How do I get my game from Prototype to Demo?

I'm an amateur game designer. I've built a story-driven game prototype. I've been struggling with freelance programmers for several months in my attempt to finish a demo to show potential crowdfunders - in order to finance real programmers to finish the game. I just need a few scripts written and a bit of advice along the way. Why is that virtually impossible?


It's tough working with freelancers, but as you mentioned, it's sometimes necessary at early stages due to a lack of funds. You can either
1) Learn to code yourself
2) Find a software engineer co-founder
3) Learn a better system for working with freelancers

So I'd recommend the 3rd option, and you can always work on the other two in parallel. There are certainly specialized techniques that will let you work more effectively with freelancers (either foreign or local). A good, concise summary of these techniques can be found in a free e-book by Amol Sarva ( Skip to chapter 2 (page 18) if you want to jump into the meat of it. I co-founded two companies with Amol using the methods discussed there.

If you have any further questions about anything you read there feel free to give me a call,

all the best,


Answered 8 years ago

What i've seen in the past, is people building simple clickable-prototypes using something like InVisionApp or even using Keynote presentation software + to build clickable demos within that. Hiring programmers to build out your prototype is tough since the low-cost will get you developers with not enough experience knowing how to build "just enough". And hiring expensive ass developers will get you a project that blows through your budget just coming up with a style-guide.

How we usually help people in your position is: build a very quick proposal of work done with time + cost, and then see what its going to take to get you in front of people to get more money to finish the build-out. It's just like buying a house: you can't get a mortgage unless you put a little something in first, to get the bank to help fund the rest of it.

Answered 8 years ago

Hey there. I've worked in the video game industry since 2008 in a variety of roles in QA, Design, Production, Product, and Marketing. I'm also developing my own games on the side.

I was unable to tell if you were paying freelance programmers so I'm going to answer this from the assumption that you're not, since you're planning to finance programmers through crowdfunding.

In this situation, unless you had a really dedicated freelance programmer, it might be pretty hard to get a few different scripts to work together. Even if the scripts were to come from the same programmer, most freelance programmers who aren't getting paid for it will rarely create an entire working prototype. Even the nicest of people will usually like you to meet them in the middle and figure out some part of the code yourself (or at least attempt to).

Generally, programmers are pretty patient people who love problem solving. With my own questions in the past, I've found several who not only offered potential solutions but also took the time to create a quick demo of the issue I brought up. Of course, keep in mind that my questions are usually very specific such as "I can't find a way to store the last 10 lines of this dialog". I've never asked anyone how to create a poker app from scratch.

Depending on the type of scripts you're asking of these freelance programmers, I'd say they're probably hoping you'll take these scripts and figure out how to make them all work together. If you are asking for one script from Programmer A, another script from Programmer B, then asking either of the programmer or even a Programmer C to make it all work together, then I'd say you're creating more trouble for yourself than you need to which would result in a product that won't work together.

If you can, I would try to work out a long term plan with one or two freelance programmers so that they not only understand your product but have the same passion for it that you do. This way, you have a partner who can connect the dots with you versus you doing it yourself (if you're not a coder). If you can't pay them, you can try working out some contract work to be paid at a later date, potentially via the funds from crowdfunding.

Another route you can take is to try and create those scripts yourself, then seek help in troubleshooting them if they don't work as intended. This approach is normally better for both you and any freelance programmers you are pinging for help. It shows you are trying and putting a majority of the effort. It also helps you understand the inner workings of your own prototype so that when you do hire programmers, you know what you need and can better estimate the funds needed to keep the project going.

Hope this helps! The answer is a bit high level since, again, I'm not sure if you're paying the freelance programmers or if you are a coder yourself.

