As I said in my last post here, a lot of things have changed since our little feline boss came hand in hand with this blog. When someone is out of touch with the videogame world, is so difficult to tell how much work is needed to build any kind of videogame from scratch, but those who tried at least once knows that even the most simple game can be a challenge for a sole developer. Unfortunately we belong to a group of crazy people who prefers to put their souls and their minds in impossible projects without expecting anything in return.
But at the end of the day we need to go out of our wonderful word of art, code and melodies to pay some bills or to attend our duties. In this scenario, it’s hard to keep your hobbies, even more if it’s as time consuming as videogame development, but is it viable to do it as a full time job?
A normal life by day and a secret one by night!
Let’s say you wan’t to become a game developer at some point in your life. Let’s also say that achieving this goal is your top priority in life right now. It may be because you don’t like your current job (if you have one) or because making games has been your life long dream. It does not really matter why you wan’t to do this, at least not for me. It just matters to you.
What matters to me is the fact that achieving this goal is not easy. In fact, it is way easier to screw up by making simple -yet not so obvious- mistakes along the way. Today we are going to talk about one of the most important: not trying to build something so big that it can eat your dreams in one big gulp.
Don’t let your projects squash your dreams!
Last week Sergio and I signed for the “it’s a race” Mini Ludum Dare and he did a pretty good work with his Boost Power, but the same can’t be said about me. This one has been my first game jam where I tried my best, but at the end I didn’t make it. It’s a shame, but I still think that still worth it.
My try is about a little mole fleeing from a sure death under the horrific mower of doom. You can help the little mole by smashing your keyboard and evading some obstacles jumping over them. My hours playing Track & Field some years ago have to take some blame for my smashing button addiction.
Click the following image to access the “game”
My failed game for the mini LD. Click to play
Some days ago, while having an ice cream with some friends, one of them asked about how much a freelance may charge for some graphics assets, and if it’s viable to hire someone for a game that’s not created to earn money with without a low budget. Most of the time, an indie or a beginner game designer/developer has a huge amount of eagerness and a so much limited amount of resources, including money, time, workers, or even experience and knowledge in some cases, and eagerness is often not enough.
As a beginner is normal to try to build a game alone, but even if someone is able to design, draw, animate, compose music and code each part of the game, it’s going to be a huge amount of work for our lonely developer and a hard test about how much he wants to end his project. Remember, the goal is always to end the game (as Sergio said once upon a time here…)
For those who still are brave enough to try alone with their project, I suggest them to try something before jumping on any other task:
- Think about how much time you want to spend in this project, and when do you think you are going to end it.
- Create a list of specific tasks, like “creating main character sprite sheet” or “coding move inputs”. Usually you should have between 50 and 100 different tasks or more.
- For every task set the time in your opinion is needed to end it. If it’s your first time doing something, mark it with a plus symbol or anything else.
- For each task, add a 10% to your time estimation, or if it’s your first time, add a 50%. It’s uncommon to get something working and fast enough at first try.
This last step shows how much time you will need to end your game, and usually is even more. If this estimation is much bigger than the time you want to spend, the risk of leaving the project before ending it is real. If not, or you still want to fight it alone, go for it as hard as you can and check some of our old posts if you are new to something like this, or this, or even this!
You’ve been there, I’ve been there, we all have been there. You have this great idea for a game, you say to yourself “I have the best concept for a game ever!”, and you keep telling yourself that it shouldn’t be so difficult to code it up and put together, that you only need a few free afternoons to make it happen.
And yet you actually never make it. What happened here?, weren’t you motivated enough?. No, that’s not it, you were absolutely thrilled by the idea of becoming a game developer, of going to the other side, where the cool kids hang out. The side where people don’t play games anymore but instead go bananas and actually make them by themselves.
The thing is, it really takes a long way taking an idea, concept, or drawing to the point where you can call that thing a “game”. You probably filled a few pages with awesome character designs, amazing levels and mechanics, but they probably stay within the limits of that sheet of paper forever.
Unless, that is, you get your *#%@ together and start taking the right path in order to make your goals a reality.
So, for the sake of it (and my very own as well) I’m going to recap a few tips I’ve learnt until now on how to get your workflow, well, flowing.