So, it seems that you have a dream and a strong desire. Just as millions of other people on this planet. A dream to become a Game Developer and to start Creating your own Games. Awesome. Because Valve, Electronic Arts and Blizzard started with a big dream too. Now they are the leading game developers and the sharks of the industry. Read this 100% Ultimate Guide and learn how to become a Game Developer and give a birth to your own game masterpiece.
- Fact 1: Daily minutes spent playing video games per capita in U.S. – 23.2min [tweet]
- Fact 2: $101.62bn is the global video games revenue in 2014 [tweet]
- Fact 3: You do not need to be a computer geek to create own game in 2016 [tweet]
However, do not get too excited with this sweet data. Because there are a few big hairy BUTs. You should also have an idea why it is not so great as it looks. There are 4 reasons not to become a game developer:
- Reason 1: Money rewards. Very few games from independent developers become popular and bring revenue.
- Reason 2: Hard Work. You may think that game development is an everyday celebration and about playing games. But it’s not. It is also a routine that requires dedication and hard work.
- Reason 3: Marketing and Promotion. Having developed a game does not mean it will become successful. You will have to bring your product to the attention of the audience. Just as in any other industry.
- Reason 4: No fans. Game developers are artists and writers of their own kind. We all believe that our masterpiece is the best and deserves love and millions of fans. But it might come out that no one likes your style and ideas.
Somehow, you might have already come across these arguments on the Internet. Just as this post on Reddit in the gamedev section.
Now, since you are aware of all these awesome facts and your mind is full of great aspiration to develop and promote your own digital interactive worlds… Now what? Pretty simple, you just need to start. Step by step. Just do what thousands of other independent game developers have already done. If you do not have skills and experience in the industry, let us have a look at others’ experiences and stuff.
Before we get started with the development guide, please read the following quote by Ira Glass:
“…the most important possible thing you could do, is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.”
Are you aboard? Great! Now let us get straight to business…
Playsterr Game Collection
The best way to learn something is to watch what others are doing. You are welcome to the Playsterr Games Collection. Play awesome games that other independent game developers produced and get inspired with their products. Especially, taking into account that many of them have come to success already.
Independent Game Developers as Garage Rock Bands
The Game development industry has exploded over the last couple of years, and now it seems like everyone is making a video game today. We have got large studios full of hundreds of employers. We have got small independent teams making unique and amazing products. The independent ones are increasing in number so rapidly that they are flooding the market and media with their games. Some of them become really successful and these small teams become middle size businesses just in a year.
This is absolutely an incredible thing, because everyone brings their own experience and sensibilities to game design. For some reason this whole story of game development and small teams in 2000-2010s reminds the history of Rock and Roll and its small garage bands. When unpopular garage bands became the greatest in the music industry. But how exactly those rockers became super legends? Simply, they practiced their own music every day and played 24/7 in their garages or basements and finally got their unique style and produced their hits. This is exactly what you as an indie game developer got to do daily. Play, play, play your own music. Repeat it. Repeat it again and sound better. You just have to DO it and DO it everyday and every single minute. Then, you are coming closer to success.
So, summing things up. In 2016 you do not have to be an expert in computer science: neither a graduate from the computer science faculty nor a computer geek. In 2016 you can leave all these development issues to the frameworks, engines and hopefully to the business and personal connections. But still, it is desirable to be at least familiar with programming languages and designer programs. It will definitely save your time and increase chances to start a successful project.
Anyway, we are going to switch to hardcore mode and assume that you are a total noob in programming languages, yet you have no friends that would help you with coding.
So, now what? How to start and where to look for help? Calm down and spare enough time to learn, work and build connections and a community. First, you should accept a couple of simple advices that helped other independent game developers. Start small and Learn fast.
A few Theses on game development
Here, a list of theses from Gamedev subreddit:
- There is no ‘one’ way to make a video game. [tweet]
- A video game is not a video game unless it is completed. [tweet]
- You must learn how to seek out resources on your own. [tweet]
- Your first game should be as big as Pong. [tweet]
- Making a video game is not about programming, art, music or design. [tweet]
This is what people with experience in in industry are telling. But as you might have heard, everyone is making his own way in the game development. Just pick up everything you like and mix it up in your own style.
Start Small and Learn What Others Have Done
Fortunately, there are dozens of great and helpful game developer forums and communities on the Internet. You can always make researches and look for an inspiration and advices in those developer fellowships. In most cases people there are welcoming and kind toward freshmen.
Check out and do not forget to pin the list of the recommended game developer communities:
Spend some time daily on those pages and learn what other fellow developers are doing. Also, try to pal up with someone: maybe they could become your curators or teammates. In any case, you have to build connections and friend circles in the industry. Because it is really hard to start up alone without anyone around you, at least virtually.
It is necessarily to research and test the Showcases section of the forums. The one where the game developers share their games and playable content. The posters clearly reveal their practice, engines, framework and stuff they have used for the development. Analyze vigorously everything they post and make a list of the best and the failed submissions. It will help you to better understand the tools and the work process. Feel free to ask any question. YOU MUST ASK QUESTIONS. Don’t be silent, you should learn a lot at this stage.
Also, do not forget about Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google Plus and other massive social accounts. Turn your private social pages into strong connecting instruments. Dive into the gaming industry, follow and post everything related to game development.
First Experience. Create your Game Prototype
The Prototype is the essence of the game development. You should try this out and choose the prototyping tool. There are an enormous variety of them, and even more are being created all the time. This guide is primarily for those who have absolutely no computer science skills, and have never programmed anything in their life, thinking that it is beyond their ability to do so.
