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So you wanna develop a game ? Do's and Don't

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Hello my name is Nicolas Cloutier and I have been in the business of video games since the late 90's. I am currently a consultant and also doing some producer work for game developer studios. I know this topic might have been covered over and over again in the last decade but I felt like it was maybe time to have a refresh. A lot of independent developers these days wake up one day and decide : OH I want to make a game ! Sounds like fun ! Well sorry to break your dreams if that happened to you but if there is one Industry that isn't FUN at all (ironic I know) it is the entertainment industry (more specifically video games!). It is by far the most saturated industry ever with the highest barriers to entry and the most stressful environment! So if you think you will be the next Valve or ID Software overnight... you better stop reading right now and chose another industry to work in. If all you want is to develop a nice title you will be able to maybe sell then read on! This topic is for you ! Most common mistakes someone who wishes to develop a game (great or not) are doing : - Think that making a game is fun because... its a game! - Forget about the business side (a game development studio indie or not is a business ... you need legal structures and a legal bank account if you want to hope to be able to get money from what you do one day...) - Think about making a $20M worth game out of nothing! - Does not have any project management capabilities or experience. - And the list could go on and on ! So what to do then ? Here is a few suggestions to make sure you startup on the right path : 1. Get yourself a legal entity with NDAs before you even start hiring people! (incorporation is ideal but registration could do at the beginning). 2. If you plan on going the professional way and hire professional people for your project then definately think about getting funds, take every penny you can find it will be needed soon enough! 3. If you have no project management capabilities, Hire someone who does! Your project needs to be planned even before the 1st line of the design document is written (someone who knows the PMI / PMBOK procedures would be a good bet). Might be exhausting but the more you plan BEFORE you put people to work, the more you will save in Money and avoid broken deadlines. 4. Never ever go the "ownership shared" route! I never encountered one single independent developer who did promised that to his staff that is still alive today nor who was able to develop a full product. And most of all a business with 20 employees and 20 owners looks very bad from an investor / publisher point of view. Stuck to the normal corporate structure and (if issuing shares) try to play with class of shares to be able to assign decent bonuses to your staff (see a corp lawyer for that). 5. Pick up a realisic project! Do not try to develop an AAA game from the ground up unless you have people on your team with prior experience doing so. If you had bad experience or good in the independent game developer industry feel free to share them! I am sure there are a lot of things I didnt covered here and I would like to hear your opinions.

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[joke]
NONSENSE! I'M MAKING THE NEXT WORLD OF WARCRAFT! IT LOOKS, FEELS, TASTES, PLAYS, SOUNDS, AND THINKS LIKE WOW...so everyone's going to love it and switch from WoW to my game, properly titled "WoW Clone." Oh, and did I mention that I just started programming 2 months ago!? LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!
[/joke]

[not joke]
Yeah, you're probably right...good call
[/not joke]

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  1. Read this.
  2. Then start doing any game (a clone or something similar; no direct copycatting; don't we'll let you know when you cross that line) that was released on the Atari 2600/5200/7800, NES or Sega Master System.
  3. Finally ask us questions and listen to the advice we give. Hint: if a member named: Zahlman, Fruny, Toorhvyk, Oluseyi, or Lazy Foo agrees with someone or gives you advice, then don't argue just do it! (in actuality, that list of members is a LOT LONGER).

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Quote:
Original post by Alpha_ProgDes
  1. Read this.
  2. Then start doing any game (a clone or something similar; no direct copycatting; don't we'll let you know when you cross that line) that was released on the Atari 2600/5200/7800, NES or Sega Master System.
  3. Finally ask us questions and listen to the advice we give. Hint: if a member named: Zahlman, Fruny, Toorhvyk, Oluseyi, or Lazy Foo agrees with someone or gives you advice, then don't argue just do it! (in actuality, that list of members is a LOT LONGER).


Ha if this was directed towards me you must've misunderstood me. I was being...uh a "noob," you know expecting to make the best game ever by yourself with only little experience. Hah sorry if perhaps I came off rude, i thought hopefully people would get my tone and realize I was joking( so I tried [joke] tags).
Ha sorry again, I mean no disrespect. And when I said "you're probably right" I meant "you are right and now I realize it."

