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chriswagie

Best way to be a game developer?

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Hi so I'm not actually a game developer or anything, but I've always wanted to be one. As I've gotten older however, I've realized just how difficult game development can actually be. I have many questions and I thought the best way to get honest answers was to go and ask actual game developers themselves. So here goes.

So as many of you who live in America might know, college is expensive. Super expensive. Crippling expensive. This sucks, because college is pretty much what you need if you're going to be a game developer. However it's not always the case. You can go to your local library and rent a "learning C+ for dummies" book and teach yourself, sure, but you won't get input from peers, you won't have guidance from professors, and you won't have much help when you get stuck. There are free college classes you can take online through sites like coursera, but again you don't quite get that college experience. Or do you? Are my opinions of needing to go to college for game development wrong? Am I capable of learning game design on my own effectively? 

Next question is indie vs studio game development. The main reason we become game developers is to make that idea in your head a reality. To make something cool and sweet that you can share with the world. But with studios, it seems to me that goes out the window. You're not making a game you want to make, you're making a game someone else wants to make. Now a couple of years ago that wasn't that big of a deal because new ideas were coming out and graphics kept getting better, but that's not the case so much anymore. Imagine hearing about the next big game your studio is going to be working on and absolutely hating it. Like making the 18th cod hate. Are you going to want to work on that? No. But you have to, it's your job. You're a studio game developer. But you get paid. You have a stable job and it pays the bills, which someone working indie can't always say. If you're working indie, you probably have another job on the side and just work on the game as a hobby, or just use the job to pay the bills while you work on the game. What's worse is if you eventually ever do finish that game, it could really suck! No one might like it! Now I'm not saying that all people who make games want to sell them, but a majority do. I'm pretty sure making and selling a game everyone would love would make you feel wonderful. But I digress. Which is better? Working studio without control of what you're doing with stable pay or working indie with potential for heart crushing failure?

The model. Just like tech, games are changing. If you told kids 10 years ago that the most popular game platform was on their phone they'd probably laugh at you. And hell, some today even say that. But you have to look at the numbers. Games like flappy bird that took a guy one night to make was such a hit it was making 1 million a year before he axed it for being "too addictive." (lol). Do you know what the risk was for that game failing? Close to nothing. All he would have lost was the time he put into it, which for being one night is basically nothing. Do you know what the risk is for making a cod game? A lot. Remember ghosts? Iw probably had no idea their game was going to bomb so hard they'd lose their contract with activision. But it did. They lost millions of dollars and people quickly went back to older cod games. It was a nightmare. But that's what happens. Sometimes you make a game and people don't like it. And when you're making a game that takes hundreds of developers around the world who are all being paid hourly/salary that costs over 100 million dollars, that's not something that's good for business. Again though, digression. Should I prioritize game development on mobile platform for lower risk or aim high for higher capability, but much more risk?

I probably have more questions than these but these are the main ones that pop into my head constantly. I've debated them over and over again and just decided that I should ask. Sorry for the super long post but this is it! Please comment below! Have a good day!

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Or do you? Are my opinions of needing to go to college for game development wrong? Am I capable of learning game design on my own effectively?

 

So first you mention "C++ for dummies", and now you are asking about game design. That has nothing to do with each other, so you have to be a little more clear what you want. Do you want to learn game design? Do you want to learn game programming? Level design? Art design?

 

From a coding perspective, you can learn the basics of game programming without a college, specially thanks to site like the one you are writing on :)

See for example the "Are you a self-thaught grafics programmer"-thread. If you invest a lot of spare time into learning game programming, you certainly can do it on your own. Learn the basics, get yourself a project that interests you and provides a good middle-ground between challange and payoff, and you are good to go.

Depending on the college, but a proper education can give you a deeper understanding of some of the topics, as you are fed with topics you would normally maybe not touch (algorithms, design pattern, ...), but its not that you cannot possibly learn how to programm without an education, that is bs.

