EGX final thoughts : Getting started in game development
This is my last piece on the thoughts following my weekend at EGX and my chats with the various small developers in the Rezzed area. As my previous articles have discussed, indie gaming is arguably in one of the strangest places its ever been in, and in a way, the Rezzed area at EGX was a pretty good snapshot of the state of indie gaming right now : filled with many games all of different shapes and sizes, for all possible platforms and genres, between them catering for every audience imaginable, but with many indie developers struggling to get the visibility and sales they deserve in an increasingly competitive and packed space, developers often find they are financially struggling. Despite this, I (and many of those I talked to at EGX) still believe its a great time to get creating your own games. Why? Because like most things, game development is a journey, and it just so happens it is a journey with a lot of perks along the way. So without further ado, here’s the short guide to getting started in game development, with input from, and thanks to, those lovely devs at EGX. Please note, like my previous EGX articles, this is about solo or small team game development, not AAA.
One of the best things about being a developer, or even just being interested in game development, is that you immediately share a bond with other developers, no matter what tools you use to create your game, what genre your game belongs to, what platforms your game is for, and even who your game is for, regardless of whether it has a specific audience or not. Contrary to some stereotypes, game developers are often very social and love to meet other developers and check out their creations, there are plenty of meetups all over the world, and I’m lucky enough to live right next to London, which has a vibrant indie scene and plenty of meetups every month, most of which are advertised on the London Game Diary. You might not connect with your audience, you might receive unfair criticism and you might not gain the sales you believe your hard work deserves, but the wider developer community will always be fair about your work and be willing to give you a few pointers to speed you on your way. And if you’re unsure about wether you have the skills to do it, they will send you to places where you can expand your knowledge and show you more tools to add to your expertise. Get out there, attend some meetups, get chatting and most importantly have fun.
At this point, if you’re considering getting into game development, I feel I should ask you one question…are you thinking about the money you might make out of it? Let me give you a quick tip at this stage, Forget about the money. That may sound like an odd thing to say, but unless you’re going into game development with a large or well known team, chances are you’ve got a lot of advertising to do before you start making money from games you make. Is this such a bad thing though? If you want to become a game developer, the best way to get started is by wanting to make a game and putting one out there. Any game. There are plenty of places to get started and plenty of game creation tools and engines that offer free as well as paid versions. Pick a game creation tool or language, think up a gameplay element, whip up some sprites and get to work, even if its just for a couple of hours a week. Post your games, get some feedback, make another game, get a couple of followers for your work, make a twitter or facebook account to share your games and thoughts with other developers. If you follow your feedback and keep looking for ways to make little improvements, your learning will come on in leaps and bounds.
So you’ve put a few games up, a few people liked them, maybe a few people didn’t like them, you’ve got a few pennies of ad revenue, maybe you’re working with someone to produce bigger games with better sounds and graphics. Now you can start thinking about the money, finding ways to monetise your game, selling it on an app store, implementing in-app purchases or getting it on a bigger platform like Steam. With a wider network of other developers, artists and musicians you can branch out and explore different methods, new avenues and gain further contacts in the industry. If you wish to just develop games as a hobby, you may even find it helps in other areas of your life. As someone who works in desktop computer, tablet and phone diagnosis and repair, Primarily in my job I am a problem solver, but game development, especially bug fixing, is all about solving problems and working on the fly. It is a great skill to have and you can put it to good use outside of game development even if you don’t decide to make a full career out of it.
To conclude, if you want to get into games development : Start by going to shows and meetups, meet and talk to other developers. Start slow, experiment with your ideas, and take the time to learn and try new things. Build up your userbase and advertise to anyone you can, and finally, don’t do it for the money, do it if you have the passion for it. Good luck!
The website for London Game Diary meetups is here : http://www.londongamediary.com/
The images used in my header are three popular and easy to use game creation engines which are all great choices for all levels of experience : Construct 2 ( https://www.scirra.com/construct2 ), Unity ( http://unity3d.com/ ) and Gamemaker Studio ( https://www.yoyogames.com/studio )