My experience as a (wannabe) game developer and tips on starting out

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by soliddensity, Apr 8, 2011.

  1. soliddensity, Apr 8, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2011

    soliddensity macrumors newbie

    Apr 8, 2011
    As a gamer one of the things that’s most interested me is, well, making games! So, in the last couple months, that’s exactly what I did :) After releasing my game I found the experience really interesting and I wanted to share my experience developing a game from scratch with a bunch of people who would also find game development fascinating…fellow gamers!

    So I recently released my iPhone game Quantum Cannon ( ), it took me about 2 and half months and cost around $350 to make. It really was one of the most fun and frustrating 2 months of my life and I would encourage anyone who is passionate abut games to give it a go. So this is basically just a blog talking about my experience as a game developer and giving some tips to anyone who wants to try it out.


    All right, so, when making a game the first thing your gonna need is…a game to make! It might sound obvious but if you actually have an idea and some basic concepts floating around your mind of what you want to make, it will be a lot easier to actually make something. Take it from me, I was so over excited that I bought a MacBook pro, downloaded a bunch of programs, watched a bunch of videos about making apps and then at sat down in front my MacBook at went “…Wait, what am I actually making!” Luckily for me, my game sort of came about naturally. As I was teaching myself how to create various mechanics such as make an object accelerate, follow your touch, go up and down etc., I kept adding these mechanics onto the same level and eventually thought “hey, I can make a game outta this!”

    So the first step would be to get a notepad and just sketch out a few levels, write down what kind of ideas you have and draw some concept art. This way, once you get down to making the game you’ll have a clear goal and actually know what you want to achieve, instead of doing what I did and spending hours just randomly making things accelerate into each other in the hopes that something brilliant would occur (spoiler alert: nothing brilliant will occur).


    The next step would be to research how you are going to make the game. Do you want to use Unity or torque or Corona? Your decision will depend on what kind of game your making, what your budget is and how much time your willing to invest. For me, I knew I was making a 2-d action/puzzle game so any 2d engine would be fine, I also knew that I wanted to make my game as quickly and cheaply as possible, giving myself a 1 month deadline and a $100 budget (both of which quickly and inadvertently expanded).
    Once you know what you’re making and how you’re making it, the next step I would recommend you do is get your graphics in order. I say this because of what happened to me: I made about 20 levels before I started working with artists for my graphics. Now, I had an idea of what I wanted the game to look like and had based my 20 levels around that idea, but then the artists sent me my graphics…and they were nothing like I wanted! They were however COMPETELY SUPER MEGA AWESOME! Now this lead to good and bad news. The good news was that I had COMPLETELY SUPER MEGA AWESOME graphics, the bad news was that when I put my graphics into the game, all 20 levels became utterly useless. Everything was sized wrong, rotated in the wrong direction, placed in weird positions and was just a complete mess in general. The moral of the story is, make sure you know what you’re doing before you do it. I had based my level around shapes and sizes of objects whose shapes and sizes I didn’t know and it meant I had to start everything from scratch. Now if your making your own graphics then this may not be a huge problem as you can control what your art is going to be like. But if you’re hiring an artist then this goes back to my first point of drawing up your levels first, simply because, it’s a whole lot easier to edit a pencil drawing than to remake an entire (edit: 20 entire) game level(s).


    Once that debacle had been rectified it was on to making my game. And this brings me onto my final piece of advice for this blog. Be a business owner. Its one thing to be a student in your bedroom trying to develop a game as quickly as possible and with no budget. It’s a completely different thing to be a game developer trying to make a profitable product. As I said, I started out with a deadline of 1 month and a budget of $100, but somehow I ended up releasing after 2 and half months with $350 sunk into the project. So you need to be a business owner, you need to manage your time efficiently and plan ahead taking all costs into consideration from the get go. For example, here’s a fun fact, Apple take 30% of all your app sales! Oh, wait you already knew that? That seems fair does it, considering they let you develop and sell on their platform? Well here’s another fun fact, Apple charge $100 just to have the privilege of being able to develop and sell on their platforms. Wait, that was a mistake, they charge $100 annually. Now in my excitement to make a game I neglected a lot of research and only found out about this cost after I was committed to making my game. I also severely underestimated how hard it would be to make graphics and how expensive it would be to hire an artist.

    These and several other factors meant that I hade to go WAY past budget to make my game and if I had known it would cost me this much to just put a game out which would only return 70 cents per sale and give me a recurring cost of $100 per year, I would have seriously reconsidered! (Although, if that were the case, then the world would have missed out on the awesomeness that is Quantum Cannon, so I guess in the long run it was all worth it :) ).
    So there you go! My tips on stating an iPhone game, I hope you enjoyed the read and learnt from my many, many mistakes and I hope this encourages some people to get out there and start developing! And if your feeling really generous why not check out Quantum Cannon and tell me what you think!

    Also, note: “Hey babe, want to have some fun touching my quantum cannon” is NOT a good pickup line…believe me, I tried
  2. 0098386 Suspended


    Jan 18, 2005
    Interesting thread! I'm a game dev but I gravitate around PC and console development at the moment, one of my IP's is currently being developed for the iPhone but that's outside my technical reach now.
    I gave an interview for a podcast recently (that I'm never going to link to :p) where the interviewers plan to develop a game using advice they gather from devs. But basically it boils down to-


    Throw graphics and audio out the window till you get a fully working prototype. Then craft the art around how the game feels. You need loads of planning before hand though. Generally I write out a 5-6 page essay on either the story or gameplay mechanics (depending on the style of game) and pass that around my team along with a smaller technical design doc.

