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MaliceEternal

How do you balance gaming and game dev?

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So, I've been in some forums in the past and I recall someone telling me that I sound like I want to play games instead of making them. This took place about 2 years ago, but I keep coming back to this scenario in my mind because I find it REALLY hard to not be passionate about games, gaming and then game development unless you're just looking to make some crappy 3 match clone game on the android. I truly feel that if you're interested in game development then your ass should at least be somewhat of a gamer. Perhaps you've gamed in the past and understand gamer terminology and genres. Like, RTS, MMO, RPG, Platformer, Adventure, Puzzle, 2D, 3D, third person, first person, Rail Shooter, Beat Em Up, Hack N Slash, etc. I think that if you want to at least have a 0.5% chance increase of luck in making a successful game, your ass BETTER BE a gamer. If not, then you're in the wrong business or you're just in the gaming industry but really don't play games and just know marketing or whatever job allows you the ignorance. A good example and proof of what I'm saying is....if you're developing an RPG game and don't know what DPS or AOE stand for, then you probably don't play RPG games and will fail....so ultimately, you should be a gamer years ahead of even contemplating designing/programming such a thing. Unless you're just a concept artist or someone who isn't involved in the actual mechanics of the game-play. (no offence, I love artists of all types.)

Now that I have that off my chest, I have a question for people who got involved in game development because they were die-hard gamers earlier on in life or maybe still currently.

How do you find time for learning more game dev, making your prototypes and balancing actual gaming and adult responsibilities? I'm in my thirties and I ask because even if you buy one game, it can have DLC and never-ending game-play and social interaction online with micro-transactions and a completely different world to lose yourself in. Do you stay away from MMO and just play single player campaign games or indie games to analyze and call it a day? There must be something you guys are doing right. What keeps you from reverting to the slacker you once were? If you were never a slacker then I apologize, but I must confess that I am one. I'm not a troll...just trying to figure this out. I own 20 something games for ps4 and just something like Elder Scrolls online can keep people on there for like 48 hours straight. I don't see it as easy as controlling other things. Maybe I have an addiction problem, I don't know, but I do want to design and have messed around with a few engines in the past.

Please, if you have never made a game before and are an aspiring shovelware developer, don't answer this question. If you have made 1 or 2 games that have made at least 1$ profit in a month then I'd like your opinion.

Edited by MaliceEternal

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Yup,
Would have to agree with Kylo fully on this one - There really arent enough hours, since getting a full time development job my gaming hours of course dropped right down.. and since changing job to one with slightly longer hours I tend to be at a stage now where I rarely game during the week and if I do its only for a couple of hours.

Don't tend to game all that much on the weekend either as I spend the time working on other things now really, so unless a group of my friends are getting together for a proper gaming session on a weekend.. there tends to be a very small amount of actual gaming that happens in my life now compared to the what.. near endless hours in gaming before work.

And I do think being a gamer can help, though you dont HAVE to be gamer to create good games, all you really have to do is be able to come up with a good idea and implement it ... or if you work at a larger studio .. just have the knowledge to build the idea someone else comes up with.. at which point really.. you dont need to know about gaming at all.. just how to build the things someone tells you ;p 

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15 hours ago, MaliceEternal said:

Unless you're just a concept artist or someone who isn't involved in the actual mechanics of the game-play.

I think the bit that this misses is that depending on the scale of a project, most people working on it are not really involved in the process of designing those mechanics.  Even if you're the one implementing them, it's still up to a designer to make those decisions and relay that information to the person implementing it.

I think a designer should have some familiarity with the type of game they are designing.  Not having that familiarity would put them at a disadvantage.

On a small project, more people are going to be wearing the hat of a designer, so in an indirect way, yes, more of them would benefit from being gamers.  A one-person team even more so.

But do you have to be a gamer to work on games?  Do you need to spend your time studying and experiencing game mechanics in order to meaningfully contribute to an entertainment software product in a non-design-heavy role?  Nope.

Play games if you want to.  Don't play games if you don't want to or have other priorities.

I personally don't have time to play games all the time.  I have a full time job, plus play in three bands, do some audio work on the side, and have a bunch of personal side-projects.  I play when I can when I want to, not because I feel a need to study games.

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On 8/9/2017 at 4:59 PM, MaliceEternal said:

I recall someone telling me that I sound like I want to play games instead of making them. This took place about 2 years ago, but I keep coming back to this scenario in my mind because I find it REALLY hard to not be passionate about games, gaming and then game development unless you're just looking to make some crappy 3 match clone game on the android. I truly feel that if you're interested in game development then your ass should at least be somewhat of a gamer.

