How do you really begin making games?

By Jody S. Ginther Copyright © 2016 - All Rights Reserved
free game

First of all you have to ask yourself some questions like:

To really find the answers you have to spend hours suffering through obsolete blogs and information written for the sole purpose of selling you something rather than helping you. The purpose of this lesson is to help you save the time and frustration I went through when I decided to get involved with making computer games.

Why do I want to make games?

This is the first question you should ask yourself because your answer will tell you which way to turn on the crossroads you are coming to. If you are making games for you own entertainment and will only use them on your own computer, you will choose one road to reach your goal. If you choose to sell your games, the road to choose is in a completely different direction.

What do I mean? Well, if you are going to make games to sell, software companies offering free or commercial software conveniently "forget" to tell you that; yes, you can make games with their software but that doesn't mean you can transfer them to another computer; nor does it mean you can make an executable or install file to make it work outside their program; and it often definitely does not mean you can sell your game without paying them again for your work! You already paid them for your copy of the software, but they still want some of the profit for your sweat and tears because you made the mistake of choosing their software! Duh, of course if I want to make a game I would expect it to run on another computer outside the program that made it, and maybe even sell it! But, if you are a "beginner" to this field you are probably thinking with too much common sense and not thinking about checking for these things. Yes, it's an insane world…as Einstein put it; "Common sense is not common."

If you are going to make software for fun or for your own computer only, you have many software choices and needn't worry about these problems. You better check these details carefully for any software you are considering.

2. How much time and money do I want to put into this?

This one is important. Do you really want to study programming or do you want a drag and drop game making program? If you want drag and drop, you will save time in making the game; but if you are going to sell it, you may take just as much time as a programmer to find out if you are going to be paying for every asset like wall tiles, trees or rocks, character, music file, picture, graphic, every sound, etc. Have a headache yet? Most programs will supply a minimum amount of these things, (usually less than you need for more then one good game), but will charge you money for more assets. Some sites offer "free" assets, but make sure they are really totally free. Don't skip reading the license agreements. They may be "free" for home use, but not in commercial products. Another disadvantage of using a drag and drop is that your games are going to look like everyone else's games. Face it, there are more lazy people in the work than hard workers. This also means it will be more difficult for you to sell your games. There are "high end" drag and drop games we will not discuss in this lesson because you will pay hundreds or even thousands of US dollars for these.

If time is not a concern, you want to make real games and be in control of your own game making life; then the best answer is to learn programming. If you make the game from the ground up, you can control every aspect of it and make a new game that the world has never seen!!! Maybe even sell it. Be aware though; most modern games are the result of months or years of programming and/or teamwork with groups of other programmers. That does not mean you can't make good games yourself, it has been done. But, you should prepare yourself to spend some time on it.

3. What kind of Games do I want to make?

If you are just going to repeat what is already out there for your own amusement, or because you just like the kind of games you already see in the gaming world; then you can take the easy road. For beginners the most affordable path I found would be to make some platform style games on the free version of Platform Studio. Keep in mind, people have to make money for a living, so the version you can download for free will make games only for your own use. You can pay a small fee to unlock the professional version and make games you can actually sell. With the professional version your games will work on other computers and can be played outside the program. They also give you some simple assets and a character for your own games. You will need to get a program to create an installer if you want to package the files created. Platform maker produces an exe that must be in the same folder as the other files it produces to work. You may also want to get a icon maker to create a new icon for your game; and maybe a graphics program to create your own assets and characters. It is beyond the scope of this article to help you choose these programs, but you should know there are freeware and open source choices available. We will cover those in future lessons. You can get a simple example of a platform game we put together with Platform Studio's assets. We revised their character into one of our own, but the other assets came with the program.

Download our free platform game, on our download page. A screenshot of Planet Alpha is at the top of this article. We made this game only to evaluate their software, so you are free to copy and share it with your friends. It has only been thoroughly tested on Vista.

If you want to make modern style games, you will need to consider programming or very expensive drag and drop programs. We will give you more information on these in future lesson.

4. How do I get started?

Good question! I'm glad you asked! Remember, it depends on how you answered the previous questions. You could take a course in college, but that can also be confusing. You could end up spending a lot of money and time studying things you don't really need or care about. So, carefully research degree programs before taking that road.

To get started as a beginner, you may give the free version of Platform Studio a try. If you like it, get the full professional version and make some games to distribute. You can begin with drag and drop programs. After you gain confidence, you can learn some programming and get more creative with the program. You can find it at: Firstproductions.com

To see if you really want to be a programmer, you must get a taste of it. Most books can be really confusing for a beginner. It's also a nightmare to try to choose a programming language to begin with. Everyone will point in a different direction. It's kind of like asking for directions in California. We will discuss programming languages in later lessons. For now, you can try an open source language, (that means you can get it for free), called "Python." There are also many free resources to begin learning it. You can download the free book on Python programming "Start Here: Python Programming Made Simple for the Beginner" or buy the beginner's course on our downloads page. Once you have finished it, there are many great sites and resources online to teach you more. You can begin the next level of your life as a programmer by visiting the resource links on our free resources page.