If you’re reading this, then you probably want to know what a whole bunch of other people also want to know: how can I design a game? There are plenty of things to think about, many factors to consider–sometimes, just daydreaming about it can be overwhelming! After all, huge mega-corporations like Ubisoft, EA, and Blizzard have millions of dollars to spend to create games that make history. “What about me?”, you might ask. “Is there really anything little old me can do?”
Here’s the thing: everyone has to start somewhere. And it doesn’t matter if you can’t create the game of the century. That’s not what your focus should be–trying to create THE PERFECT GAME that changes the industry forever is definitely unrealistic. Instead, focus on balancing complexity with practicality. Here are a few steps to making a video game, plus a few things to think about.
#1 Practice seeing the world as a video game
Writers are often told to imagine themselves writing about everyday experiences. Getting a cup of coffee? Waiting in line for the bus? Any simple experience can become a story. And any simple experience can also turn into the plot of a video game. In fact, some of the most exciting games and stories have plots that seem entirely ordinary. The magic lies in turning those boring plotlines into fun stories.
#2 Smush ideas together
As a newbie developer or game designer, you might still feel stuck. In that case, try listing a few ideas and combining them randomly. For example: what if you created a fun, modern twist on an indie game? Brainstorm the type of game you want to make: an RPG? A shooter? A platformer like Mario? Don’t try to overreach here–make a game that you can realistically finish.
#3 Plan out the nitty-gritty details
Here are a few questions you should answer once you’ve got your idea for the game.
- What console will I be releasing it for? Maybe you just want to make a simple mobile game. Or perhaps you want to make a retro-style RPG with lots of text and compelling characters.
- How many people will I need to create this game? (The answer might be one–just you!).
- What software or programming language will I be using to make this game?
For example: if you wanted to make a super-simple text-based game, or you’re a student who likes thinking of great plots but has no programming chops, you could try creating a game with an app called Twine. It’s a new and free program that lets you make choose your own adventure games which can then be exported as an HTML file. Or you could try using the very famous RPG Maker, which is another video game engine that lets you create 2D, sprite-based RPGs.
#4 Design, design, design
Build characters and environments. Even if you’re making a text-based game, chances are you’ll have a setting and some characters. Now it’s time to plot them out. This may take quite a long time, so be careful! You can create 2D sprites in Gimp or make 3D models by using programs like Maya and Blender. Start doodling rudimentary designs before choosing the ones you like best and fleshing them out further. You can also start thinking about soundtracks and video game sounds you want to use in your game. There are plenty of free assets like Freesound.org and OpenGameArt.org.
#5 Find some guinea pigs
Now, here’s the painful part: Ask someone (preferably someone who is brave enough to give some helpful criticism) to play your game. After all, you’ve spent quite a while with this game, and you probably see it from a very subjective standpoint. Of course–after all, it’s your baby!
It’s important that you find someone objective to play through your game. That way, you can find out what’s working and what isn’t. That’s why even large companies like to run beta tests–hopefully, players can spot issues or problems that can be rectified before the initial launch.
All in all, most of the game-making is about accepting the risk that you’ll make a mistake. No game is perfect, and you could theoretically spend your entire life improving a single game. But that’s not realistic or fun. Don’t be afraid to try things, include new features, and be wrong. Finish your game, and make another one. Do your research and keep up on game design news. Try new things, even if they’re scary or you seem lost entirely! There are so many resources out there nowadays for newbie game developers and designers, and with a little bit of effort (okay, maybe a lot) you can publish your very own game.