That was probably me.

Based on the tone of some people's messages, over the years I occasionally ask if some people are trying to develop games because they enjoy consuming games rather than because they like creating games.

Usually it comes with this example:  Enjoying the symphony is different from being a concert violinist; consuming a delicious meal is different from being a gourmet chef; watching high performance racing is different from being a high performance driver. Similarly enjoying completed video games is different from creating games.  There is nothing wrong with being a consumer rather than producer, and we are creating the products for you to enjoy. Even if you don't do the work professionally, learning a little of the craft can help you appreciate it even more.

On 8/9/2017 at 4:59 PM, MaliceEternal said:

I think that if you want to at least have a 0.5% chance increase of luck in making a successful game, your ass BETTER BE a gamer. If not, then you're in the wrong business or you're just in the gaming industry but really don't play games and just know marketing or whatever job allows you the ignorance.

That depends on your role.

A game programmer doesn't need to be a gamer to be successful. They need to understand what they are creating, but that can be done through careful descriptions and maybe some videos or drawings.

A game artist doesn't need to be a gamer to be successful.  They need to be a great artist, and need experience with drawing a wide range art styles.

A game animator doesn't need to be a gamer to be successful. They need to be a great animator with experience at making compelling animations.

A game producer doesn't need to be a gamer to be successful. They need to be great with people, great at scheduling and organizing, great at working connections between people.

A game designer doesn't need to be a gamer to be successful, but at least in this role, it actually helps designers.  A designer needs to know and understand what makes games bad, what makes them good, or great, or awesome. They need to study the games they play much like a surgeon studies other surgeries and cadavers.  Designers also need to follow and understand the trends of what is rising in popularity, what is beginning to become stale, and what is falling out of favor. 

Obviously you need to have some passion for the field in order to enjoy it, and if you don't enjoy your work I'd recommend finding a field you enjoy better, and keeping your hobbies as hobbies. That doesn't mean "being a gamer", but it does mean enjoying the field. If you love programming but think games are a waste of people's spare time, you might find programming for tools, or programming for broadcast television, or programming for shopping portals, or programming for some other field more enjoyable.  Similarly for art, if you enjoy being an artist but aren't passionate about games, there are many fields using art for marketing, there are many styles of entertainment, there is art in product design, you can find art in a field you are passionate about.  If you don't like your job (even if you enjoy the profession) you can find a job that suits you better.

On 8/9/2017 at 4:59 PM, MaliceEternal said:

How do you find time for learning more game dev, making your prototypes and balancing actual gaming and adult responsibilities? I'm in my thirties and I ask because even if you buy one game, it can have DLC and never-ending game-play and social interaction online with micro-transactions and a completely different world to lose yourself in.

Most of the designers I've worked with accomplish it by sampling and studying things.  They need to understand the mechanics of every game in the top 100 list, especially those that are quickly rising.  They need to understand the detail of what makes the game fun for the top 50 games.  They also need to watch the indie scene to see what is rising, what the reviewers are talking about, and understand those.  They also need to take an occasional view of the games that people dislike, watch what people are complaining about, and understand what the problems are.

Many of these require only a cursory study.  Some can be accomplished by watching a video review at high speed, slowing down and possibly rewatching segments with gameplay videos that demonstrate the key elements.  Other times it can be done with 2-3 hours of playing the game. 

It is still good to occasionally play games through completely, and if you've got free time and enjoy a game you might try to be a 100%'er for the game. But it isn't strictly necessary for success.

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12 minutes ago, frob said:

Obviously you need to have some passion for the field in order to enjoy it, and if you don't enjoy your work I'd recommend finding a field you enjoy better, and keeping your hobbies as hobbies.

Interesting that this comes up now, given a conversation I just had recently about the separation of hobbies and jobs, and the idea of "a person's calling".  The gist of that conversation being that being passionate about something doesn't mean it should become your career.  But I think that also works the other way around- doing something professionally doesn't mean you have to be passionate about it.  It's ok for a job to just be a job.  I mean, it might help, depending on the job, but it's often to a persons detriment to make that a requirement.  Either you'll constantly be searching for that "one true calling" that might never happen, or you might turn something you enjoy on your own terms into something you can't enjoy anymore in the context of a business.

That's not to say that you shouldn't strive for job satisfaction - being able to enjoy what you do is great - but that's a separate thing from being passionate about a certain topic or field.  You can be passionate about game design, while being satisfied with your job as a chef or something.