    Once everyone is on the same page we press ahead with building the whitebox engine (everyone I work with is a game developer+other skill, like musician, artist. That way we can all remain busy throughout the whole project).

    After that we all branch off into our specialised field.

    =I programme, create the art and generally shape the path of development.
    =Our writer will come up with a refined story, dialogue.
    =Our musician will make the sounds, music, organise narration and voice actors.
    =Our additional artist will constantly work on concept art, promo art and tweak the overall art direction until completion.

    If you're doing it by yourself I find this to be my favourite dev route;

    =Initial game design+Art

    Doing one thing per day works best for me. Spending a few days creating a load of art and then throwing it into a fully working engine, it's a great feeling!

    Overall it can be really frustrating though. Over time you get better at refining that initial idea. Like when I was a kid I wanted to make an acrobatic platform game using beautifully painted landscapes... thing was I couldn't do any of that, barring the acrobatic engine. I wasted months trying to come up with something that was (for me) impossible. Like anything - learn from mistakes!

    ^ Current project. Just me and the musician this time (it's an arcade style game for PC and possibly XBLA and PSN).
  3. soliddensity thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 8, 2011
    Nice tips

    Hey great info there, thanks for that! And your current project looks awesome, good luck with it!
  4. 0098386 Suspended


    Jan 18, 2005
    You too mate! Be sure to drop me a PM any time you want a chat about this here industry of ours.
  5. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    I would LOVE to find an artist that cheap! (I make all my own art but it is time consuming!) Plus only spending $350 on making a game is nothing. Thats actually quite cheap. Wait until you start making something bigger and have to buy programs like Maya, ZBrush, Photoshop, etc. then you will wish it was only costing $350 :p

    I did enjoy this thread though. I love reading about fellow game developers creating stuff and the process they went through.

    +1 Always plan everything first, it will save you TONS of time. (Oh and Dagless, your game looks pretty sweet!)

    Here is generally what I do (I work alone so I do it all, some of it sounds like overkill but really its not, I've prevented a lot of mistakes early on by not skipping steps):

    -Create concept documents (art, gameplay, story)

    -Create flowcharts of game logic

    -Asset previsualization (not normally done but its helped me many times over). This is where I make graphics close to what I want the final game to look like, and test them on the screen. This helps spot all kinds of mistakes before I even get to the prototype stage.

    -Prototype (this is where I create and test the game mechanics)

    -Create production level assets (LOTS of work)

    -Final testing and tweaking

    Although I don't do everything exactly the way its usually done, I really like my method since its helped me spot many many problems before they became problems. (Usually I catch them in the asset previs section).
  6. 0098386 Suspended


    Jan 18, 2005
    ^ So so true! When you work alone you get to really perfect something. It's a great method, especially if you're capable of bashing out art, music and programming.
    In the last 5 years I've only ever made 1 game fully by myself and I miss having that 100% control. But when you start to hire out talent it gets easier. It's just finding your stress level and adapting the development model to suit your own skills.

    Another dev method I like is onion skinning.

    That's what I'm doing at the moment.
    I released my game (3 month dev time) earlier this year. It was quite well received but I had too many ideas for sequels, so I thought I'd totally perfect the game with a vast update.

    I sketched out some ideas for the update and restarted development. Infact I still have my original notes all on 1 side of A4;
    Since then I've filled the entire sketchbook with new ideas, concepts, sketches and some game logic. Because as you go through the game you realise "oh, this might be cool". It gets thrown in, testers love it and you then throw some more days perfecting little new features.

    That method is quite fun. A bit more scattered but you're left with really meaty games.

    (I think I recall announcing I was working on this update in Feb after talking with the chaps at Steam. It's now April and I'm still feverishly working on it :D)
  7. wordoflife macrumors 604


    Jul 6, 2009
    Very interesting thread! Good luck to everyone making something :)
  8. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    I too like this thread. If my game were closer to completion I would definitely add to it, but where it is right now its too risky to post. A dev with more skills may swoop in and nab my idea and get something on the app store first.
  9. soliddensity thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 8, 2011
    Haha, thanks!
  10. steadysignal macrumors 6502a


    Dec 21, 2010
    Dagless and Solid - good luck.

    This is not an easy endeavor.

    But then again, nothing good should be easy.

    Please keep the board updated if you can - it would be neat to buy your games...
  11. 0098386 Suspended


    Jan 18, 2005
    I've already got a few up for sale, and loads more as freeware (used to be a great way to practice). Infact we recently had a weeklong charity drive where all our sales were donated to the Japanese Red Cross (even managed to get our distributors to offer their usual %age too!). Our studios game design style is to take existing concepts, make them weird and throw in new stuff, but to keep them fully playable. Our first 2 commercial games were all about exploration and discovery, we tried that with our 3rd but it didn't work as well, so that's what we're doing now - a huge update! All our commercial games, whilst vastly different in graphic styles and gameplay, all have a subtly connecting story about an event with the moon. It's all very fun stuff to make.

    Oh and all my games and the studios are Windows only for now :eek:. That's why we farmed out one of our series to a larger company, they're able to bring us back an OSX, iOS, Win, XBLA version.

    And it's really not easy. Probably one of the hardest jobs in the creative field. You spend 6-12 months working in tiny teams without funding (unless you're lucky or well connected) not knowing what the outcome will be. Constant late nights. Terrible job really :p.
  12. soliddensity thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 8, 2011
    Hey thanks everyone for your support! It may not be easy to make games but certainly is fun! Even though Apple had messed up my account for a couple weeks, its all back and running now! Hopefully it didn't cost me too many sales.

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