What a magnificent question: “How to become a video game developer”. It sounds great, but also mysterious, there are many answers, some of them easy to find, some not.
I am still sane, don’t worry.
Let me tell you a hidden answer, a secret that nobody told you before:
To become a video game developer you have to… wait for it… drumroll…
Develop a video game!
Wait! Please don’t leave the article! I’m telling the truth!
What’s better than a real experience? Think about it.
If you want to work for a big company…guess what? if you have some experience it’ll be much easier to find an interesting company
There are so many things you should know before starting and the risk of getting bored and giving up after a short period is really high, believe me.
The best approach is to replicate a simple version of an existing video game, facing the challenges and acquiring the right knowledge during the development.
There’s more, I know a secret about how to do this, follow me in this article to discover it.
The right questions
Why is having experience so important?
Simple, you will discover the skills required to undertake this career facing many challenges you would find in a video game developer job.
How can I use it in the video game industry?
Many companies will look for people with work experience and if you don’t have any then you need a portfolio, what do you think you should have in your portfolio? Video games! If you have one or more video games a company will be more interested in you.
What if I have coding skills but no artistic skills or vice-versa?
Starting with some skills would make your life easier, but don’t worry, during your journey to make your first video game you will face different challenges, and to complete them you need to acquire the right skills, studying and practicing.
Clearly you won’t manage perfectly all the various skills required and step by step you will understand which one will be better to specialise in.
Do I have to acquire all the skills that are needed?
It depends on which path you choose.
A team could spread the skills through the members for instance.
An indie game developer, generally, makes a whole game himself managing many of the skills and outsourcing only a few of them to save money.
Basically the more skills you acquire, the more you will become independent!
Will I become a video game developer?
Yes, you will!
If you are looking for some inspiration before starting, have a look at the section indie stories with the stories of indie developers around the world, they have great tips for you!
Intro: The secret
I can’t resist, I need to tell you the secret. I’m too excited.
Creating your first video game… will be a game itself! Intriguing right?
Go through these chapters, think about them as levels of a game, overcome the challenges in each level and acquire the experience to face the next one.
Keep in mind this won’t be a tutorial to make a video game, plenty of them are out there waiting for you, my goal is to let you feel what being a video game developer would be like.
It won’t be easy, each level/chapter contains different challenges and either research or failures are required to complete it.
If you will be so brave to reach the end and complete this special game you will become a video game developer!
I can smell a new adventure, are you ready?, then please insert coin…
Level 1: Tutorial – What do you need to start?
I feel better, if you are here it means the article is safe… for now 😜
The first thing you need, as well as your computer, is a game engine.
Basically it’s the software to develop video games.
If you need further information I’ll suggest you have a look at our article: What is a game engine and how does it work?
If you are undecided which is the best one to pick let me help: choose “Unity”.
It’s full of free tutorials and resources, with a big community ready to answer your doubts if necessary.
The list below is the list of the challenges and each level/chapter has one.
Only once you complete all the challenges in that list you can proceed with the next one until the end of the article. For each challenge you will earn some experience points (exp) like a real game!
- Get a computer (0 exp) I’m not stupid no experience here 😉
- Download and install a game engine (Unity or the one you prefer) (50 exp)
Level 2: Strategy – Choose the right game
As we said before, in the very beginning, it’s better to make a clone of an existing game.
Maybe a retro-game because they are easier due to the fact that there were fewer resources available in the past.
I suggest a 2D game because a 3D game is more complex, so not the best choice to start with.
But what is a good game to choose from? Let me suggest a strategy to choose the right one.
Try to make a list of basic actions to describe the game, you can also skip the unnecessary actions in this phase, just the minimum to let your game work. Keep in mind the more these actions are, the more effort will be required to implement your game.
Let me provide you an example, I really like this retro-game: “Arkanoid”
Now let me share with you my list to describe this game:
- Move the player (Input)
- Start moving the ball (Input)
- Move the ball
- Ball bounces after hitting:
- the brick
- the player
- the screen bounds left, right, top
- Score a point when the ball hits a brick
- Brick disappears when the ball hits it
- Lose the game when the ball hits the screen bottom
- Win the game when all the bricks disappear
(Optional) Non-essential actions
- Play a sound when the ball hits something
- Load next level
- Go to the main menu
- Reload level
- Generate a bonus
- Get bonus
- Animate the brick with a little explosion effect
It’s not so difficult, just watching a video of the game or playing it once you will be able to create a simple list of actions to describe it.
