorous plan, instead be flexible like water. Change whenever is needed, and frequently. Theres nothing bad about changing your mind or going a few steps back.

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  • Jairo Acosta

    thanks brother, im a fan of elliot quest, love the art.

    what do you say when it comes to sacrificing, family time and going out when working on an indie game? do you feel as these things have to be done?

    • ansimuz

      Thanks for the compliments. In my ow experience i had to made those sacrifices in order to release the game faster but they are not mandatory.

  • Joel Cuellar

    Great Article!

  • Gage Peterson

    Great words of advice from someone that has been there. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ragestar Games

    Hi it’s Asmar Hussain, Thanks for the article, It was wonderful great job. I am a games developer and a student at College, and working on a big project for the new upcoming game KITT: Back 2 The Future. A game based on the TV Series. The game is to be 3D Open World with realism in racing and action. Please do give me some ideas.