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  • 5 Mistakes Students Make With Their First Game

    [02.13.18]
    - Stuart Lilford
  • As a lecturer in game design I see and play a lot of student games. These are often the first games these students have ever made. I have seen some really talented students develop their first games and I've noticed a few recurring mistakes in some of their early work (even the really talented ones).

    Obviously everyone's first few games are awful, mine own included (see: The Adventures of Turquoise Macdonald), but I believe that with a little sprinkle of polish over some of these areas, student games can overcome these common mistakes and their games could evolve from awful to almost-good.

    YOUR GAME DOES NOT NEED A MENU OR THE ABILITY TO PAUSE THE GAME

    Every year I teach students how to make games and inevitable I am asked the question "how do I add a menu" or "how do I add pause functionality to the game". It is clear that students begin their journey with primarily mainstream references for what a video game should be. I try to break these pre-defined ideas of video games and show students examples of games beyond the mainstream.

    Some of my favourite games in recent times have been experimental, quirky games made for game jams and, primarily due to time constraints, these games rarely need a pause menu or even a front end menu. They are not 40+ hour campaigns with the ability to tweak the graphic settings and offer 4k support. They are short, sweet experiences that focus on gameplay and design and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is a time and a place for adding menus and pause functionality to a game, but your first experimental prototypes are neither.

    YOUR GAME HAS NO SOUND

    As we learn to make games, it's easy to place the sound effects and music for the game to the back of the to-do list. Particularly if you have no experience of producing music or know where to find music for your game. Many students however, seem to forget that music and sound even exist and leave it out of their game completely.

    Just a few basic sound effects can add some much-needed juice to your early games. Sound effects are an easy way we can give feedback to the player. The more feedback you can give the player through sounds, animations and screenshake, the more they will feel like they are making an impact on your game world.

    I tend to use BFXR to create simple sound effects for small prototype games: https://www.bfxr.net/

    For sound effects beyond blips and beeps, I usually turn to freesound.org. You need an account to download sound effects, but it's free and once you're signed in you can download any sounds you need. In the past I've grabbed "door opening", "elevator bing" and "buzzer press" sound effects from there and they've worked just fine in simple prototypes.

    For music, I tend to use Newgrounds as there's a wide mix of audio on there and again, it's free to download. Just be sure to credit the author for their work.

    Find out more about royalty free sound and music or how to create your own here: http://www.pixelprospector.com/sound-music/

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