Every year, we get a lot of requests to do sponsored shows and we end up turning the vast majority of them down. But every once in a while, somebody approaches us and suggests something really interesting, like those Punic Wars episodes we did. It’s usually something that, as soon as they pitch the idea, we all go, “Wow, why didn’t we think of that?” Well, recently, the folks at Unity asked us to do a series on creating your first game. Frankly, I’m actually shocked we haven’t addressed that before now, so time to fix that! The truth is, I have run into too many people who at some point decided that they wanted to make games.
And they picked up an engine, and they started diving in and they quit before they ever finished their first game because the experience was just frustrating. It seemed like it was going nowhere. And I don’t know if we can help, but this team has quite a lot of collective game-making experience, so hopefully some of our advice here will help you avoid the common pitfalls. The first thing you’re gonna wanna be careful about is scope. Many, many people pick up a game engine dreaming of making the types of games they play. Unfortunately, this often just is not possible. Games like God of War or Final Fantasy are made by teams of at least 40 people, sometimes way more than 40 people over the course of several years. Even if you’re just amazing and you throw your whole life into creating your game, you’re not gonna make a God of War or a Final Fantasy.
Not even close, and especially not on your first attempt. Truth is, you’re not even gonna create something like Super Mario Bros. as your first game. You *may* create like, 1 level’s worth of Super Mari Bros. but even that’s kinda pushing it. Your goal with your first game should be to get something built that you could actually play, even in the most rudimentary fashion, as soon as possible. Think of your first game as a learning exercise, not your master work. If you start with a huge project, you’ll find that you don’t even know where to begin and you’ll get bogged down doing little bits and pieces that have no tangible result, and it will seem like you’re not making any progress at all, and you’ll hit roadblocks that you don’t know how to overcome, simply to be left flailing for what to even work on next Trust me, Keep It Simple. If your first attempt at making a game turns out to be a one room platformer with bad collision that you took three weeks to build, be proud of that, because you built it.
You actually got it done. You made a game. That’s more than most people ever manage. So play it, and show it to your friends and don’t worry when they don’t understand it or are critical because they’re still thinking in terms of the big budget games they’re used to playing. *You* know how much work went into making that game, and more importantly, you know that next time you’ll be able to do it even better and faster. Soon, you’ll be building games that people are asking you to let them play. Second thing to keep in mind, (and, I know that this is gonna sound weird but) don’t go into your first game with a specific idea. Learn what you can do, and design around that. Don’t lock yourself into an idea and beat your head against it for weeks or months. Instead, learn a few tricks watch a few tutorials, then start working towards something you’re pretty sure you can build.
It’s okay if there are still a few parts of it you have no idea how to even start to do but make sure it’s only a few parts when you’re breaking your projects down and planning things out. Which, of course, brings us to tutorials. Any major engine has tons of people who happily make tutorials about pretty much everything. Go find them. Watch them. Study them. Then, if you’re stuck or if you can’t find an answer to your question, just ask. You’d be shocked at how many people are happy to help you through things if you just post on a forum or throw your thoughts onto the message boards. And don’t be afraid of coding. Lots of people say that they can’t code, but if you design your game right, you would be shocked at how little coding you actually have to do to get something done. It’s a small enough amount that any of you out there watching this right now *can* handle it. Again, just start small, keep it simple. You’ll learn as you go, and here especially there are plenty of sites out there that’ll help get you started.
StackExchange is a fantastic place to look if you have questions. Which leads us nicely into one of the big ones: Design your game around *your* skills. Part of understanding your scope is understanding your resources and, in this case, *you* are your resources. Are you a great artist but you’ve never coded in your life? In that case, have your game lean on your art skills while pushing you just enough on the code side that you learn some new things. Are you somebody who can’t draw or model or animate? That’s alright. There are plenty of games out there that get away with what you’d call minimum graphics. Accept that, and embrace it as part of your design. Constraints force us to be creative. And if there’s something you really just *have* to have, if there’s some coding task or some piece of art that you game just can’t live without but you just don’t have the chops to do it yourself, go to the asset store. There is an amazing amount of stuff that you can get there for next to nothing. James just talked to a professional studio that picked up their entire voice chat code from the asset store for less that it would’ve cost them all to go to the movies. James really wishes he had this sort of thing when he started out working in games.
So take advantage of it. Finally, don’t give up. There is a lot of life that’s gonna get in the way. Most people start out doing this between juggling a job or a full school schedule and it’s very, very easy to let days and then weeks pass before you get back to working on your game. It’s gonna be a struggle at first, no question. I wish I had more comforting words for you, but all I can say is that most things worth doing are a struggle. and if you stick with it, maybe one day you’ll have the option to make games *instead* of having to do all that other stuff. But that’s it for the basics. I know that was all broad, basic stuff that most of you probably already knew but I think it is important to start there, because when you’re deep in the process of making a game, it’s often that real high level basic stuff that people forget.
But, join us next episode for more of the practical nuts-and-bolts of making your first game. See you next week!.