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There is a great book, "What Color Is Your Parachute?" that covers that in depth.  I strongly recommend everyone reads it, it has been a best-seller for many decades so you can find many copies at your local library or used book store.

Yes, you can do a job you don't enjoy.  You can grow to love a job that you initially dislike.  You don't need to be passionate about something to do it. 

For example, I spent some of my early years doing custodial work; I hate vacuuming and cleaning toilets. I also spent several summers earning money doing yard care even though I have severe allergies and needed to be heavily drugged to get through the days. 

However, I love software development and I can talk with people for hours about good practices, about algorithms and tradeoffs and software bugs. I also enjoy games and developing products that people enjoy.  I also love several other fields, and I've turned them in to hobbies.

Even though I love software development, there are still tasks I dislike. There are still software assignments I don't want to do, but I do them anyway because I'm a professional, just like I cleaned toilets and breathed pollen clouds while disliking the job.  All jobs will have elements you dislike.

In an ideal world you do stuff you love all day, every day. In the real world you can get occasional periods of bliss but most of the time you get boring real life. Sometimes you get difficult troubles, and in that case you can (and should) take any job you can honorably do. If that means doing a job you dislike that pays the bills, then for a time that may be a job you've got to do as you work to improve your situation.  

Anyway, go get a copy of "What Color Is Your Parachute?" which has several soul-searching exercises to help you figure out details of the things that you most enjoy in an effort to bring you closer to your own personal bliss, the things you enjoy most.  I heard the quote years ago: "Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured."  Endure when you must, but find joy wherever you can.

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My opinion: You don't NEED to be a gamer to be a good game developer. You HAVE to be passionate about the games you make, need SOME interest in the topic (sports if you are making sports games, and certainly game theory / programming / art depending on your actual profession within the team).

Now, of course it doesn't HURT to be a passionate gamer to be good at making games. Totally opposite of that... if you have played a lot of games, you know some of the tricks of other game developers inside out, at least from the customers end.

Now, seeing things through the players lens is only half the truth. Without reading up about how something was done from the developers perspective, about the decisions made and why they wer made, without playing the game as a designer, thus to take notes, analyze and not to have fun first and foremost, most time playing games is just "wasted time", at least from the perspective of widening your horizon as a game dev.

 

How I balance gaming and game development personally: most of my free time not used for doing sports or spending time with my GF I spend on game development. I have 1 or 2 evenings per week I spend playing single player games, sometimes I spend my lunch break playing retro games for 30 minutes. At the weekend I often meet my pals online for some hours of online gaming. I try to keep my hours playing games to that.

I am playing Horizon Zero Dawn since about 2 months now and am only about half way through the game (though, yeah, I am completionisting the sh*t out of the game, and of course had to power up my bows with some hours of farming), and I have half a dozen retro games still waiting to be finished. That is the price I pay. I will never be able to play all the cool new games that come out.

The last of us is on my list since it came out. MY PS3 had disk troubles when I bought it in the PSN back in the day, was never able to install it. Now I am planning to get the souped up version for my PS4, but probably will not get to that until the sequel hits. I have 3 games for my PS4, that most probably will take me all of 2017 to finish.

 

Really, if you want ANY time for other hobbies, like game development if done as a hobby, you need to be strict with your gaming. Restrict the hours, get picky about the games you play, try to get the most out of your gaming time (which means -> if a game isn't fun, chuck it on the pile, swallow up your pride of not having finished it, sell it, whatever, but don't waste your time on a game you don't want to play). That way you can have the best of both world, have some fun with the GOOD games that come out (and lets be honest here... the REALLY good games in the genres that interest you coming out each can probably be counted on one, maybe two hands), while still having time for other things.

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2 hours ago, Gian-Reto said:

You HAVE to be passionate about the games you make

This is probably true for indies or hobbyists. Unfortunately it's rarely practical at larger companies. Imagine you have assembled 100 or 200 people, and then announce a new project - what's the chance that literally all of them will be passionate about that exact type of game? It's practically zero. And of the people who are passionate about it at the start, many of them won't still be passionate by the end. :)

Ultimately game development is a job. And few people are in such high demand and have so few ties that they can just decide to move to whichever company is making their favourite type of game. So it's to be expected that a lot of people on any given project are there to do a good job, rather than necessarily being passionate about the end product.