Ha sorry nick, and anyone who might have found my post offensive, it was not my intention. I was merely trying to lighten the mood.

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Dont worry shinedown ;) Your joke was fine and I got it ;) Nothing to be upset about here, and I dont know the last reply was aimed at who either well like I said this topic has been covered a million times in forums I just wanted to get updated feedbacks to know what people were thinking about what I wrote ;) I might as well write a few primers in the next few weeks, thinking about it.

Nick

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Quote:
Original post by Shakedown
Quote:
Original post by Alpha_ProgDes
  1. Read this.
  2. Then start doing any game (a clone or something similar; no direct copycatting; don't we'll let you know when you cross that line) that was released on the Atari 2600/5200/7800, NES or Sega Master System.
  3. Finally ask us questions and listen to the advice we give. Hint: if a member named: Zahlman, Fruny, Toorhvyk, Oluseyi, or Lazy Foo agrees with someone or gives you advice, then don't argue just do it! (in actuality, that list of members is a LOT LONGER).


Ha if this was directed towards me you must've misunderstood me. I was being...uh a "noob," you know expecting to make the best game ever by yourself with only little experience. Hah sorry if perhaps I came off rude, i thought hopefully people would get my tone and realize I was joking( so I tried [joke] tags).
Ha sorry again, I mean no disrespect. And when I said "you're probably right" I meant "you are right and now I realize it."

Ha sorry nick, and anyone who might have found my post offensive, it was not my intention. I was merely trying to lighten the mood.


[lol] No that wasn't directed at you. I was giving my own list of do's and don'ts. No worries.

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Nice stuff. Thanks :)


Personally I find it obvious, though, that making games isn't easy or fun. I don't understand how some of those people who start out could even think it's fun, well... actually I think I understand, heh heh. I think it might "become fun" when you actually know very well what you're doing and things are (becoming) easier.

I've seen that Tetris could be a nice little project, but I don't have a clue on how to actually start making it, except for the basic ideas and things that must be done. When it comes to "translating" the ideas into code I'm usually getting lost due to lack of experience, so I'm not even thinking about starting a Tetris of my own (as a struggling hobbyist who's already in his twenties). But then again, if I don't do it I'll lack the programming experience anyway, so that's kinda ****** up.

Any of you guys got some extra advice on how to handle it? I'm struggling to learn Allegro with C++ (MinGW). I generally know C++ but just lack actual experience.


My ideas for a Tetris clone are:
-- main loop that puts you into the main menu for as long as you don't exit
-- main menu with options like start game, options, exit, etc.
-- choose and go to chosen option, detect changes made, go back to main menu

-- when in-game let player press a key to start level
-- draw an open box that represents the container to fill with blocks
-- I could maybe draw simple block shapes using those Allegro lines and such, fill them up with color, and have them fall down by changing their coordinates, and using a fall speed value based on selected difficulty (or level number)
-- also detect player input to change the direction and position of the block and/or to make it fall faster. When player presses DOWN, increase fall speed.
-- register position when block is set to ground
-- next block falls, do same again, but check how it fits and if an existing line must be erased
-- if line or lines to be erased, give points based on amount of lines erased.
-- continue until screen top is reached: game over.
-- calculate and show points, enter name, show highscores, ask if player wants to play again, if no go back to main menu.


Looks logical to me, now to actually make the damn thing.

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I would hardly call making games not fun ^_^ It depends on the conditions/perspectives more than anything else. Bugs, etc. are annoying, sure, but I like to make anything, period.

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Well invalidpointer, it also depends how you define fun. It can be fun if you do that as a hobbyist and don't want to sell your game commercially. It becomes a bit less fun when you need to think about all the business stuff, deadlines and milestones, bugs, infinite headaches in addition to the stress your publisher might put on your shoulders.

So I was thinking about "professionally" making a game here. Not as a hobbyist... just the step after being a hobbyist (well who should definately be after but sometimes it isnt).

