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I've been making games since I was a kid, but I've only finished one game in the last twenty years. When I was young I kept it simple and was able to make a few MS-DOS games. Then I wanted to keep making it better. I've tried so many different strategies to get better at game development. I've tried working with people and getting ghosted by team members one after the other in many different projects. I don't blame them much, it's a big ask for most of their free time for a hobby they find out isn't what they want to do. I also don't want to hold anyone back if they want to move onto a better managed project where they can flourish. And that lead me to my last strategy, to start out simple again and do everything alone, but if people wanted to help I would be happy. And I was doing pretty well, I learned a lot in the project, making a game from start to finish as we know is a lot of work that requires a lot of different skills.

I looked back at the five years I took to make my last game (well, there was a lot of procrastination), where my skills are as a game developer, and where I wanted to be and I was disappointed by what I saw my path was. If I made my next game, a little more complicated and developed a little faster, I was still looking at a project that would take a year or two and I'd learn a little more. I have a few games, like I'm sure we all do, that I really want to make but don't yet have the skills to do them well.

So an idea about training myself up without going through the whole process slowly developed. Focus on one skill at a time, then add in one more once I've gotten good at it, and one more, until I'm pretty good at most things. So I over engineered what I call RIP (repetitive iterations for proficiency). I think the idea is good, I think it will help me get better much faster, and I'm going to try it out to see if it works. I'll blog my progress as I go, maybe other people will find something useful in it. I've already made the first two one level games, a Ninja Gaiden (NES) clone and a Super Mario Bros. (NES) clone, and am currently working on a Bionic Commando (NES) clone.

The first several projects in the plan are to take a game I like to play that falls into the more simple game genres (platformer, action... etc.), and reproduce all the gameplay for the first level.


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I love the idea!  I'm curious, which specific skills were you working on/do you feel improved with the first two clone levels you made?

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TL;DR: Object interactions, implementing game mechanics, and creating clear naming conventions and folder structures to make development more efficient.

Abstractly, I'm working on my ability to create and implement gameplay mechanics, elements, and features. The goal of the first section is to focus on that and ignore everything else. I spent a lot of time planning this whole thing out. The first part of the first section, is to create the first level of a game ignoring everything other than gameplay. But like I said earlier, I work better when things have some graphics even if those graphics aren't that great. I'm supposed to make five games before moving on to the next part which is to take just one mechanic from one game and place it into another game... I planned out my whole path with this thing, it's subject to change but it is currently "fully" planned.

All of my previous projects until five years ago, I was developing my own game engines. And while there are some advantages on performance, install footprints, and some other things when making my own engine, I decided to look into game engines to cut out a lot of development time. After trying out several great game engines (some not so great), I feel like UE4 suits me best. I know it's not that great for 2D, but there is still a lot to learn about the engine when working in 2D that will carry over to when I'm doing 3D games.

For the first one, Ninja Gaiden, it was mostly just a get it complete kind of thing. I had an idea about things like folder and file organization and naming conventions, I like to keep things organized and clean, but I learned that I needed something better if I were to tackle a larger game. There were a lot of things I did in a way that's not that great, that ended up being more work instead of being efficient. For instance, when I was making the special weapons, it was a mess of logic that had a bunch of unnecessary extra checks that wouldn't have been required if I did it a way I thought up after I was done. And that's kind of the point, to get me thinking about better and more efficient ways of developing, and while thinking and discussing things is great, for me, the learning doesn't really kick in until I'm making mistakes.

For the second game, I was able to complete it in half the time, even though there was about the same amount of things to complete because I learned a more efficient way to create the objects and their interactions. I made a better warp that was easier to set up in a level than the one I made in the first one. Mostly though, I was able to do things faster and more efficiently than before. I still feel like there is a long way to go for me to make write up some design patterns that will be good, I also feel like I've been getting better at thinking through and implementing game mechanics. The logic is cleaner and more efficient, and the file naming convention and folder structures are better suited for efficient development. Still feel like there is a lot of room for improvement, but I'm also getting better. For all my old projects, I would occasionally have to go in and move some things around and rename things which took a lot of time from time to time but saved time overall. With these smaller projects, I feel like I am learning how to do that much faster, because the projects are smaller I can learn from my mistakes and carry that over to a completely new project instead of cleaning up the current one. It also gives me good opportunities to try out new things without worrying or caring about if it doesn't workout that great.

And overall, there are a number of things I learned that are very difficult to quantify that help with my experience and makes thinking about how to implement game mechanics easier for me. For the first game, I would try a few different things for the more complicated mechanics, and the amount of different things to try out is getting less and less. Now I'm doing most things great on the first try in ways that play well with others.

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Very cool!  Thanks for expanding on all that!  Maybe once you've got the process developed a little further you could write it up in a way that others could try it out too?  Either way, cool to hear about your process/progress.  Keep it up, seems to be working out pretty well.

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Yeah, I plan on releasing it once I get it worked out better. Takes me a lot of work to find the right balance between explaining way too much and the shorthand I use for myself. I have a document detailing the whole process, but it's half a mess right now.

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