Game Developmet Blog: In the beginning

Indie Game: The Movie has a lot to answer for, or should I say “will have” a lot to answer for some day hopefully soon, but more on that shortly.

 

More recently though I’ve stopped playing games for the most part. Games are limited to lunch breaks and occasional evening sessions when the girlfriend is watching her “soaps”. My days are instead work and my spending time with my daughter as some of the games I play with her can be more rewarding than any computer game I’ve ever played.

Still though…I love games. Underneath the lust for playing games, I’ve always garnered a deep desire to create games. During my early education, my goal was to learn the skills and get the grades in the subjects I believed I’d need to become a game developer (Maths, Physics & IT). However as well as I did, my own youth, laziness and short attention span conspired against me and I struggled to motivate myself properly to rise to the lofty ranks of Game Developer.

It’s something I’ve always regretted, but until recent events and milestones in my life, it’s nothing I’ve tried to rectify.

Two events then occurred. One life changing and the other inspiring:

  1. My mother sadly lost her battle with cancer and passed away. During talks with her I was reminded that life really is too short to regret things. It’s also too short to let obstacles stand in your way of things you really want to do.
  2. I watched Indie Game: The movie. Seems a little weird to put this in a list next to the passing of my mum, but when it comes to my desire to create a game, watching this movie is an inspiring thing indeed and as such becomes an important factor within the context of this post.

Watching Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes of Super Meat Boy fame talk about the development process for creating theirs games and also their thoughts about game design/development is inspiring. I can really relate to their thoughts and feelings. The same can also be said about Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow to some degree. For any would-be game developer out there, this movie is seriously inspirational.

So, this is why Indie Game: The movie will have a lot to answer for…where possible, my life will be taken up with the design and development of a computer game.

Don’t get me wrong, It’ll not affect my personal or work life so much as these are things that are important to me. I’m not putting myself under any time constraints at all, I’m simply saying I want to make a computer game, so I will.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time so far researching game development and trying to work out my best approach for this. I’ve never made a game before in my life and didn’t have the foggiest about where to begin. My background is that of Web Design & Web Development, so I do have some experience in the design and creation of applications, but there’s still a steep learning curve for me.

My initial thoughts were that I’d begin with a 2 pronged approach:

Begin writing down the ideas for my game

I’ve got lots of ideas. I’ve had lots of ideas for years. I’m constantly coming up with games I’d like to play, but they are all HUGE. They’re the kind of games that massive development teams create and that’s not a realistic goal to set myself. I do like a challenge though, so I’m going to be realistic, yet ambitious. I’m going to write down all my ideas and create a story, build story boards and in essence design a huge game, but I’ll simply implement what I can. I’ll have a “blue sky” game, but I know it’s unlikely I create the complete article, but I will have a bloody good go at it.

Learn the skills needed to develop a game in the first place

As mentioned, I do have some programming abilities. I have experience building PHP Websites & Applications using OOP, so I do understand the fundamentals of development. I also have some experience (albeit limited) in C# application development. I realised that my best approach would be to use an already existing game engine and learn the skills necessary to use the engine to create my game. To begin with I tried out GameMaker: Studio and began creating some simple platformer proto-types which worked well enough however as the “design phase” continued it became clear that to be able to tell the story I wanted to tell and create the game I wanted to make with some very specific gameplay mechanics, I’d need to transition into the realm of 3D space; something I initially didn’t want to do as I convinced myself that this would make my task even more daunting, however I knew I would have to face up to the task if I really wanted to make a game.

After a long period of researching, I started to come to the conclusion that perhaps this new direction wouldn’t be as daunting as first feared. Again, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t going to be a quick and easy process. It’s still going to be a lot of really hard work and will take up a lot of time, but after settling on using Unity3d as my game engine of choice I believe my task is doable.

I’ve already spent a considerable amount of time going through Unity tutorials, trawling the Unity Forums and then creating mini game mechanic prototypes from scratch and its given me the confidence to move forward and start to prototype more complex game mechanics that I’ve already scoped as required for my game.

I’m still not anywhere near ready to begin the creation of my game, but each week I learn something new that gets me closer to beginning development and I’m so far finding the whole experience to be very enjoyable.

Some other skills I know I’ll need are more in the art & design areas, which is something I feel much more comfortable with. I’m pretty proficient with Photoshop & Illustrator and I do have some experience creating complex 3D models…although that skill is a little rusty, so have begun to brush up there too.

So then to conclude this post, I’ll not tell you anything about the game I’m looking to create and I probably won’t for a very long time. I’ll start to write a few more posts as and when I have anything to say and I’ll hopefully trickle little snippets about the game over the next year, after which I’ll hopefully have something with some form and features that I can start to talk about.

Wish me luck…see you in a year or so!