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Dino Chef : Tree of Stars                      (Part 2)

Posted 9th July 2023

This article is about the development process of Dino Chef - Tree of Stars.

Design processes are a little nebulous; sometimes you're writing random words or scrawling little doodles which make no sense, but it helps with making connections in your head; connections between memories, observations, imagination and distractions. 

Here I want to share the different stages of how a game evolves from a thought to a finished product. 

As I mentioned previously, it started with observations that formed the foundation, the structure, the pillars, whatever you may call it, of the game design.
I came up with "
a game custom made for 2 kids", "cooking", "lining their toys up", "snappy, chaotic, repetitive".
I added a little conventional game design principle, "
It should feel like an adventure! Feel like you've accomplished something!".


Then, the next step is to make something simple that I could play with, like a game loop
A game loop is about you solving/overcoming a problem, and after evaluating the resolution, you get to repeat it again. 



Dino Chef started out with avatars that moved around the board

At this stage it's all about testing ideas, and getting a feel for it - do you enjoy it? Do you get bored after repeating it several times? Is it tedious? 

Before long, a few more systems are created and you try to get them to interact with each other. 
A random diner generation system, a cooking system using ingredient resources, player mechanics and a way to conclude the game. 


A few basic systems that work with each other just to start with

The first thing I usually do, after unleashing my genius into the physical realm, is to go to my partner and let her tell me I'm crazy. 

And she's always right. If I can't convince her, I know I'm full of it. 

I immediately threw out the movement mechanics, and focused on the parts that she (grudgingly) accepted. She's the best.


And after a round of changes, came the first milestone - a playable prototype!


The first prototype was by no means complete, in fact it would break down after a certain point. 

However, it was enough to help us understand the game - what was the objective of the game? How would players work to get there? What were the phases and the actions? 

I got the green light


So it was time to commit to the ideas and produce a vertical slice of the game!  

This meant having all the functional features of the game, without all its intended variety and depth. 

This stage required some proper production tools and artwork. 

The graphics could be unfinished, rough or borrowed, but the layouts and how game information was communicated had to be addressed properly.

Game development is an iterative and progressive process, it cannot be fully realised at a go (unless you are merely replicating another game). 

It is essential to be able to test out your high priority design decisions as soon as possible, and get feedback from reliable experts - yes, I'm talking about the two munchkins

Playtest sessions are so important and beneficial to improving your product. 

You could observe whether your design generated the desired dynamics; whether they employed the intended strategies; what they got excited or confused about and what creative solutions they came up with. 

From our playtests, I got suggestions and comments, but most importantly a lot of laughter and excitement. The cheers and high fives made the late nights all worth it. 

At this point, 2 weeks of development had passed and the reaction was positive. 

So art production started to pick up, and all the placeholder images got replaced one by one with proper human art


Game design documents are an integral part of the process. Some relish it, some abhor it. 

No matter your preference, the rules of the game must be articulated and be made accessible to players. 

I started mine only after I got the initial green light, and kept it lean, ie. only what players need to see. 


It is said though, that rulebooks are an unnatural way to learn how to play a game. 


Human beings have, for thousands of years, learned to play games by watching others play, or those who knew taught the rules to us by playing with us. 

It is an inherent quality of games that connects us to our family, our friends and even strangers. 


Thanks for reading!

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