I was recently asked on Twitter by a friend how I managed to start up my game and get it working, as he has had an idea for a game for a while. Although I would like this to be a sort of tutorial on how to start making a game, I wouldn’t have a clue where to start describing what I did, but I got it to work.
To be honest, I have tried to create several games over the years, but there are two main titles that I am working on again. More to come later on? No ideas, stay tuned for that, folks.
I started with an idea. Everyone does, and this point is so simple it doesn’t need explaining. If you don’t have an idea, watch television, read a book, play another game, sit in a dark room with a six-pack of beer and a notepad until you have an idea – just do whatever gets those creative juices flowing.
Think about that idea for a while. How does the idea sit in your head? How many players is this game for? What is the game about? How would you win, or how would you lose?
Once you have the basic premise of the game set, think about how it would play. Is there an order of turns? Do players move? How do they move? How are their characters/items utilised? Can they work strategically, is it luck or do you make the rules and they dance to the tune you play?
You also need to consider what your skills are, and what tools are available to you. If you are some sort of modern genius, you could probably code your own game, bang it onto Steam under the Indie section and make a tidy fortune (fortune making is not guaranteed). If you are like me, you may be stuck using unusual game creating software. I made all of my own artwork with a variety of auto-shapes and shading options in Microsoft Word – as mine works out as a card game, each card would have easily had between sixty and eighty auto-shapes, possibly more, each placed precisely using the CTRL/Shift buttons to manoeuvre.
If you have even less tools, such as just a pen and paper, then I’m not sure how you are reading this article, but clearly you are very inventive. Use that!
What I did at this stage was decide how they would move, and then work out attacks and defenses and general play. This part is pretty important, but don’t expect it to be staying this way permanently – you will tweak this many times as you work towards finishing your project.
So, you have the premise of the game and how it is played, and have a vague idea on the rules or boundaries of your game. Now begins the arduous slog, I’m afraid. Creating all of the different part in your game should be fun, yes, but it is more work than you might imagine. It is all about balancing out attacks, leaving and skills or special abilities open to allow players to form their own strategies, and designing every single part individually.
If you happen to know someone who is a real wiz at graphic design, or can hire one, work out the stats of the items on a spreadsheet and discuss with them what you would like doing.
All parts of the game will be tweaked to offer a variety of play styles. In my games, I like to offer a real sense of fair-play – everything that has one excellent stat will have an Achilles heel in another – it means that anyone could pick up the game and win, with the only advantage being more strategic.
So, a quick checklist of what you will need to have done:
· Ideas! Have one.
· Tools! Assess what you have, how well you can use what you have, and how you can begin building your game. Remember, work out the details before building. A good carpenter will measure twice and cut once, and building a game should be the same (changes can be made during the build, but just get as much down for this draft as you can!)
· Rules! What are the parameters of your game? A basic list of things a player cannot do and things that they are encouraged to do will help form the rest of the rules later on.
· Content! A long list of items or a select few, you will need to have something that the game revolves around, the breakdown of your idea. Remember, everybody loves customisation and personalisation, as well as Raymond.
· Tweak! Make the game fair. Or unfair if you like, it’s your game. Make it play the way you want it to. This can take some time, so gather a few good friends and take it for a spin. They might even be able to contribute to your goal, which would be lovely. Make sure they are good friends, or they might pinch your idea, which wouldn’t be lovely. Rules and ideas will brainstorm quickly here, so keep a notepad handy.
And that should be it. Even at this point, don’t expect to put a pricing sticker on it, it will most likely need polishing up, content added and further testing, but do be realistic and do not be a perfectionist; there is a reason why my game has never been finished. Set a calendar date that it should be ready by, and stick to it as closely as you can.
And that’s it. Pretty good advice from someone who has never published their own game. Talking about your idea helps keep it alive, and this I can guarantee. I have started probably five different games since I was fourteen, two of which I’m looking to make into fully fledged games.
But, until then, there is always the polishing…