Answered 4 years ago

Your question reminds me of what Leo Tolstoy once said. He said, “Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life is impossible.” So, before you throw that towel, it is time to answer these two questions. I will go through the process of Game development in brief so that you can check if you are missing a key link which may be the reason why programmers are not eager to take up the project. In the end I will give you a list, which I hope will be helpful for you.
1. Planning a video game:
Before the writers begin writing, the designers begin designing, and the developers begin developing, an idea for a video game has to surface. This is the very first part of the planning stage and the roots that every video game will grow from.
In the planning stage, the most basic questions will need to be answered, like:
I. What type of video game are we producing?
II. Will it be 2D or 3D?
III. What are some of the key features it must have?
IV. Who are its characters?
V. When and where does it take place?
VI. Who is our target audience?
VII. Which platform are we building this on?
It may not seem like it but ideating a video game is one of the hardest parts of game development. The idea a gaming studio comes up with will serve as the backbone of the entire game. It’s what sets the standard for every employee involved with building the game, but also gives publishers a high-level overview of what to expect. This brings us to the next part of development – proofing a concept.
A proof of concept takes all the ideas that have been generated and sees how viable they are for the gaming studio to produce. From there, additional questions will need to be answered, like:
I. What is our estimated cost to develop this game?
II. Do we have the technological capabilities to build it?
III. Will we require a new gaming engine?
IV. How big will our team need to be?
V. Are we hiring external voice actors and writers?
VI. What is our estimated timeframe for launch?
VII. How are we monetizing it?
For studios that are building a game under the umbrella of a publisher, proofing a concept is required before moving forward with pre-production and may even require a vertical slice. This is because the publisher will have to approve a pitch for time, budget, and marketing.

For independent studios without publisher oversight, there is a bit more flexibility during this phase. The downside to independent publishing is establishing a development and marketing budget, although, crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Fig come in handy. As a matter of fact, successful games like Pillars of Eternity and Shovel Knight were completely crowdfunded. Whichever route you take, a proof of concept is vital to the success of a game because it puts ideas in the perspective of what is capable.
2. Pre-production: The next stage of game development, called pre-production, brainstorms how to give life to the many ideas laid out in the planning phase. This is where writers, artists, designers, developers, engineers, project leads, and other crucial departments collaborate on the scope of the video game and where each piece of the puzzle fits. A few examples of this collaboration may look like:
I. Writers meeting with the project leads to flesh out the narrative of the story. Who are the main characters in this tale? What are their backstories? How does each character relate to one another? Are there loose ends we will need to tie up later?
II. Engineers meeting with writers, letting them know that under the current technological constraints, we cannot fill that environment with 100 characters, or the game will crash.
III. Artists meeting with designers to ensure visuals, colour palettes, and art styles are consistent and aligned with what was laid out in the planning phase.
IV. Developers meeting with engineers to flesh out all the in-game mechanics, physics, and how objects will render on a player’s screen.
V. Project leads meeting with multiple departments to figure out the “fun factor,” which you will find out later isn’t easy to pinpoint until the testing stage.
From here, it is common for studios to prototype characters, environments, interfaces, control schemes, and other in-game elements to see how they look, feel, and interact with one another.
3. Production: Most of the time, effort, and resources spent on developing video games are during the production stage. This also happens to be one of the most challenging stages of video game development. During this process:
I. Character models are designed, rendered, and iterated on to look exactly how they should in the story.
II. Audio design works tirelessly to ensure every time your character steps onto sand, gravel, or cement, it sounds authentic.
III. Level designers craft environments that are dynamic, immersive, and suitable for many types of playstyles.
IV. Voice actors read large stacks of scripts, doing take after take to get the right emotion, timing, and tone.
V. Developers write thousands-of-lines-of-source code to bring each piece of in-game content to life.
VI. Project leads establish milestones and sprint schedules, ensuring each department and its team members are held accountable. This is especially important if a publisher regularly checks in for status updates.
These events and many more could take years of iterating to get right, and that is assuming only a few changes are made along the way, which is hardly the reality.
In video game development, it is not uncommon for entire segments of a game – months’ worth of work – to get scrapped after it's completed. You can imagine how frustrating this is for the employees involved.
4. Testing: Every feature and mechanic in the game needs to be tested for quality control. A game that has not been thoroughly tested is a game that’s not even ready for an Alpha release. Here are some things a play tester may point out during this stage:
I. Are there buggy areas or levels?
II. Is everything rendering on the screen?
III. Can I walk through this wall or a locked environment?
IV. Are there features I can use to exploit the game?
V. Does my character get permanently stuck in this spot?
VI. Is the character dialogue stale and boring?
There are even different types of play testers. Some play testers conduct stress tests by running into walls hundreds, if not thousands of times to “break” the game. Other play testers conduct “fun factor” tests to see if the game is too hard or too easy or complete the entire game to see if it was satisfying enough. Without a “fun factor,” the game will not sell many copies. After countless hours of testing and iterating, the game should be ready for a late-Alpha or even Beta release, depending on how polished the in-game features are. This is the first time the public will get their hands on the game.
5. Pre-launch: The pre-launch stage is a stressful time for gaming studios. Questions of self-doubt may seep in as you wonder how the public will react to your first functional product. “Will they think our game is fun? Are they going to find new bugs? What sort of media coverage are we going to get from this?” But before a formal Beta copy is released, the game will require some marketing. After all, how else will people learn about it? Publishers almost always expect a hype video with a mix of cinematics and sample gameplay to drive attention. They may also schedule a spot at one of the major gaming conventions, like E3 or PAX, for an exclusive preview of the game. Independent studios do not always have the luxury of hefty marketing budgets to drive attention to their games. Fortunately, crowdfunding and advertising could be just as fruitful. Sending early-access Beta copies to top online gaming personalities so they can live stream to their audiences is a common method for independent studios.
6. Launch: The finish line is near. The light is at the end of the tunnel. Launch day is on the horizon. The months leading up to a game’s anticipated launch date is mostly spent squashing large backlogs of bugs – some old, some newfound in the testing stage. For games with many bugs, a studio will create a hierarchy of bugs to squash. This hierarchy will include “game-crashing” bugs near the top and minor bugs near the bottom. In addition to bug squashing, developers will typically polish the game as much as possible before it launches. Maybe that mountain range can have more depth. Perhaps the character’s leather straps can be more textured. Let us finally get around to making those trees sway in the wind. These types of changes, though minor, can be important for making a video game more immersive.
7. Post-launch: Post-launch is one of the most exciting times for any gaming studio. Years of hard work has finally paid off, and video game sales are (hopefully) pouring in. But even now, there’s still work to be done.

