Hi! I’m David Arcila, the curator of the ZEEF Game Development resource page. I’m also a game development teacher that has seen countless student projects crash and burn throughout the years. This has led me to understand what are the common mistakes that people make regarding the game design and game development workflows.
In this ZEEF curator blog post I’m going to share 7 essential resources & tips to get you started with game development and help you avoid the common pitfalls that this creative process ensues.
The most important thing to do before actually starting development of your game is defining what the game is going to be about, the best way to do so is by working on a Game Design Document often called a GDD. This document will become your compass when actually developing the game and will save you a lot of time in the long run, but beware! If you’re not meticulous about what goes into the GDD you can end up with a huge document that no one will read and were the important information gets buried among blocks of text thus hindering the team workflow.
My advice is to use Dundoc initially to have a really compact GDD that answers most of the common questions regarding what the game will be about. Later on you will realize that this document has to allow for collaborative input so you probably will migrate it to another platform.
If you thought people bought a video game for it’s graphics then take a quick look at this survey taken from the 2015 ESA Report about the computer and video game industry. Turns out last year 22% of gamers were buying games based on the story and/or premise, which sheds light to how important narrative is becoming for gamers.
If you’re wondering where to go to start building your story in a simple and dynamic way then make sure to check out Twine. Twine is an open source tool created by Chris Klimas for telling interactive nonlinear stories, which makes it really convenient for game development. This software allows you to build your narrative in a visual structure based on hypertext that doesn’t require knowledge of programming.
Once you understand what game you want to make, you must start getting things done and the best way to do so is to use a Project Management System that allows you to organize tasks and get feedback. That tool isTrello, and believe me, I’ve tried dozens of similar resources such as to-do lists, mind maps and even database apps but the most simple and straightforward is this one, especially when you’re working with a team.
The difference and more important aspect of using Trello compared to a to-do list is that you can visualize the importance and impact of the tasks in regards with the project and you can also assign due dates to it, this makesTrello very easy to integrate with Agile methods such as Scrum.
Most game developers nowadays can’t even understand how fortunate they are, back in the day if you wanted to use a game engine you either had to buy an expensive license or you had to build it from the ground up. Fortunately, thanks to the democratization of technology today we can find a plethora of game engines that range from 2D, 3D, Free, Subscription based and more.
Because of it’s ease of use and gradual learning curve, Unity is one of the most popular engines among indie game developers so there is more than enough tutorials and information available online for learning.
(If anybody wants to dive more into Unity make sure to check out Adrian Anta´s ZEEF page here)
Now that you know how to start a GDD and how to organize the tasks for the development of your game, it’s important to start building a prototype because this is how you will show the game mechanics and understand how the game is coming altogether. You must be iterating many times until the game feel and the game mechanics work effectively until you end up with the Alpha and subsequently the Beta version of the game.
But, how to start prototyping as soon as possible? With the use of placeholders.
Placeholders are temporary assets (3D Models, Sprites or Sounds) that are meant to dissociate programming and art schedules allowing them to progress independently thus saving time and allowing you to start playing with your basic game mechanics while the final assets are done. So, let me tell you about Kenney, who is also known as the “Asset Jesus” because he has the best placeholders available for making a quick and working prototype. We’re talking about UI, Audio and Sprites that are Public Domain and ready to implement.
Most indie game developers make the common mistake of defining and implementing the audio at the last moment, the reason why this happens is because generally graphics and programming are priority when developing the game, but having a great sound is integral to making an awesome and memorable game. The good news is that having great sound can turn a so-so game into a better one, the bad news is that composing music and sound effects for videogames requires time and effort.
I’m going to recommend the following resources related to Audio:
- Incompetech is a music repository made by Kevin MacLeod that has Royalty Free Music available as different “Collections” which can be searched by genre or feel. Some developers use Kevin’s music as audio placeholders because due to Incompetech’s popularity a plethora of Youtube Videos and Web Games already use his songs, so eventually you will find that a song you like has been used before in another product.
- Freesound is a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples and recordings released under Creative Commons licenses that can be reused as you want depending on the type of license the samples have. Using a free audio editor such as Audacity you can remix the samples and adapt them to your needs.
It’s very important to be learning constantly specially in this ever changing industry, and the best way to be aware of the changes is visiting the GDC (Game Developers Conference) because it’s the largest annual gathering of professional video game developers and it features a variety of lectures, tutorials and round-tables on game related topics that cover programming, design, audio, production, business, management, arts and more. But if you’re not in San Francisco or can’t travel there don’t worry, you can enjoy and learn from the free content available in the GDC Vault.
I hope you find this list useful in your game development endeavors, please always remember to have a realistic and reasonable scope for your project, start by making small games and only after you can gradually start developing medium sized games by adding a features.