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Jamming with AI: New Workflow of Mobile Game Prototyping with ChatGPT

For André, Sunday’s Principal Game Designer, ChatGPT has become the missing puzzle piece that enabled him to work in new ways, more efficiently than ever. Now, he can code his mobile game prototypes himself, refine them as he goes, and therefore express his ideas to developers and studios in full, without allowing any detail to get lost in translation. All thanks to ChatGPT!

The buzz about the new workflow has already spread throughout the whole company, so we sat down to chat with André and learn more about it. 

Traditional Mobile Game Development Workflow: The Conundrum

Normally, game development – even though it’s a highly creative process – requires to be a planner first. In André’s old workflow, before developers would even start with the code, he had to write extensive game design documents, collect references to somehow visualize the gameplay, and so on. This approach is standard but still has disadvantages that are often overlooked. Like the difficulty of communicating the idea of something so interactive – a mobile game – via something so static, like a written document. André argues: “If your game exists only on paper, do you even know it?” The document-centric approach made it ever so hard not only to conceptualize the game for André himself, but also to translate the idea to other parties, creating time-consuming back-and-forth between the game designer, developers, and everyone else involved. 

“In the typical workflow, you might spend one or two days writing game documents, explaining your idea, unsure if the intended game experience will be interpreted the way you imagined it. Then comes the wait for the prototype, creating a gap that could last four or five days, which is enough to lose that initial creative spark. Even though testing the prototype afterward is quick, the whole cycle starts again, and you find yourself going back to coming up with ideas and building on your original plan.”

The New Approach to Prototyping: Jamming with ChatGPT

If you’re like André, you get inspiration and generate ideas better while in the process. And that’s always been difficult in the regular game development workflow where conceptualization was done by André and prototyping was done by developers. However, ChatGPT came and changed everything. Now, this AI sidekick allows André to skip writing game documents, and prototype himself, right from the get-go. The secret is to get help with scripts from ChatGPT, work in quick iterations, and test the prototype continuously along the way. 

“With ChatGPT I prototype myself. Using free assets, I set up the camera, arrange the level, and implement the controls. It’s a hands-on process – as I prototype the mechanic, I can quickly identify what works and what doesn’t. This method is great because I can do instant decision-making, spend all my time on the idea, and receive immediate feedback. In the traditional workflow, fixing a design error might mean waiting five days to realize it and another five days for corrections.”

To better grasp the idea, André suggests thinking of the standard workflow as composing music – on paper, keeping all the moving parts and their arrangement mostly in mind. In that case, prototyping with ChatGPT is more akin to jamming: it’s hands-on, intuitive, and quick: you start slow with just a couple of instruments, then build on as you get into the groove adding more and more details to the whole composition. 

If the standard approach was bottling the idea up into a game document, the new workflow lets it flow freely and take shape organically. You’re able to continuously address all arising questions – “What camera angle should we use? What animations should we include? What should happen when the player does this? Or that?” – and make quick decisions while seeing what the prototype is turning into with every implementation you make. 

“Usually, when the core gameplay starts to shape up – the fun, jamming part kicks in, you know. It’s exciting; you never know what comes out of a session. It motivates you as you go, sparking new ideas and forcing you to make design decisions right on the spot.”

Mobile games are dynamic, and it makes the most sense to work on them in interaction. Having the prototype and the tools to work with it right at your fingertips at any point of the project helps you consider all the details that otherwise could easily slip away. For André, his work logic falls perfectly into the terms of the Extended Mind Thesis (EMT) – a concept suggesting our mind extends beyond our brains into the tools we use. Picture this: you’re brainstorming, refining, and collaborating with ChatGPT in real-time. It’s not solitary thinking anymore; it’s a dynamic partnership. The EMT suggests that external tools, like ChatGPT, seamlessly blend into our thought processes, becoming the extension of our creative cognition. As André fine-tunes game prototypes, it’s a music jam between him and ChatGPT. The swift decisions, constant enhancements – it’s not confined to his mind but extended into the digital with ChatGPT, blurring the boundaries between internal thought processes and external tools, and essentially lowering the mental load.

Benefits of the ChatGPT-Powered Workflow

ChatGPT has changed the game in a way that unlocked the workflow advantages that were otherwise unreachable. Here are some of them:

  • Full Conceptual Grasp

By independently prototyping with ChatGPT you have the opportunity to fully explore your own game concept. By personally overseeing the prototype, you eliminate the risk of details being lost in translation to developers.

  • Expressive Hands-On Creativity

The integration of ChatGPT into your prototyping process allows you to be expressive in the most hands-on way. The real-time interaction with the prototype fuels your creativity, while the ideas that keep emerging are translated seamlessly into the evolving game.

  • Forcing Design Through Interaction

Working with ChatGPT during prototyping forces designers to actively engage with the game. And the immediate feedback loop ensures that every design decision is made in context, making the final product well-thought-out.

  • Happy Accidents

This dynamic workflow encourages happy accidents – those unexpected gems that emerge only during an organic and responsive iterative process – that would be impossible if you were to start game design with a document first. 

  • Nothing Slips Through

With the prototype constantly evolving right in front of your eyes, nothing slips through the cracks. Details are considered and refined in real-time, eliminating the risk of overlooking crucial elements that might and will occur in a static, document-centric workflow. 

Pro Tips for Using ChatGPT in Prototyping

In just a couple of months of extensive use of ChatGPT for game development, André has figured out some tips that significantly improve the workflow. Keep this in mind, if you want to start using ChatGPT to prototype and design too:

  • Opt for GPT-4

For an optimal experience, André highly recommends the use of ChatGPT-4. While ChatGPT-3.5 is powerful, GPT-4 provides a way more efficient and seamless collaboration. 

  • Master Unity and Components First

ChatGPT is a powerful ally, but not a standalone solution (just yet). André emphasizes the need for a foundational understanding of Unity and its components – that will be the backbone of the workflow we’re describing.

  • Learn Interactively

That said, when faced with unfamiliar components, you can always turn to ChatGPT for step-by-step explanations and detailed guidance, transforming it into a valuable learning tool.

  • Make Use of Screenshots

GPT4 allows users to communicate visually. This feature can be of great help for game designers – while prototyping, send your screenshot to the chat and request script creation for any specific object. 

  • Error Resolution

ChatGPT doesn’t just understand errors; it fixes them. By pasting error messages from Unity into the system, you can receive instant solutions. 

  • Objective-Oriented Programming Principles

To make the best out of your ChatGPT collaboration, it’s important to adhere to objective-oriented programming principles. Keep separate scripts focused on a single task to ensure they run smoothly.

  • Use Natural Language

ChatGPT is designed to understand and react to natural language, so use it that way. Treat ChatGPT like a conversation partner – using natural language will only enhance the understanding and depth of your interactions.

Will You Be Trying This New Workflow?

André’s journey with ChatGPT has shown us a transformative game development workflow that oversteps the conventional boundaries of planning-heavy processes. The appeal is clear: it lies in the freedom to dive straight into prototyping, to ideate, iterate, and make instant decisions, bypassing the shackles of lengthy game design documents. So, will you be trying this new workflow?

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