It is not uncommon for video games to launch with batches of minor bugs. The first few months during the post-launch stage are typically spent identifying and squashing these bugs. Gaming studios also rely on players to submit bug reports or speak up about bugs in online forums. This is all part of post-launch support. Another part of post-launch is to provide regular software updates for the game. These updates range from game-balancing patches to new downloadable content, or DLCs. Releasing fresh content is common in today’s gaming industry because it increases the replay value and appeal of a game. New levels, storylines, and multiplayer modes are just a few of the many DLC options a gaming studio could explore.
You have said that you are struggling with freelancer programmers for months to finish a demo. In that case this link will be helpful for you:
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 4 years ago

This is a great idea for me, just great! I will definitely try to bring it to life when I get married! I also spend a lot of time on this portal about games , I think interesting and exciting articles can help in the implementation of your plan!

Answered 3 years ago

It's not! I am a Technical Director at a game studio and have been in the industry for over 20 years. Firstly, it's interesting that you distinguish between 'freelance programmers' and hiring 'real programmers'. Those two things should not necessarily be different and it sounds like you're simply not hiring the right freelance developers. Secondly, saying you only need 'a few scripts written' tells me that you might be underestimating the size and scope of your project. Even simple games built on modern engines like Unity usually require a good deal of code to and programmer experience to produce a worthwhile result.

1) Create a detailed game design document.
2) Build a prototype demonstrating the core loop and most important features of the game.
3) Hand those over to or hire a professional team of developers, or even build it yourself using a modern engine. For something like a demo, Unity, Unreal, and Godot are all good options for non-programmers to take their games to a shippable quality at a low cost.

Answered 2 years ago

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