Your First Project

This article was originally posted over on the official RPG Maker website. It turned out to be pretty popular over there, and everyone seems to be of the consensus that it’s helpful to newbies, so I decided to reproduce it here as a blog post, so that any aspiring game developers who stumble across my site are able to heed these words of wisdom.

Listen up! You’re starting out in game development? You’re going to create the biggest, most epic indie game this side of Minecraft, you say? Give this article a read first; there’s important things you need to learn.

On First Projects

This article is intended to show new RPG Makers why a simple first project is often the best choice. In this article, I’ll try to explain the reasons why newbies should, at first, put their ambitions on hold, including:

  • A simple project is not overwhelming
  • Simple projects allow the user to play around and learn.
  • Simple projects offer no distractions for inexperienced users.

As you all most of you know, I’ve been doing this gamedev thing for quite a while now. I haven’t yet reached the elusive status of “legendary” but I’ve been around long enough that I begin to notice trends and failings in the community. In my many years in the community, I’ve seen and played uncountable projects. Some were great, some only mediocre. Some were horrible. Over time, I’ve noticed that game making trends change, so new projects eventually steal the thunder of old ones, and the community moves on. There’s one thing, however, that has remained the same ever since I first opened up RPG Maker to make my very first Final Fantasy fangame.

How many times have you seen newbies announce their epic, 20+ hour long, feature ladden, script infested first projects that they cancel shortly after? Why are first projects almost always doomed to fail? It seems that people new to gamedev are far too ambitious for their own good. I’ve done it myself, many moons ago; I’ve decided that my first project’s going to be an epic saga set to rival the cherished classics of the RPG genre. Eventually, I learned that trying to pull off an ambitious project with little or no experience under my belt has two possible outcomes: either I become overwhelmed with the sheer scale of the project, realise I don’t have the skill to do it justice, and cancel it, or else I finish it and release a bug-ridden crapfest. The moral here is that new devs must learn to recognise their limitations, and work within them until they are experienced enough to tackle a project that is truly spectacular.

The key piece of advice that anyone new to game making should heed is that to make a truly revolutionary game requires patience, skill and experience, three things that people often lack at the start of their careers. A first project should be a tool for refining these things. The ideal first project should be something simple that isn’t too hard to make. It’s important for new devs to learn the basics of their chosen engine (built from the ground up or otherwise) before they can push it to its limits. Likewise, there are fundamental aspects of game design that must be learned, such as how to create a balanced difficulty curve, how to create interesting gameplay with satisfying mechanics and how to construct an interesting, well paced storyline and likable characters.

This is a tremendous amount of things to learn, and this is why it’s often better to start off with something simple rather than that epic saga that you’ve always dreamed of making. Furthermore, it’s important for any game maker to learn how to present a game correctly, and how to read and respond to criticism, so that they can further their abilities. Taking on a simple project that has a steady rate of progress and is not too overwhelming allows newbies to have the very valuable experience of actually releasing a completed game to the public and learning to deal with feedback. You don’t need to sell your first game; even releasing something that’s free to play is a valuable experience.

You don’t always have to make a game so tremendously revolutionary that it turns the industry upside down. Even a very simple game in an already saturated genre can be a joy to play if it’s made well and clearly shows effort. Likewise, even a game done badly gives its creator an important opportunity to learn how to improve and become a better game maker. Think of it this way, new devs: would you rather release a short, simple game that’s helped you learn the nuances of game making and release that epic saga later and really do it justice, or would you like to release it now and have it fall far short of your ambitions? Heed this advice: keep it simple, keep it stupid.

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About dgrixti

I develop games and I write. I'm studying for a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and I've been published in a number of literary journals all over the world, and my first actual book is being launched in July 2012 by Disposable Fiction. I like writing speculative fiction, horror and literary fiction, sometimes all blended together. You can find elements of my writing in my games, because I consider my games stories that happen to have gameplay.
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