By January 23, 2020

8 STEPS To Become A Well-Rounded GAME DEVELOPER

For a lot of 9-to-5 developers, the idea of building a video game on their own often seems like a monumental task.

Game developers need to consider art, animation, physics, math, input, rendering, shaders, and countless other things that probably seem like they are in no way relevant to the daily job of building websites, services, or business apps.

If you’re a developer who wants to get into games, you may think that there are big differences between game and app development. But it’s important to realize that the majority of the work in each type of development is similar. #gamedev #gaming #coding

Day to day as a game programmer, you’re mostly just working in code, solving problems—that’s the same thing you do when you’re building business apps.

However, there is a shortcut you can use in order to advance your career as a game developer. In fact, I believe there are 8 STEPS that can totally transform your gaming career:

Transcript Of The Video:

Jonathan Thompson: Have you ever wanted to create a game of your own but just don't know how to go about doing it or maybe you've tried learning on how to make a game and I've got caught up in so-called tutorial hell. If so, you're in the right place.

I'm Jonathan from Simpleprogrammer.com and in today's video I'm going to be giving you a step by step action plan of how to create a video game of your own. So step one is going to be to start with some basic tutorials. Now I don't want you to get caught up in this phase too much and if you're already caught up in tutorial help, you can probably skip this step. I really just want you to get familiarized enough with the game development tools and engines that you're using to basically just take in player input and kind of get things moving around on the screen. And just kind of understand the very basics of how to do things in your game engine of choice.

Now, step two, I want you to pick a classic video game for you to clone at this point in your video game development journey. I don't want you to worry about making any design decisions or anything like that. I want you to go ahead and copy a classic arcade style video game that already has like good known mechanics that are pretty simple and something that you can easily replicate without getting overwhelmed or discouraged from everything. Be aware that some games seem simple at first, but when you start digging into their deeper systems, there's quite a bit more complexity there.

So one example of this would be Tetris. There's actually quite a bit of math involved in Tetris of when you want to rotate the pieces, kind of how you translate them and everything like that. And especially if you're rotating pieces that would eventually overlap with another piece or maybe you would go off the screen. You have to take into account that and then kind of move the Tetris pieces accordingly.

I actually made a clone of Tetris in a 48 hour game jam I did a couple months back and I was pretty surprised at how complex and how deep the features of Tetris go. And the other one that I would say to probably not try and clone right away would be Pac-Man. And the reason for that is because the AI for the ghosts that follow you around is going to be again, pretty complex for a beginner. Now a couple of games that I would recommend for you to clone would be Pong, Galaga, Asteroids, Missile Commands or the original Donkey Kong. I feel like all those are pretty simple and straightforward mechanics as well as pretty basic art styles. And there are things that you should be able to clone in a relatively short amount of time.

So now once you have your game selected, step three is going to be the break the game down into its smallest individual parts. And the best way to do this is by playing the game itself. And when you're playing, I want you to be taking detailed notes on everything. I want you to be looking at player input and the different type of objects that are interactable in the game. And how these different objects interact with each other. Basically just take a detailed account of everything that you're going to need to create in order to clone this game. And if for some reason you're unable to play the game, I think watching gameplay could be an adequate substitute, but it's not going to be as good as actually playing the game and feeling what it feels like to play the game. And if you're not really so much of an artist, you don't need to worry about complex animations or crazy graphical effects at this stage. You can pretty much just use static sprites and still get the feel of the game across.

Then the next thing that you want to be taking notes on is some of the more underlying systems of the game. So like how is the score calculated? What are the win and lose conditions. What kinds of feedback does the player get, are there some specific graphical effects or some audio that plays. Basically how does the player know that they did something good or bad in your game? Player feedback is critical to making a good playing game. And lastly, you just want to take notes on some of the things not necessarily related to the game. Such as user interface, menus and different options and things like that.

