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  • A Beginner's Guide To Making Your Own Games

    [07.28.20]
    - Joey Heinze

  • 6. What comes next?

    You should now know the basics that you need to start making games on your own. But there is much more you can learn to get even better at making games. It's a good idea to look into the theory of game and level design. Making a game is one thing, but making a game fun to play is another challenge. Or maybe you want to create games with a focus on storytelling. Then you should dive into that direction and look for ways to improve your storytelling skills.

    6.1 Funding

    You have reached the point where you are confident enough to work on a commercial game? And you are also thinking of working full time on your game? Then you should also think about funding. Making a game is expensive. Even if you are working on it alone, you still have to pay for yourself. I assume, that you want to work on your game while still having something to eat and a roof over your head. So if you haven't put some money aside to cover your expenses over the time of development, you will need to look out for another source of income. There are two common ways of getting your game funded. 

    Crowdfunding is one way to get money for your project. You might have already heard of sites like Kickstarter. On Kickstarter (or similar sites) you can create a page to present your game. Interested people can invest money in your project. If enough people are willing to invest in your game, the campaign is a success and you will receive the money. In return, the people expect you to deliver the game at some point. Crowdfunding has some really good benefits. Besides the money, a successful campaign proves that there is already some interest in your game and it will also give you additional attention.

    Depending on how your project is planned, you have potential testers available for your game to gather feedback if needed. But there are also some downsides to crowdfunding. You need to get attention for your campaign. Otherwise, nobody will notice it. And if you can't manage to get enough people together who are willing to participate, the campaign is a failure which means that you won't get any money at all. If the campaign was successful than you also have to deal with an extra amount of pressure. Now the money of actual customers is involved. People expect the game as promised at the time you have promised. And because delays and other problems often occur in game development, you will most likely have to deal with angry supporters at some point.

    Another way to receive funding is to work together with a publisher. A publisher usually has several benefits. Funding, marketing, QA, localization, porting, connections, and more. Most publishers offer these things to some extent or they can at least help you to get what you need. But while a publisher might pay you in advance for your production, you will pay for the publisher's service after your game has been released by giving away shares of your revenue. So it's a good practice to try to talk to as many publishers as possible in order to get a deal that is fair and fits your needs.

    If you want to get in touch with a publisher be sure to be prepared. You should be able to pitch your game in only a few sentences (elevator pitch), you should have a plan for the production and the costs, and in the best case, you already have some sort of demo to showcase your game. Also, do some research on the publisher you are going to contact. You want to make sure that your game fits into the portfolio and that they offer the kind of support that you need for your game. 

    While crowdfunding and publishers are the common source of funding, there is also the possibility to release your game in Early-Access. This means that you publish your game in an early stage, but people are already allowed to buy and play it. This also has the benefit of having players that are giving feedback on your game. But unfortunately, Early-Access has a mixed reputation as there were a lot of games that just got abandoned during production, and people were left with a barely functioning game.

    In some countries, it is also possible to get funding through specific organizations. But depending on where you are from, that is something you need to look into for yourself.

    6.2 Marketing

    Marketing is a really complex topic and unfortunately, it was not possible for me to do more research on this part in the given time I had to write these guidelines. But there are a few tips that I have picked up over time that I can share. 

    The gaming market is overcrowded and if you don't manage to get some attention for your game it is likely to go down between all the other releases. If you are planning to make a commercial game it is good advice to build up a fanbase as early as possible. Twitter is a platform that is widely used by many indie developers. You can post screenshots, gifs, or videos of your game and interact with other people. My personal impression is that Twitter is the best platform to build up a fanbase. But I have no data to back it up, so I cannot prove if it is true or not. Some developers also use YouTube to get attention for their games. More and more so-called dev logs in the form of videos can be found on YouTube. Discord is also rising in popularity amongst indie devs and small teams. If you already have a small community, Discord might be a good way to keep in touch with your fans.

    Besides building up a fanbase you should also look into advertising. The most common form is probably running ads on various websites. In addition to ads, it is also common practice to get streamers involved. If they are interested in your game they might stream it and present it to their audience by doing so. Be sure to have some keys (or other forms of access) ready for your game. You should also get in touch with reviewers. This can also help a lot to get the word around. 

    Some of these methods are going to be more efficient than others. And there are also a lot of different factors that can influence your marketing strategies in positive and negative ways. In any case, you should invest some time into marketing in order to increase your chances of getting noticed by potential players. Otherwise, it is basically playing the lottery. 

