On Game Development and Starting Small

There isn’t too much in terms of updates to the game (though rest assured we are still working very hard on it!). Instead, I would like to share some advice for new and curious game developers when it comes to starting that first project.

I like to lurk on Reddit’s /r/gamemaker community, and one of the posts I see crop up from time to time is something to the effect of

“I want to make something like [X] game, where do I start?” 

Usually, the examples they give include games that are incredibly successful, and/or humongous (such as an MMO, or other multiplayer game). Additionally, they often let slip that they are new to GameMaker Studio, or have recently purchased the developer license and are just trying to get the hang of the program.

Don’t immediately jump into that big dream game

As a new game developer, you are just starting to accrue skills and habits that will eventually serve as the basis for everything you do. From adding semi-colons, to how you utilize if-else statements, and even where you place your curly brackets, these all form the basic building blocks to making games. You have to first master the basics before you can even touch that big game.

Asteroids: The beginner’s intro to programming games

One of the pieces of advice I have given to people just getting started making games is to “start small”; find a simple game that you can recreate. Pong and Asteroids are two very common first projects for new game devs, as they provide an introduction to the amount of work that goes into a game.

Asteroids, surprisingly, is a lot of hard work for such a simple game!

This is a screencap for the small Asteroids game that I was working on after a brief hiatus from GameMaker:

I know, it’s not much, but think about what all goes into a game such as this. You need:

  • Collision between the ship and the asteroids
  • Collision between the bullets and the asteroids
  • Asteroid movement and ship movement
  • Asteroids that break up into pieces
  • A way to keep score
  • Lives/Game over screen
  • Sprites to represent everything!

And this is just the very basics! The core building blocks to have what many would consider a “game”. In truth, there is so much more you can put into Asteroids to make it even more engaging, but if you’re just starting out, this is a great first project. Plus, there are plenty of tutorials to follow, so you shouldn’t ever feel lost.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

This is a problem I run into constantly, even now. I’ll get this fantastic idea for a game and I know I have the skills to do it. However, once I get started, I realize that it’s much too much for one (or even two) people to tackle on their own. The problem I have is I want to do too much in one game. Having lots of features may seem like a good idea, but they can hurt you in the long run!

Revise, revise, revise!

Game developing is a lot of downsizing, and working from the very basics. Start with the smallest possible version of your game, and as you go, you can add on top of it. There is nothing worse that having many different ideas and then realizing you can’t reasonably do everything you want after investing 10 hours into your development cycle.

Start by writing out everything you want in your game, and then go through and cross out things that are not necessary. Make your initial project as small as humanly possible, and work out from there. Keep your original vision in mind, but understand that you won’t be able to get everything in there (but if you do, that’s just icing on the cake).

Remember that game development is a process; there’s a reason those in the industry call it the “development cycle”. It’s a lot of hard work, dedication, and time invested. If your first project doesn’t work out, don’t be discouraged! Simply try again and learn for next time.


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