It is the same if you want to enter in a game industry job. Game development company main goal is not you having fun developing its products, its you being productive or youre out of the team ;) This doesn't sounds like fun to me ;)

So here is the context I was using describing making a game is not a fun experience. But damn its rewardful to see your finish product ! I guess thats why im still in here ;)

My 2.5 cents !

Nick

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But nick, doesn't that go for all companies?(the part of only wanting good productivity).
But shouldn't you enjoy a litte of the experience, considering you pooring time and effort in?

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I am not going to disagree with you by saying everything you said is wrong, cause for the most part it is 100% true. Though...saying that developing a game is not fun is not really correct. Why do we program games if it is not fun? We certainly do not do it for the money! Do we program games cause it is not fun and we hate doing it? HECK NO, NOT ME! Programming in general is hard (epically games), but that is why we do it. Most programmers usually find the stuff what we do hard, but fun. I'll explain to one of my friends, who is an artist, about programming, and what I think is fun about it, and he just sits there and stares at me like..."wtf?" I find it fun. It's just like math. Most people do not find math fun...though lots of programmers find it sometimes just fun to do. I am not A BIG fan of math, though I sometimes find it fun to do. That is just me.

I didn't mean to be rude by saying that...but I am just saying what I think is true.

Chad.

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During an interview, Warren Spector was asked whether he would rather make a game, or play a game. His answer was the perfect answer to "Is making games fun?" I wish I could find it quoted somewhere, but here's the idea:

If I'm playing a good game, I'm having fun 100% of the time. If I'm making a game, 90% of that time is hard work and repetitive tasks. However, that other 10% of the time is some of the most fun I've ever had.

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I do agree with everything you both said.

Argos, well yes it is a bit like that in every companies. But the fact that the gaming industry is a highly competitive one puts even more pressure to the fact that people need to be and must be productive. You will rarely see (at least here in canada) a company where it is usual to do 50-60 hours per week outside of the game industry (and other very saturated markets).

Chad, I do agree too, if you don't like what you do then you are better somewhere else ! Like me I do like to do project management, managing teams and everything, but when the pressure comes in I can say that the fun is gone ;) I think it is the same with programming and arts as when the producer is having pressure then he needs to put pressure on the other departments too.

So of course we do like what we do and we enjoy doing it ! But there are times that are not as fun as they should be... making a game is hard, takes a lot of blood and sweat to be able to achieve the results you want, but it is worth it in the end. That is what I wanted to convey to other people.

Btw nothing was rude in the comments the other people did :) I did post that thread as I wanted to know opinions and so far everybody did answer clearly with their thoughts and I appreciate that ;) I'm all in for freedom of speech ! :)

Nick

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I actually have lots of fun when programming. I love hunting bugs and even though nasty bugs drive me crazy sometimes, it's a great pleasure once you fix them.

I don't work in the game industry, yet I sometimes work more than 40 hours per week just because I like to (and I want to finish/fix something).

It all depends on the definition of fun, I guess. :>

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I think no managerial position is all fun at all - lots of stress.

But as a developer person (programmer and level scripter) I REALLY REALLY LOVE MY JOB.

IT'S FUN.

No question. It's the dream job. Making and playing games for a living. I lead the head guys worry about all the stress. Long as I'm working my best there's no problem.

For me - 95% fun, 5% stress at deadline time, maybe. But even that's fun.

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My experience is that I worked six months programming a game titled Speedy Solitaire

It was my first C++ computer game although I had been programming in C++ for many years before I wrote the game and had created games in other languages.

The game was a ton of work and most of the time was spent fixing bugs. The development was at sometimes fun but at other times it was hellish.

In the end the game didn't really make any money but it was worth it as I created a complete game under my programming credit.

I still like making games but as a hobby. I don't have any plans to work in the game industry as my full time job.

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Yea I did play your game, was a nice concept tho. You would maybe be surprise if I say that I used to beta test it for injoy ;) Ill give you a plug here and I invite people to download the demo of your hard word at www.injoygames.com ;)

Nick

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