    6.3 Recommendations

    Before we come to an end I want to recommend a few YouTube channels that you may find interesting and helpful:

    GDC
    Adam Millard - The Architect of Games
    Game Maker's Toolkit
    Snoman Gaming
    Game Dev Underground
    Extra Credits
    Ask Gamedev
    Noclip
    Jonas Tyroller
    WorldofLevelDesign

    There are probably even more good channels out there that I am not aware of, but with these, you should already have enough content for now.

    7. Summary

    Here is a summary of each chapter. You will find the important information without detailed explanations to keep it short. 

    7.1 Choose a role

    As a solo dev, you are responsible for each job. Game design, programming, assets, and more. But don't try to be good at every position. This takes a lot of time and there is the risk to end up just mediocre at everything but not good at anything. Focus on what you like to do and build your game with your limitations in mind. You can also buy assets or use free ones for your projects if you lack specific skills. Or hire someone if you are willing to spend money.

    7.2 Game Engines

    Pick one of the most common engines (Unity, Unreal, or GameMaker: Studio 2) to make sure that there are enough tutorials available to get you started. In addition, these engines have big communities around them that can help you out if encounter problems or when you have some questions. In the end you should make your choice depending on what type of game you want to make and which engine feels more comfortable to work with. 

    And remember, there is no such thing as the best engine and you can always try out another one. 

    7.3 Start with your first projects

    Start by following a tutorial series for your engine of choice. This way you will learn how to work with the engine and other basics that you will need to know for future projects. You will also get a feeling for how much work it actually is to make a game which is important if you start planning your project. If you feel confident enough you can try to copy old arcade games and give them your own twist. Always start small. Especially in the beginning, it is important to start projects that you can finish to keep up the motivation. 

    7.4 The basics of game development

    Before you start working on your own game you should learn the fundamentals of game development. There are three distinct phases: Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production.

    Pre-Production:

    First you will have to find an idea by brainstorming or similar methods. Or let yourself be inspired by other media, people, or nature. Write your ideas down, choose one, and make a prototype out of it. A prototype should always answer a question. Use it to test your idea and if the result is not sufficient you have to either iterate on your idea or find another one.

    If you want to proceed then transform your idea into a game design document (GDD). This prevents you from forgetting details and you are forced to write down all the features properly which can already show up possible flaws in your design. The next step is creating a plan by setting yourself a deadline even if you don't really have to. This way you will put more effort into your planning and you will more likely come to an end. Break your project up into tasks and estimate how much time you think you need to finish each one. Always add more time to it because it usually takes you longer than you think. Especially as a beginner. Create a MoSCoW list and sort your tasks after priority to be flexible with future rearrangements. 

    Production:

    This is the phase in which you actually create your game. Writing code, creating and implementing assets, designing the levels and everything else that is needed for your game will be produced. Testing your game is also important. Try to get other people to play your game and receive feedback so that you can improve your project.

    Post-Production:

    Some games are going to be supported even after the release with patches to fix bugs or more content updates. If you are not going to sell your game this probably won't be important for you.

    Always start with small projects and gradually extend the more experience you have. And check out the common pitfalls of game development to know what kinds of problems you will encounter during your production.  

    7.5 Release

    Release your game and then do it all over again!

    Keep working to improve your skills. Maybe try out a new engine or challenge yourself by doing something that you haven't done before. Connect to other people and build up a fanbase. If you want to sell your game then you might also want to look into marketing.

    8. Thanks

    Thanks to the people that helped me out by taking part in the survey:

    Rami Ismail - @tha_rami
    Bruno Beaudoin - @ItBurn_
    Stefan - @stefanvlr
    Wilson C - @wilsoncIndieDev
    Jonas Tyroller - @JonasTyroller
    Edd Parris - @empika
    Enrique - @1pxlchibs
    Jacob Williams - @ittas_gun
    David Jalbert - @DavidJayIndie
    Dillon Rogers - @TafferKing451
    Matthew Martinez - @HyMyNameIsMatt
    Günther - @monolithofminds
    Chris Wingard - @Ruugard
    Michael - @rattower
    Joel - @JoelLikesPigs
    Gabriel - @wildartsdevs
    Matt Rusiniak - @shatteringgame
    Christopher Smith - @lunoland
    and one person that wants to remain anonymous.

    ______________

    And that's it for this guide. I really hope it was helpful in some ways. Let me know if you managed to finish a game or feel free to give me any kind of feedback. If you want to get in contact with me you can find me on Twitter @jy_hnz or you can send me a mail at [email protected]

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