Now step four is going to be to actually go ahead and make the game and you want to make it as close to the original as possible. So the first place that I recommend to start is just starting with the core gameplay of it. So basically just get the player on the screen moving around and performing the extremely basic needed actions. And when you're here, I want you to replicate the gameplay. Feel as close to the original as possible. Again, one of the reasons I wanted to have you clone a game is because we already know that the gameplay feels good and we don't necessarily need to be kind of guessing. Is this something that players are going to like or is this going to be something that's too difficult for players?

So if we can copy the feel of an already good game, then we know that we're definitely on the right track and at this stage it may involve just kind of tweaking little values back and forth for hours upon end until we get something feeling right. But I promise when you put in this work, it's going to pay off in the long run and it's going to be much easier for you as you start making your own games in the future to make a game that plays really well.

Then once we have that core gameplay feeling really nice, then we can kind of start to add some of the more complex systems. We'll add more objects and enemies into the game and we'll have different things interacting with each other. And then we can add in some of those underlying systems like scores and things of that nature. And when you start implementing all these things, you're pretty much guaranteed to get stuck. And when you do, no problem at all, you can go ahead and start looking up online resources about how to solve the problems. But again, I don't want you to like look up a tutorial and say, “How do you make Donkey Kong?” I want you to go look up just the specific problem that you're stuck on. So if you just have like one quick little thing that you want to look up, I want you to find the answer to that thing and that thing only.

So then once you have the main systems in your game and working and everything like that, then you're going to want to start creating a couple more levels and kind of adding some variation to those basic core mechanics that you've built in. And then you can actually string these levels together with some sort of logic. So when you finish one level, then you move on to the next level and the next level and so on. And of course you're going to want to add in menus and user interface and everything like that. So again, really just copy the entire game from main menu to game over screen. Everything that you can, I want you to replicate as close to the original as possible.

All right, now step five, this is where things get real fun and this is where I want you to actually go ahead and tweak the game. So as you're playing the game, you probably were thinking, maybe it'd be cool if we could do this or if there was this power up or what if we start messing with the gravity and things of that nature. So I want you to actually make some tweaks to the game and see if he can make it a little bit more interesting than the original. Also, give the game to your friends and let them play it and see what they think about it and really take their feedback into consideration. Play testing is an extremely, extremely important step of creating a video game. And you again want to get in the habit of giving your game to other people and being able to take feedback on your games.

Now step number six is going to be to participate in game jams. Now if you're already aware, game jams are short events that typically take place over the course of a weekend, where you create an entire game from scratch. And they're an amazing way to practice your game development skills. Not only are these great for beginners who are starting out on game development. So they can just kind of get in the habit of making a game front to back and especially making things quickly. But it's also good for veteran game developers. So you can actually kind of flex your creative muscles a little bit. And if you've been working on a longterm project for quite some time, maybe it's a good time to actually go ahead and take a break. Work on something completely different and come up with some weird, crazy, wacky ideas for a new game.

And lots of great independent video games have come out of some of these 48 hour game jams. So who knows, maybe we'll come up with the idea for the next amazing, great hit. All right, so now that you've created a few video games of your own, guess what? You're a game developer. Congratulations. That's all you needed to do is just make a couple of games and now you're a game developer. So what are you going to do with your new awesome game development skills? Well now might be a good time to start work on a little bit of a longer term project if you want to.

So the general steps for creating a game of your own are going to be really similar to the ones that I outlined in this video for cloning a classic arcade game. However, instead of playing one game and trying to copy that as close to it as possible, you should probably go ahead and play some other games that are closely related to the game that you had in mind. And you want to look at the things that, that game does well and those things that those games do poorly. Those are basically my general steps of how to go from no game development experience at all to actually creating and releasing your first video game.

If you enjoyed this video, make sure you hit that like button. Also, feel free to subscribe to the channel for lots more awesome Simple Programmer content and let me know what you think about video game development and creating games of your own down in the comment sections below. Hope you have a fantastic rest of your day and I'll see you in the next one.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."