So how exactly do you make a game?
If you're a beginner game developer and have no idea where to start, this is the thread for you. Here's a list of suggested steps you can take to make sure your developing experience goes smoothly. This isn't a one-size-fits-all checklist, but rather a starting point for those of you who need a little extra guidance.
One - Your Concept
Every great game starts out as an idea. It might be as simple as "I want to make a platformer" or as complex as that heroic bildungsroman with RPG elements you've been daydreaming about for years. No matter how complicated (or not) your idea is, it's good to get your basis down before taking any other steps. If you're having trouble developing your idea, it might help to ask yourself a few questions. What point are you trying to get across? What is the goal of the game? How can you develop elements of it, such as the world, characters, mechanics, or aesthetic? Brainstorming with other people can be beneficial as well.
Two - Your Engine
Once you have your idea, think about what game engine will best help you translate your idea into a tangible product. Some engines are more specialized than others, and they also may vary in power, flexibility, and complexity. More power is not always better— the more powerful your engine, the more learning you will need to do in order to utilize it, so keep that in mind when you're picking an engine. Also consider looking for engines specifically designed for the type of game you want to make if you're looking for specific features. If you're a beginner with the engine you've chosen, be sure to try creating some quick projects so you get a feel for the interface.
Three - Organize
This is probably one of the most important steps besides actually making your game. It may seem inconsequential, but the benefit to organizing your ideas lies in your productivity. List all the features you want— things like mechanics (movement, for example), systems (such as inventory systems, battle systems, etc.,) major plot points, characters, special scenes, areas and maps, level ideas, items and weapons, assets (including sprites, tilesets, bgs, sfx, music)... The list goes on. The work you put into organizing your game's elements will save you time, energy, and frustration when you're trying to remember what needs to be done next— and listing your elements will give you a better idea of how much work needs to be done as well. This is especially important for teams since ideally you should be delegating workloads.
Four - Make the Thing
And here's the big one: actually making the game. There's not really a right way to go about this, but here's some good practices most people highly recommend:
- Use placeholder assets. Don't wait for your final assets to be finished before you start working on the core parts of your game. You need a game that works before you can make it pretty.
- Playtest often. Very often. If you catch bugs along the way, it'll be a lot easier to deal with than realizing you screwed up 2849 lines ago.
- Name your files in a way that makes sense. As tempting as it is to keymash all your filenames, it'll be a pain to type out a million times when you're writing code. Seems like a no-brainer, but it's important enough to bear repetition.
- Double check your asset licenses. Especially if you intend on producing a commercial game at some point. It's a good habit to start since not all assets are created equal.
Once you're done, don't forget to play your entire game. Start to finish. Check again for any bugs you might have missed before moving onto the next step.
Five - Publishing
For a commercial developer, this step usually entails a lot of advertising and networking, but for our sake we'll keep it to distribution. This is where a lot of beginner developers run into last-minute problems. Be sure to check the guides and licenses that came with whatever version of the engine you've chose, and give yourself enough time to fix your game if something breaks in the process before the deadline. However, if you fall just short of the deadline, we'll still be able to accept your game if you contact one of the mods. Don't forget— providing builds for multiple operating systems will increase your audience.
Six - Feedback & Bugs
Once your game is finally out and done, people will begin finding issues you missed while you were making the game. Major issues should be dealt with swiftly, but smaller ones may be fixed in batches at a time to avoid putting out too many versions of your game too quickly. For jam participants, we suggest a one-for-one system for giving feedback. If another jammer tries out your game, give their game a shot if you have the chance as long as you're able to. You can also show off your game screenshots in your #myfirstgamejam tags on tumblr and twitter, or share your project in the discord chat.
Remember, this isn't a concrete guide to gamedev— you might skip, combine, or completely ignore the steps in this list, and that's okay. There's no right way to make games, and although some ways are more efficient than others, what works for you works.