Before quarantine in 2020, many of us spent 1-3 hours commuting, along with spending all day in an office. When the pandemic hit and everyone began to work from home, we all collectively realized something:
We now had nowhere to go, no one to see, and a lot of extra time on our hands.
With this newfound realization, I decided to dig into a hobby I had always wanted to get into:
alcoholism game development.
Now almost two years and two games later, I have some advice to share with people now going on this same journey.
Don't Reinvent the Wheel...the First Time.
99% of the time, I hate this phrase. Mostly because it's used as a casual way to justify not wanting to do actual work. But...
Fun is elusive. No one really knows what makes something fun. So when we find it, we don't stray too far. Game development takes too much time, effort, and energy to not know if it's going to be fun when it's all said and done.
You could build an entire game, spend years on the planning and execution, only for it not to be fun. So...how do we work around this, not knowing how fun our game will be?
Pick a game that you already like, slice it in half, and build on it. When it comes to mobile games, here are some categories of games that are popular:
- Infinite Runners
- Brick Breakers
- Bubble Shooters
- Matching Games
- Solitaire, Sodoku, Mah Jong...
Bonus Tip: The more classic the game, the higher likelihood that someone has made a tutorial on Youtube. If you're building you're own game from scratch, you're going to want all of the support you can get.
Pick a Game Engine...Or Don't
For my projects, I personally really like using Unity. Unity is the standard for most 2D games and many large studios use Unity to build their games. Unity also has a massive asset store filled with free and paid assets, as well as some free templates to get you started.
Some games made with Unity:
- Hollow Knight
On the other hand, if you want to make a 3d game with, well, Unreal graphics, Unreal Engine is a great engine and has built-in visual scripting. You can make 2d games in Unreal, but that's really not where its strength lies.
Some games made with Unreal Engine:
- Rocket League
- Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
- Mortal Kombat
- Little Nightmares
- Days Gone
These two are probably the most used game engines for indie developers, which means more support. However, there are plenty of other options for building your game, such as Buildbox, RPGMaker, and GameMaker.
Start Small...Microscopic Small
I know, I know. Everyone says this. But it's true.
Game Development is unlike a lot of fields. It requires a jack-of-all-trades approach, and even one discipline involved in game development could take a lifetime to master. But...there are so many disciplines. Art creation, development, animation, storytelling, 3d modeling, pixel art, character creation, the list goes on... This makes indie developers have to choose where to put their time and effort.
In other fields, you come up with an idea, make a plan on how to accomplish it, and start executing on that plan chunk by chunk. Obstacles are usually overcome by lots of research and a "can do" attitude. Not video games. Many developers dream of creating their own AAA title, but are quickly met with a race against the clock. I never want to say it's impossible, but use your time and resources wisely.
Or, Build off of a Template
Absolutely no shame in using a Unity Template. I wish I would have known about these before I started my first game.
When it comes to the core mechanics of your game, there are standards that every player expects to have nowadays. No one is going to be impressed by the fact that you have an inventory system, a dialogue system, or a save system.
Seriously, just buy them.
It's good to learn if you want to get your feet wet, but I guarantee there's a team of developers who are way better at coding than you that have already created it. And they're only charging $20.
The game that took me 9 months to build from the ground up could have been done in 2 if I had spent a little cash and bought a framework. This brings me to my next point.
Martyrdom is Overrated
I know. You want to do it all yourself. You want to be a badass game developer who builds their own engine, all their own artwork, and takes over the world.
Don't do it.
Push aside ego and negative thoughts, and do whatever it takes to release a real game. Game development is about storytelling and experience immersion. Your players don't care if it took 5 months or 5 years to build your game, they just care about the finished experience. Remember, the faster your game launches, the quicker you'll be able to make money off of it and fund your next game.
Use the free assets from the Asset Store, use graphics from opengameart.org, find as many plug-and-play options as you can, and go out there and build the game of the dreams!
Be Okay without Perfection
Lastly, just see it through. As the creator of your own game, you'll see all of its flaws and imperfections, but that doesn't mean that it's not worth playing. See it through, gather feedback, and get back up on that horse. You're a game developer now!
Shameless Plug: Download Color Crush!
Now available on the Google Play Store