Well, It’s time to prepare your strategy, choose a game and make your list. Can you find a game that requires less than 10 actions to be described?
- Choose an existing game to implement (50 exp)
- Make a list of necessary actions (100 exp)
- Bonus: (200 exp if the list is less than 10 actions)
- (Optional) Make a list of non-essential actions (300 exp)
Level 3: Fetch Quest – Get the Resources
Now it’s time to explore the world and get all the resources you will need for your game.
The resources are all the images, sounds and files in general you need and you have to import in the game engine to create your game.
I suggest starting with images. Once you have completed your game you will be able to add sound effects or animations easier thanks to the experience earned.
Similarly to the Level 2, you need a list first. Let’s try to make a list for the resources we would need for Arkanoid.
- Brick image
- Player image
- Ball image
- Background image
- Brick image different color
- Brick image different color 2
- Hit sound effect
- Menu resources
Now it’s time to get all these resources, but where? On the web obviously!
Luckily you won’t have any copyright problems until the delivery of your game, so feel free to surf on google and find the best images which fit your game.
Just few tips:
- PNG if you need a transparent background, like the objects.
- JPG if you don’t need a transparent background, like the background.
One more thing remains, you need to find a way to import them in your game engine, pssst… google may know the answer if you ask the right questions, many of them start with “How to…” and end with the game engine name “…unity” 😉
- Make a list of necessary resources (100 exp)
- (optional) Make a list of non-essential resources (50 exp)
- Get the images required (150 exp)
- Import all the resources in your game engine (200 exp)
Level 4: BossFight – Implementation
Wow, my favorite level! Swords, cannons, flowers! No sorry, no flowers, my fault.
This could be your first battle, but you’re ready don’t worry.
To complete this level you first need to pull out all the actions we listed before.
Each action will be your boss fight, the only way to complete the game is to defeat all the bosses ( this means to implement all the actions) .
Let’s take the first action of the Arkanoid list for example:
- Move the player (Input)
What I discovered in my life is that every enemy has at least a weakness, so find its weakness.
To find the weaknesses we need to divide the action in sub-problems to solve.
- Create the player object
- Add the image to the object
- Move the object
- Move the object with an input (left or right key of the keyboard for instance)
Now we know the weak points, it only remains to find a way to know how to defeat (solve) them. We need allies to do it, our friend Google for instance, I’m pretty sure if you look for each one of the weak points.
Adding “How to…” before each point, and the name of the game engine after “…Unity” you will find the right weapon.
Once you defeat (solve) all the weak points the boss will be dead and you will have implemented the action, then you’ll be ready to proceed with the next one.
- Find all the weak points for each necessary action. (2000 exp)
- Solve the sub-problems and implement the necessary actions. (1500xp)
- Find all the weak points for each non-essential action. (3000 exp)
- Solve the sub-problems and implement the non-essential actions. (3500xp)
Bonus: New Game Plus – Improve your skills
Now you created your first game. It was a long journey but you did it. Pretty cool right?
If you are not satisfied, if it was too easy or if you want to do more, please feel free to restart this game with a higher difficulty.
Try to add the non-essential actions and resources to your game for example, or choose a game with more actions and resources required.
Play it again and again to improve your experience.
Game Over: Conclusion
I know we could talk about all the hard stuff about this world or job because being a video game developer is a job too.
But first of all you needed to try a taste of this big world and I preferred immersing you in a real experience.
If you feel satisfied or you even had fun implementing your first game, this will be the right choice for you and I reached my goal.
Now the world of players can have one more game developer with great ideas to impress them.
Why don’t you leave a comment here telling me your goals and the experience score obtained in this game/article?
Remember this is just the beginning, you have to play many matches to become a great game developer, but you are on the right path.
You win. Game over.