The following tools will help you go from no coding or development experience to having finished your first prototype. Most of them come prepackaged with sample games, and one of the best ways to learn a new game development tool is to muck around with them, take them apart, and see how they work.
I’ve chosen to focus on these three tools because they’ve got the least steep learning curve. They can produce a wide variety of games, and they can produce a prototype fairly quickly (so you can have the satisfaction of having something playable sooner). They’re all either free or have free versions, meaning you won’t have to drop a couple of hundred dollars to figure out if this is something you want to pursue.
The List of Prototyping Tools
Do not forget to share your prototype output on social media and forums. Game Developer fellows will analyze it for you.
Choose your Genre and focus on it.
There are dozens of different awesome game genres in the industry. Pick up your own and develop it in this field only until you release your game. Read articles and forums on this genre and follow showcases of what other genre mates have released.
Common Genres include the following:
- Arcade games
- Endless runners
- First person shooter
- Story/Manga driven JRPG
- Tower Defenses
Every single genre is unique and implies special audience, tools and arts. Stick to you genre and dive into its special environment.
Choose the gaming platform
Then, pick your platform. The platform that you choose to develop your game for will significantly impact the way it is conceived. The platform dictates the way the game is controlled; smartphone games are typically touch- and tilt-based, PC games typically use a keyboard and mouse, and console games use gamepads.
There are exceptions to all these rules, but you will generally find it easier to design the game around a specific control method.
If you want to make an iPhone game, you will need to submit it to the Apple store from a Mac computer.
Write out the preliminary design. This should just be at least on one page, but it will be the heart of the gameplay experience you create. It contains the fundamental concepts of your game, and will allow you to see if your idea is really viable as a video game.
Start with a core philosophy. This statement will serve as the motivating force behind the game. These are very simple statements that will get to the heart of what the game is about. Revisit it often to ensure that your game is still meeting its basic goals. Some example core philosophies:
Take a break. Put the preliminary design in a drawer and try not to think about it for a week or two. You want to be able to go back to it with a fresh perspective. This will help you determine if the project is really worth pursuing, or if you need to go back to the drawing board.
Taking a Break. Awesome industry-related Facts.
You’re on a long trip to your game developer dream. It is necessarily to have a short rest for you brains. A short-time rest helps you restart your creative power and you will return to work with a fresh mind.
Just have a walk to a park or a beach for 2-3 hours a day and read something motivating.
- The average gamer is not a teenage boy. The average gamer is 35 years old. It is also the best comsumer age.[tweet]
- The Candy Crush mobile app game had 408-million players as of March 2014.[tweet]
- The gross sales of the gaming industry in the US in 2013 was over $21 billion.[tweet]
Being rested and well-motivated is the best condition to get back to the work
Deciding on Engines for a Bigger Project
Decide on an engine. The engine is the underlying base of the game. It contains a host of development tools that ease the creation of a game. It is much more time-efficient and less complex to create a game using an existing engine, than to create a new one from scratch. There are a variety of engines designed for indie developers.
Engines often make it much simpler to manipulate graphics, sound, and AI.
Different engines have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are more suited to 2D graphics, while others are designed for 3D graphics. Some engines require significantly more programming knowledge than others. There are several game development tools that you can use with no previous coding experience.
Popular independent development engines include:
- GameMaker: Studio – One of the most popular 2D game engines.
- Unity – A 3D engine popular for its ease of use and portability.
- RPG Maker VX – A scripting engine designed for 2D RPG in the traditional JRPG style.
- Unreal Development Kit – A 3D engine that can be adapted to a wide range of uses.
- Source – A very popular 3D engine that is constantly updated and modified.
- Project Spark – An optimized 3D engine that addresses the average user.
Learn your engine and find someone who knows it.
Depending on the engine you choose, you may be facing a significant amount of programming. Even the most basic engines will require time to understand how to manipulate them. If the programming is beyond your capabilities, you’ll either need to learn it or hire someone.
This will be the beginning of your team-building phase. If you are unable to program, your first hire will have to be a programmer. You can worry about art and sound later; you need to be able to come up with a working prototype before the project can continue further.
There is a large community of independent developers that you should be networking with. People will join projects for all kinds of different reasons and compensations. This is where having a solid game design document really helps, because it shows that you have a commitment to your idea.
Stick with the Developer Community and Hire Developers
At this stage you probably already had experience in the game developer communitites, forums and web pages and connected with other developer mates. Unfortunately, it is very likely that you, as a noob to the industry, are not able to start up your game from the ground up alone. If you’re in this situation, then do not hesitate to apply for a co-worker for your project. This can be your friend, probably from the game developer community. You can also hire a developer for a fixed price just to complete your first game and get your first experience.
In any case, you are lucky to have these various options:
- Find a friend for the development
- Hire a payed developer and finish the project
- Start with something really simple with minimum development, like the Pong game.
Pick up your path and follow it to complete the product and share it with players and friends.
Decide on a distribution service. Some independent developers will host the game on their own website, but you may find that demand costs you a significant amount in hosting fees, and some hosts can’t support the load that a successful game requires. There are several popular outlets for releasing independent games on PC and Mac OS X:
- Humble Store
Mobile games typically need to be released through their prospective stores (Apple App Store, Google Play Store, etc.). The same goes for console games (Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, etc.).
Different services will take different cuts on the sale of your game. Research each one to see if they are right for you. Most services have sales reps that you can speak to directly as a developer.
Support your Game
Support your game. Once your game is released, support it financially as much as possible with bug fixes and adding more content. The age of digital distribution means that games can be updated quicker than ever before. There are bound to be bugs that appear once the population at large has access to your game. Do what you can to fix these as soon as possible.