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1 hour ago, Kylotan said:

This is probably true for indies or hobbyists. Unfortunately it's rarely practical at larger companies. Imagine you have assembled 100 or 200 people, and then announce a new project - what's the chance that literally all of them will be passionate about that exact type of game? It's practically zero. And of the people who are passionate about it at the start, many of them won't still be passionate by the end. :)

Ultimately game development is a job. And few people are in such high demand and have so few ties that they can just decide to move to whichever company is making their favourite type of game. So it's to be expected that a lot of people on any given project are there to do a good job, rather than necessarily being passionate about the end product.

 

Let me be more precise... you HAVE to be passionate about what you do if you want to do a GREAT, not just a good or good enough job. Which is USUALLY what people like the OP are talking about when they talk about getting into making games. They do not want to be able to pay the bills... they want to create art.

 

Now, I am a professional in a different technical field myself, and I am about as passionate about the product of the company I am working for as most people working in the bigger studios probably are about the games they work for... which is... not so much. But it pays the bills, the colleagues are nice, and generally I like the work I am doing there. Yes, that is a reality for most professionals in todays world. Most of them will only be small cogwheels in a much larger machine, and most probably will only care about their direct surroundings. If you are lucky, they have at least some pride in their own work and try to do the best job they can. Put enough corporate BS on their shoulders (managers are very good at that in ALL lines of work), or pick simply the wrong person, and they might aim even lower than that and just see how little they have to put in to not be fired. Then there are the figureheads who are paid to be passionate and are often horrible fakers and PR disasters... lets not forget Hello games and their own PR disaster caused by a single figurehead not being able to keep his mouth shut.

In a big AAA setting, as long as you still have SOMEONE passionate enough about the project and not the money, and in a high enough position to fight back corporate bullshit from management and the publisher, and entice the normale employes not really pulling their weight to do better (while hopefully also reminding the ones pulling too much to dial back a nothc to not burn out on it), this can still result in a great game. After all, most of the people involved are professionals that are expected to churn out good work even if they are running on autopilot, and sometimes the resulting product can be taken from mediocre to great with the hard work of a few who want to go above and beyond the usual.

 

In an Indie setting sadly you get the same distribution of passionate, run of the mill, and lazy persons. You just don't get the same bell curve distribution among the company because they might be not enough people in the company to actually form a bell curve. You might get more passion on average, but also much less professionalism.

 

Lastly, while the AAA industry might pay good salaries even compared to other technical fields, the Indie dev careers on average don't. Picking to be an Indie game dev is a choice people should make out of passion, which I get is what most of the pros moving from the AAA industry to an Indie career do. True, for some it might be a necessity because they not longer are able to find a job, or they have a great idea they want to realize outside of the shackles of the AAA industry.

But given demand for programmers outside of the gaming industry is still high, and artists might also find employment doing something else, there still HAS to be some passion for making games to stay in the industry as an Indie.

 

So I am not denying that your response to my initial statement has some truth ESPECIALLY in respect to people in the AAA industry... but Indie devs without passion for games... well... lets just say among them are some of the most disgusting devs that are infesting the Steam and App Stores of this world. If you had ANY passion for games you wouldn't waste anyones time trying to game the Steam stores trading card system, or upload a Unity template project without any alterations to the stores again and again.

You can bet that if a GOOD game comes out from any dev, there was SOMEONE SOMEWHERE in the company that had passion for what they created. Passion alone does not guarantee a good game. The absence of passion will guarantee a mediocre game at best.

 

 

Oh, and almost missed the "...won't be passionate about it at the end" part. Yes, totally agree. I have seen with my own eyes what mistreatment of employees, corporate BS and mismanagment can do to a corporate culture. A company can go from healthy to undead within a few years when people are put under pressure and managers start to make their usual d*ck moves treating money as more important as people.

The company usually will not recover from it. The worst part is, it might actually survive and even thrive... but inside, people will cooperate less and be more selfish. The productivity suffers while managers still try to squeeze out more work from their employees in order to save money they may or may not need to save. I predict such a company will either go under long term, or will take 10 times as long to recover, as it needs to cycle out the old burnt out staff, and build up a new culture with the new staff while avoiding the old staffers souring the mood of the new ones. And as you cannot fire a full company without closing down shop -> almost impossible to achieve. You WILL have to win back the favour of the old staffers, which is a hard feat when many of these have an axe to grind with the old management, and new management might not even know what exactly has happened that disgruntled the old staff so much, while not really caring enough to get to the bottom of it.

Having seen what the crisis and our "management overhead" and their mostly stupid ideas has done to the company I work in, I can only imagine how much worse people in SOME of the more infamous AAA studios *cough*everythingEA*cough* have it.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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