Tips and Advice for New Game Developers
Recently, I took to Twitter to ask about the best pieces of advice to give a new game developer. Here are some of the responses I received:
Plan out your game before even touching the code
You may have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t write it down, all those fine details will very quickly become muddy with all the other stuff you have to keep track of. Write down everything you want in the game. Write out the plot, the characters, the story. Keep track of which things you’ve done, and what you still need to do (Trello is great for this).
If you don’t write things down, you risk losing key plot points. You may lose a fine detail that you were really excited about. Write it down. Even if it changes over the course of the development process, writing down your plan and those changes will help the flow of development immensely.
Start with small projects
Every game developer dreams of making that one big game that’ll make them millions, but too many new game developers jump right into the big dream project as soon as they have the basics down.
Don’t do this!
You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment later. What you should do instead is start with small game clones, and then work your way up to small games of your own design. Every game developer at some point has made PONG, and while some may scoff at making such a simplistic game, it’s a great way to learn what goes into a game.
Aim to make games that can be completed in 5-10 minutes, and then slowly work your way up as you get more comfortable. It might take a few years, but you’ll eventually get to your big project.
Your first game is not going to be a commercial success
Neither is your second, or third, or fourth. You might get lucky and make a couple hundred dollars, but that is the exception, not the norm. In reality, the first game you make might not even take off at all! That’s part of the process. Don’t get discouraged; do better next time.
Take each game you make and turn it into a learning experience. Read the feedback your players give you. Take in the criticism. It’ll prove to be very valuable the next game you make. Game development is a huge slog, but eventually you’ll get there!
Listen to your players!
Design decisions should not be set in stone; if something just is not working, you should be flexible enough to adjust, change, or scrap entirely. Even if you think that the feature works well, you have to remember that you’ve been playing with this feature since its conception. A brand new user experiencing your game for the first time will not know the ins and outs of your game, and as such a feature that isn’t enjoyable to use will absolutely put a damper on the whole game.
Don’t be afraid to let go. Change is good. If something isn’t working, change it. Your game will be all the better for it.
Deadlines are actually your friend
Deadlines are a super scary thing to some new developers, especially if they are new to the language. However, having a deadline will actually help in the long run, because it pushes you to always be working. Motivation is a fickle and fleeting thing, but having a deadline will push you to keep working.
Setting deadlines doesn’t necessarily mean “Have the entire game done by X date. Something as simple as “I’m going to have these animations done by X date” or “I’ll have these assets drawn by this weekend” not only help keep the project moving, but also make it so that there’s a sense of accomplishment when you reach that deadline. Keep going. Set those deadlines.
Participate in game jams
Game jams are a fantastic exercise for your game development skills. Not only does this give you a deadline, it also opens your game up to criticism and feedback. Plus, it can be really fun putting together a game in a short amount of time!
There are game jams for every level of developer. There are weekend jams for experienced game devs, and month long jams for those who prefer to take a little more time. Our games got a start during Buddy Jam, which is a month long jam where you grab a friend and make a game. It’s a lot of fun; even if you’re new, try out a jam!