 

On part of game design specifically, I found most of the game design related courses in my "college" interesting, but not strictly helpful/mandatory. You get lots of good input maybe for your own ideas, some tips on balancing/creating new ideas, but there is no such thing as a game design cookbook that shows you what to do step by step. Game design is a very creative and dynamic process, so outside of new ideas that you could also get by looking at example of successfull, innovative games yourself, there is little that an game design education can teach you AFAIK.

 

Next question is indie vs studio game development. ...

Ok, so now you seem to assume an aweful lot. I don't know if thats just your writing style? But whenever you write "we", "you", etc... I strongly tend to disagree, or atleast say to myself "why, thats surely not the case for everybody".

 

The main reason we become game developers is to make that idea in your head a reality.

Actually the reasons might vary. Some people might take more joy from supplying fantastic art to an idea that they themselves find tolerable, or solve challenge coding-problems to make the next "no mans sky" run smoothly. So what you probably want to say is that your main reason to become a game developer is to make your own dreams come true?
 

You're not making a game you want to make, you're making a game someone else wants to make. Now a couple of years ago that wasn't that big of a deal because new ideas were coming out and graphics kept getting better, but that's not the case so much anymore.

 

Why does that contradict itself? Just because someone else wants to make the game, doesn't mean I don't also want to make it. As soon as you are in a team, unless you are the very creative lead or came up with an idea strictly in a team-based process, you are going to work on an idea that somebody else came up with period. Now you can enjoy the idea yourself, but there is no difference between an indie-company or an AAA-studio here. Its probably easier to give your own influence towards the idea in a small studio, granted, if that is what you are looking for.

Still the bottom line is: Somebody is going to work with another persons idea, no matter what. We learned that hard way in the 4 team-based projects we had at college so far.

 

Imagine hearing about the next big game your studio is going to be working on and absolutely hating it. Like making the 18th cod hate.

Just an additional side-note, but: I'd much rather work on the 18th CoD then on some "lets make something that has to stricly be 100% innovative"-type of indie game idea that usually ends up as an Unity2D-made "pretentiously clever word-play in the title of the game, as the main game concept"-game. No hate towards indie-games, but just to show you that everyones preference is different.

 

Which is better? Working studio without control of what you're doing with stable pay or working indie with potential for heart crushing failure?

So for me I totally prefer studio, and thats where I'm going to gear my career towards. Fortunately (?) for me it offers the best on all ends as far as I can see now.

 

Should I prioritize game development on mobile platform for lower risk or aim high for higher capability, but much more risk?

 

I would say, that this question itself is based upon an observation that I cannot comply to. You say "mobile platform" = less risk, and list flappy bird as an example. That is simply not true. Sure for the guy there was little risk, because he was doing it as a free time job, but also his chances for success were equally limited. The mobile-market is currently flooded with cheap-ass games where half of it is just clones of other games like flappy birds. So your chance of becoming successfull is very slim (I'd argue that flappy-bird becoming successfull is more of a miracle than anything else).

 

So what should you do? If you just want to make projects in your free time it really only depends on what you want to achieve in the end. Or, to hand the question back to you, would you want to work on the 34th flappy-bird clone for a 0,1% shot at success if you really hated doing it? :)

 

Oh, and since it fits both those questions as well as the part about hating to work on a game you don't like: Ironically, most (some?) indie-gamedevs actually have to work on projects they don't necessarily want to. You see, if you are making a living off of games, you don't have that much of a choice in what you do. You have to make money somehow. You can try pretty much everything as a first project to see if it works, but if it doesn't, whats left to do? I know of many instances, some even personally, where people just have to resort to doing state-sanctioned education games, or stupid stuff like "bus simulator 2016" instead of the game ideas they actually want to pursue.

 

So what you should do when you want to make a living off of the game ideas you want to make? I hope I've made it clear that your assumption about the mobile market was errorneous, so what else can I add? I'd argue that if you have an idea you want to put into live, do whatever has to be done to make it happen, regardless of if it is going to be successfull. If you do not want to end up broke, you should take care of what happens if it fails though - so eigther you have enough savings to back you off, separate safe projects to make up for it, or maybe just a completely different full-time job, and make your game in your spare time only, if all else fails.

