Developing a video game is a lot of work, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to break into the field. Many people start out in game development by working independently, familiarizing themselves with the tools of the trade until they’re able to create what they want.
The most important part of game development is having the drive to start and finish your work. Thanks to the internet, there are plenty of tools out there just waiting to be picked up and used to make your first game.
Planning Ahead: These Websites Answer Frequent Game Development Questions
If all you have is an idea for a game and the drive to begin building it, you might be overwhelmed by all the options out there. You’ve probably heard of Twine, RPG Maker VX, Unity, Source, and any number of other tools to get you started— but you may not know which one is right for you.
In that case, you might want to check out sortingh.at. This simple tool helps aspiring developers sort through their ideas while providing links to the tools most likely to help. While it’s a pretty simplistic guide, sortingh.at has information on things some developers might not consider at first like audio, art resources, and distribution. Using this tool in the beginning stages of development can help people who like a lot of structure to get a head start on their work.
For people who prefer to dive in first and organize later, PixelProspector is another great option. PixelProspector can direct users to many of the same resources as sortingh.at, with in-depth guides on aspects of game development like marketing, creating your own graphics, and coding resources. While the guides are great, the website is less linear than sortingh.at—if you prefer to be walked through your game setup, then the former may be your best bet. If you prefer to blaze your own trail and look things up as needed, then PixelProspector may be a better choice.
Start Your Engines With These Game-Building Programs
Many developers prefer to work in an existing engine, allowing them to focus on the unique aspects of their game rather than assume the responsibility of coding from the ground up. While both approaches have their appeal, it’s never a bad idea to get familiar with popular programs and engines for game creation.
On such program that’s a little simpler is Twine, which allows users to create nonlinear text adventures. While the program does allow for some advanced techniques, it is largely text-driven and therefore not the right program for every developer. If you want to experiment with story and encourage creativity through constraints, Twine is a great tool—but for people who want moving graphics, 3D worlds, or other complex game mechanics, it will probably be too limiting.
For people interested in creating games in the classic RPG style, RPG Maker VX may be a good choice. Like Twine, it has its limitations—don’t expect game mechanics more complex than those you would find in The Legend of Zelda—but it’s still a powerful tool that allows a lot of freedom and depth despite simple graphics and tools. For a classic throwback game, RPG Maker VX is a great tool, but it won’t be enough for people who want things to be a little more realistic.
For those who want 3D environments without as many restrictions, Unity is a great tool. The program is incredibly powerful and encompasses 21 different platforms, including PC, Xbox, and PS4. Best of all, it was recently announced that Unity 5 will be free to game developers earning under $100,000. Because Unity is such a popular tool, there are plenty of tutorials online to help walk you through the process of creating your own game.
The resources don’t end there—Valve also announced at GDC that its Source 2 engine will be free. Additionally, Epic Games’ Unreal Engine will be free until developers make $3,000 using it, and CryENGINE is available for a low monthly subscription. There are plenty of other resources out there as well. Shopping around and finding the engines and programs that used to make your favorite games is another great way to find the one that will work best for you.
Playing Along: Getting Your Game Into Others’ Hands
Distribution can be very difficult for indie developers who often don’t know much about marketing or publicity. Luckily, PixelProspector has information on marketing your game and itch.io allows developers to host their games for free or for a small donation at the developer’s choice. Steam Greenlight is another option though it may be difficult for unknown developers to get the attention they need to succeed.
Game development can be difficult and, if you don’t succeed right away, it might feel like you’ll never succeed at all. The most important part of undertaking any creative project is to remember that they don’t all work out and that, aside from the few people blessed with extreme good luck, it will take time and a lot of work before you grow a following or see a lot of revenue from your project.
And that’s okay because even if you don’t find fame and fortune, creating your own game is more than most people ever do. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you; play around with some of these tools and see what you can create. You never know how far your project can take you.