In the Monday Musings I try to talk about the stuff that’s happening in the world of Game Development, from interesting game releases, to interesting technology, and game business happenings.
Game development takes time. End of article! Okay, let’s unfold that a bit more, but it is the point I will be making all through out this weeks Monday Musing article. So you pretty much just got the gist of it and continue your Monday’s normal tasks because I know these days we are all in a hurry and only have 1 minute of attention span.
Still here? Okay! So this Monday’s musing is sparked by both an Orangepixel-discord conversation but also a growing collection of people commenting on my videos and mailing me about “where to start with game development” , “what the best engine is”, “any books or videos they should watch to learn game dev”, and “how was the universe created?” you know, the basic questions a starting game developer has.
It’s the wrong question
The answer to all of those questions isn’t really an answer. The best game engine? it depends on what type of games you want to make, what kind of knowledge you have, what kind of resources are available to you, and the list goes on.
Any books or videos I can recommend? I learned game development in the late 80s and early 90s from books that had topics ranging from IRQ’s, memory addresses, and showing tricks on multiplexing sprites in Assembler, or smooth scrolling backgrounds on 486 CPU’s and other uninteresting topics for modern game developers and devices. So no, I can’t recommend books, because I haven’t read any recent developer books in decades.
What tools did I use to create a game like Residual, and which engine allowed me to do that? Answer is often: my own engine and tools, but you can do it in any other tool, as long as you know what you’re doing!
I can’t help but feel that these questions are actually hiding the REAL question these people want to ask.
The underlying question often seems to be: What is the short cut to create the game ideas I have in my head?
And I totally understand that feeling. You love games, you play a lot of games, you got ideas, and you want to take those ideas and turn them into games for you and others to play AND, if possible, earn a huge amount of money.
That same pressing issue and problem is still present in my head after decades of doing this. But sadly, when ever I come up with a new game idea and I want to create it, I know I have to literally sit down for weeks to get a first prototype running, and then many months after that to have it playable by others.
There are no shortcuts
As you might expect, there are NO shortcuts to creating games. At least not currently as I’m writing this. The improvements and leaps they are making with AI might soon make this article obsolete (or at the least be quoted by AI as a reply to how games were made in the old days).
But for now, creating games is a time-consuming task. Especially if you are new to game development, and that often also means being new to programming, using the tools available, understanding the problems and work-around you need to do to make stuff look good and fake a lot of things that the player doesn’t know about (and neither do you, if you only just started out).
Modern tools have gotten very good at “almost” making it possible tho. You can grab something like Unity, download a bunch of graphical assets, scripts, pre-made code, add some sounds, and you can pretty much create a game that runs on a fair amount of powerful devices in a fairly short-time. But even then, it will still require you to invest time into learning how to get all those assets to play nice together and how to operate Unity to begin with.
I’ve seen “game developers” create games like that, many of the resulting games are called asset-flips, as they are (ab)using often-used assets and they lack a lot of charm and personality in the game itself.
It’s a skill
I recently started practicing Guitar, because I want to create nice tunes and songs. I had no skill, no knowledge, and never even held a guitar! And I want to read (short) books, watch videos, and find the short-cut to play great songs. But playing the Guitar, is a skill, and I came to realize that it simply will take a lot of practice and time to get good at it. I will not be playing any songs this year or the next.. but I am enjoying the process of learning!
And the same goes for game development. It’s a skill, and no matter how powerful the tools become, creating games is more than just combining tech and assets. Games need to be fun, engaging, help the player when they are struggling, but also be tough on the player to keep challenging them. Designing them, building them, making them run on a variation of devices, simply doesn’t have a short-cut available.
You should be enjoying that whole process, or else you will not be making any games.
As with every skill, it takes time to learn and it takes even more time to become good at it.