 

 

_____________________________

 

Thats as far as I can tell, I'm sure there are a lot of different perspectives to be gotten from different people. It seems to me though that you already have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, so I'm not sure there is much to be said to your questions other than different people giving their own opinions (which may or may not be of value to you).

Hope this still helps.

Edited by Juliean

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Brutal, honest, and to the point. Thank you.

You make an interesting point I had forgotten about the mobile market, where it's flooded with clones and clones of games. They definitely are everywhere. 

And yes I'd rather work on the 18th cod than the 1000th flappy bird clone too lol.

I guess where I want to be is making my own game by myself or with a small team, so indie. But at the same time I feel like studio experience would be invaluable. What do you think about this?


Maybe not 'studio' experience, but goal oriented team experience.

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The main points are already very well covered. However in my opinion you simply become a game Developer by creating a game.

There are many more ways to get into game development that won't involve deep understanding of complex languages like c++. For example rpg maker, and it's ilk and many other engines and frameworks that support visual scripting rather than typing out program keywords.

I recommend as a complete green newbie you begin your quest there. If you jump in at c++ you're learning to run a marathon before you can even walk and you'll be disillusioned and just give up quickly and nobody wants that.

Hope this helps!

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I looked it up. There used to be something by the same name back in the day on the ps1. Dunno if it's the same thing, but i did watch the trailer for the newest one and it looks easy. It does look like something I could try out, thanks!

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1. I have many questions and I thought the best way to get honest answers was to go and ask actual game developers themselves.
2. So as many of you who live in America might know, college is expensive. Super expensive. ...
Are my opinions of needing to go to college for game development wrong?
3. Am I capable of learning game design on my own effectively?
4. Next question is indie vs studio game development. The main reason we become game developers is to make that idea in your head a reality.
5. Which is better? Working studio without control of what you're doing with stable pay or working indie with potential for heart crushing failure?
6. Should I prioritize game development on mobile platform for lower risk or aim high for higher capability, but much more risk?


1. This is the place! You'll find lots of experienced people right here.
2. It depends. If you want to get a studio job, you need college. If you want to go indie and teach yourself everything from programming to business management to marketing, go right ahead.
3. We can't tell that from your post.
4. Yes, so now we're talking "get a job" versus "start my own company and I'll be the boss."
5. "Better" is subjective. Different people here have wildly different views on this very question. You have to decide this for yourself. One good way to make an important life decision is the decision grid. http://www.sloperama.com/advice/m70.htm
6. Sounds like you're leaning towards going solo indie. Maybe this thread should be moved to the Business forum, where many before you have asked and discussed the question you're asking. Whether this thread gets moved there or not, you should read the Business FAQs. And while you're at it, you should read the Job FAQs too.
http://www.gamedev.net/index.php?app=forums&module=forums&section=rules&f=5
http://www.gamedev.net/page/reference/faq.php/_/breaking-into-the-industry-r16

I guess where I want to be is making my own game by myself or with a small team, so indie. But at the
same time I feel like studio experience would be invaluable. What do you think about this?


Studio experience would prepare you very well indeed for the startup path.
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson29.htm Edited by Tom Sloper

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Game development is tough. No matter where you go, no matter what path you take, you will be working long hours, with many sleepless nights. Making games isn't easy, In fact, it's brutally hard. I feel like your questions have already been answered by those more experienced than I, so I'll just say this: Find out what you want to do, exactly, not just a "game developer", but a level designer, environment artist, AI programmer, graphics programmer, systems designer, etc. Once you know what you want to be, find the clearest path toward that goal, and work for it until you get there.

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Some sage advice:

 

"...on how to be a professional boxer. A good diet is essential, of course, as is a daily regime of exercise. Pay attention to your footwork, it will often get you into trouble. Go down to the gym every day – every day of your life that finds you waking up capable of standing. Take every opportunity to watch a good professional fight. In fact watch as many bouts as you can, because you can even learn something from the fighters who get it wrong. Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do. And don’t forget the diet and the exercise and the roadwork.
 
Got it? Well, becoming a writer game developer is basically exactly the same thing, except that it isn’t about boxing."
---Terry Pratchett
 
I love this quote because I feel like you can apply it to almost any vocation :)

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