Making your first game.

Introduction
Making your first game can seem like a daunting task, but don’t let that put you off. Once you have got started it is a gratifying experience, and only through making games can you hope to improve your skills. Don’t worry if it is buggy mess where the physics does not work, that is where many other people and I have started before you.

What skills do you have
By taking a look at the skills, you possess, you will have a better understanding of what skills you need. Generally, the skills that are required to make a game are art skills and programming skills. There are plenty of game engines that will allow you to make a game without programming, and there are plenty of free or cheap assets to work as art for your game. Below you will find advice for if you can’t program or create art, can program but can’t create art, or can create art but can’t program.

I cant program or create art
As the hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy advises don’t panic. In this situation, I would recommend following along with a full guide to making a simple game. Brackeys is a youtube channel with a great guide that takes you through the whole process of making a 2d platformer. As you go through the process of following along with someone else take the time to make your art and google any parts of the programming that you don’t understand, also take the time to add different changes to your game. At the end of the process, you should have a unique game and a better understanding of what you need to learn. Once you have compleated your first game start thinking about how you can build another game with the skills, you have gained, but this time pick a game to make that is in different genera or has some very different mechanics this will force you to keep learning more skills and cement the knowledge you gained.

I can program, but I am not artistic
If you are a relatively competent programmer but have never picked up a paintbrush I would thoroughly recommend having a bash a making some art, it might be awful like my first attempts at it, but it will give you a better appreciation of what makes good art. Your first project is also a great place to make bad art as you should build your game with the sole purpose of learning. Let us suppose that you really can’t make any art, and then there are three options open to you. The first option you have is finding a friend that can do art and wants to start making games. The second option is to purchase artwork. The third option is to make do with what you have. If you take the first option, it is essential to remember that it is a partnership and while you may have your vision of what you want the game to be you need to be willing to compromise. If you decide to buy assets then you need to consider what you are aiming to achieve, it can be tempting to buy lots of high-quality assets and throw them together, but this typically results in a weak overall effect as there is no running theme. It can also be worth building the game with free assets first and then buying nicer ones once the game is feature compleat. The final option is to make do with free assets or even use simple geometric shapes in your game. If your first game is a knockoff asteroid game with a triangle in the middle and circles moving towards them, you can still pat yourself on the back as it is further than most people get.

Jetpack Phil in all its Inkscape glory. (My first game)

I am an artist but can’t program
I have known a lot of people in the situation that feel intimidated to start making game, and there is a perception that programming is a must to get started, and while it is true, that will need to program or have a programmer to make a more complicated game it is not necessary to get started. There have been plenty of great games based on there unique visual style. Some great ideas for your first game are side scrollers or point and click games, most game engines have most of the inbuilt functionality to make these style games and if you do some small programming to make your game more polished and to finish it off you will learn a lot that can help you in the future.

How do I build it
Games are created in a game engine, this links together the scripts and the art assets, along with providing functions such as rendering and physics. Your choice of game engine will largely depend on what you want from it and what skills you have. Godot, and unity would be my recommendations for starter engines. Many people state that Godot is easier and I would agree, unity has far more potential and as such, is worth the investment to learn. You could also use the Unreal Engine, and this is a fantastic engine used in AAA studios, it has some functions that make it more accessible such as visual scripting, but I am not as familiar with Unreal and as such would still recommend unity.
Once you have picked your engine then you need to decide what you are going to make, this is an often overlooked part of the process as people will rush off to start building, but if you take the time to consider what you could reasonably expect to achieve and in what time it will make the process feel smoother. When I first started making games, I would pick a game that I wanted my game to be like and then I would remove and add features to make it unique. First, I would recommend breaking down the game into a list of features that make up the core experience, then a list of features that are great but not essential. Once you have this list, it will act as your to-do list this is referred to as a backlog, as in your backlog of work to do. Spend some time with each of the features and make a note of how long you think it will take for you to do each part and what other components need to be done first, also note any thoughts on how you will do this. This can be difficult if you have never done it before, but it will provide a structure for you to work in and will make sure you don’t forget parts.
Now comes the time to start work on the backlog, don’t worry if you don’t stick to all the parts of work or discover new things to add, this is a natural part of the process and something that happens in forms of software development. It is also inevitable that you will overrun, this happens everywhere; in fact, it’s a law Hofstadter’s law.

Where to go from here
So you have made your first game, and you want to get better and make another one. The first thing to do is to get people to play your game, family and friends are good, but strangers are better as they don’t care about you. If you can exhibit your game at different places and watch what the players are doing. I will do a more extensive post on this soon, but I have been at a lot of exhibitions where people were so focused on trying to sell me there game they did not notice the issues I ran into while attempting to play. If you are lucky enough to get a stranger to play your game and you can watch this then keep quiet and watch for the issues they have and the things they love. If you are not able to physically see your user interactions, then pay close attention to any reviews or feedback that come back about the game. You don’t need to waste your time on trolls, but behind most reviews, there is a potential fan with a genuine issue, if you take the time to engage with them and resolve the issue or improve in the future you will both be winners.

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