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TGC1986

Getting some Direction in Video Game Development

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I’ve recently had an interest in pursuing a career in video game development. I don’t have any solid experience or background in the field, and I haven’t had any formal education either. I’ve played around with level editors and game programming, but nothing major. But I’ve always had a love of video games, especially the ones that really suck you into their world (I’m formerly a fiction writer) and always been the one to say “They should’ve have made the game like this, I could’ve done better”. I’m wondering how to best get a start in the field. Lately, I’ve just been running around in circles trying to get started, and I haven’t had any real solid direction to go with. Ideally, I’d like to work on an indie project by myself or with a small team. I wouldn’t mind putting some time in working for a company either, but I fear being underpaid or unappreciated, or working on a project I’m not all too excited with. Plus it seems that you mostly have to pick up and move and make a major commitment to working for that company. But my end goal would be to start my own company, regardless of how small, so that I can work on the projects I desire to. I’ve had a hard time trying to form a solid plan to get started, because there are all these directions to go in, and I can’t really decide what’s best for me in my current situation. I don’t know whether I should learn a programming language and start with a small program like Panda 3D or something that utilizes a high level language and try to take it into a commercial shareware market, or to roll up my sleeves a bit and dive into something like XNA and try to get a game onto XBLA or perhaps win a contest and get a publishing offer. Or should I use something like FPS Creator or some world builder and try to stay away from programming? Programming really isn’t my strong point. I’m much better at the creative side of things than the nuts and bolts (background in novel / screenplay writing). I’m also considering using tools to make mods from popular video games and video game engines, such as Unreal Engine 3 and Cryengine 1/2. I could spend time to learn those engines, and either make a mod good enough to win a competition (“Make Something Unreal”) or use that experience to seek employment and further my experience in games. But my end goal would be a part of my own company, for monetary reasons (for I, as most humans, have a love for money) and for creative reasons (so I wouldn’t have to answer to some publisher / producer who tells me what’s selling and what’s not.) This in part is the same reason I left the writing field (Novels & Screenplays) because your story might be brilliant, but it doesn’t appeal to Young Men ages 18-24, and the main character should be 10 years younger, even if it messes up a major plot point, it should be re-written so it will sell more. If I found a position at a company that paid me well and I had some say as to final decisions in its direction (this game play mechanic vs. that, which title to work on next) I could definitely be satisfied and very happy. Basically I can’t decide what direction to go in. As far as learning options, and then what to do once I’m proficient and can really get something working. I figure, here are my options / considerations. The main areas are: Education (How to best going about learning the game development software I intend to use) Should I learn as a hobby (play with the programs, books, videos, tutorials, etc.) or receive a formal education (online, college, etc.)? Software Choice (Which software / game development tool should I learn to work with) What program / game engine should I go with? XNA to program and make the games from scratch? Make Mods using engine tools like Unreal engine 3 or Cryengine to work on FPS? Python or some other high level language to make 2D games to start? The options are almost limitless. Money (How should I use my skills to make money) Should I enter a Mod / Game Making competition to start, and use prize money to push further and perhaps hope for a publishing deal? Or perhaps join a small Indie Team already working on a project? Should I make the game and enter the shareware market? Or should I learn the software and then try to make a jump into the job market? I know this post is quite lengthy and covers a lot of ground, but it would really help me (along with some others who probably have the same or similar considerations and choices to make) get going in a direction. Any general help or input is appreciated, especially that from those who were once in a similar position of “hobbyist” like myself and were able to find a way to make a living (hopefully a great one) creating video games.

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You're asking some very general questions and we don't know anything about your background, so it's hard to offer any specific advice. There's no one fixed path in the game development business.

My best advice at the moment is to read through the Sloperama articles - they're aimed more towards prospective game designers, but a lot of the advice is general to any game developer position. You might specifically be interested in Article #32 ("Writing for Games"), but there's a lot of other useful info at Tom Sloper's site.

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That is a whole lot of questions that the majority of which no one can answer but you. Most of the things you mentioned are ways that people have entered the games industry.

I do have to comment on one thing, though -
Quote:
but my end goal would be a part of my own company, for monetary reasons (for I, as most humans, have a love for money) and for creative reasons (so I wouldn’t have to answer to some publisher / producer who tells me what’s selling and what’s not.) This in part is the same reason I left the writing field (Novels & Screenplays) because your story might be brilliant, but it doesn’t appeal to Young Men ages 18-24, and the main character should be 10 years younger, even if it messes up a major plot point, it should be re-written so it will sell more.

Why do you think the games industry would be different in this regards to the film industry? It doesn't matter if you're running the company or not, you still need financial backing. To get this financial backing you needs a publisher, which means that you're going to have someone dictating to you decisions on the direction of the titles you'll work on. There are a few successful developers that are able to self fund their own projects, but the key word there is few.

To be successful in the industry I've found that you need to be smart on the business end and be passionate amount making games (as in, games in general, not just YOUR games). If you're deluding yourself into thinking you're going to make it to the top of the top without being under appreciated or undervalued along the way, then you won't make it to the top.

Oh, and like the previous poster wrote, read Tom's site ;)

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Well, it does depend a bit on your view of "successful" whether you need publisher funding or not. You could decide to go down the indie path, which if you're shrewd can be done with very minimal funding. However it's a rockier path, and as an indie you'll be working in a completely different scale from the big boys. It's worth considering if you want creative freedom, but not if you're after lots of money (either in terms of what you can spend on your game or what you earn as an income). Furthermore you'll be under-appreciated and under-valued for your entire indie career [wink].

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Quote:
Original post by Trapper Zoid
My best advice at the moment is to read through the Sloperama articles

Yeah, that's what I'd advise too.
And after reading the ones whose titles jump out at you, read #65 before posting another question.

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