Some tips for designing a video game

At the beginning of the current project, I tried to set a team with players I knew, whose some possesses very good narrative talents, so, perfect to create a RPG-like.

But after a few months, nothing progressed, and I found myself alone to work. In fact, there were a lot of talk, tons of texts, but nothing else.

Another example: A friend’s wife (a talent programmer) wanted to mount the same kind of projects so, she started by creating an association, then through subsidies, invested in a Unity pro license. A few months later, same thing: She worked alone, ie: 3D models + textures, coding, sounds and ambiances, etc. (once again, she’s basically a programmer).

After 2 years of hard work, she threw in the towel, dissolved the association and abandoned the project. Since then, she does not want to hear about any game development any more, and it’s a shame, I would have hired her!

 Most of the advice I received, as well as my own experience, says that you have to start alone, it can be long, painful and sometimes discouraging, but you have to hang on: Willpower can moves mountains !

So :

1: Write down your ideas on paper :

  • Game style (RPG, RTS, FPS, simulation, etc…)
  • Game-play
  • 3D or 2D
  • Destination Plateform(s)
  •  Feasibility

Note: This latest point is very important: Indeed, some engines claim that you do not need to be a programmer to create a game: It’s wrong! You can actually create stuff like “Pong” or “Breakout” clones but it will not go much further. Coding is one of the main phases of game creation, and it is the code that will determine precisely the game mechanics and therefore the game-play.

A contrario, if you are a confirmed coder but have no talent or knowledge in graphics, it is doomed too. Indeed, most potential future players rely on one thing: What they have in front of their eyes, in short, images. So, you have to create a lot to attract an audience.

2: Choose your game engine with great care

  • The license:

What does it allow you? Does it oblige you to pay back some of your potential earnings (eg: Unity)? Does it requires you to broadcast on a particular platform (eg Cry Engine + Steam). In short, what possibilities does the engine offer you and what constraints does it require?

For my part, I spent a whole year before deciding (and I tried a lot !)

  • Your destination platform:

PC (Linux, Windows), Mac, IOS, Android, console? All engines do not offer the same choices. In addition, wanting to develop for console can seriously increase the budget you would have to provide. Yes, if some engines offer the possibility to develop for WII, for example, this is not the case for all, and wanting to choose another platform could earn you the purchase of an extra VERY expensive license (several thousand of Euros for some). Or, you will need to find a distributor / publisher and control over your project might escape you in part, if not completely.

  • Make sure the chosen engine is stable, …

…offers regular updates and accepts portability from one version to the next. I’ve read a lot of Unity topics and compatibility issues between versions, so projects have to be rebuilt entirely!

  • Is the engine source code available?

Indeed, if you are a coder, you may need to modify some features.

  • The scripting language (Python, Lua, JavaScript, etc …): Most engines include a scripting language, easier to master than a traditional language like C #, for example. So, if you have no programming knowledge, you will need to choose a scripting language that is easy and quick to learn and that perfectly manages the elements of your game (I have heard of recurring problems with Lua, hoax, or truth, I don’t know). In addition, make sure that the chosen scripting language is fast enough, because the more code you add, the longer the scenes will take to load. For my part, Python and its derivatives (yes, there are) seems to be the best choice, because we can do almost everything with, and its learning seems relatively simple for the uninitiated (including myself).
  •  Evolution of the technology: An example: The engine offer the possibility of the virtual reality: Yes, the players demand more and more immersion and the VR seems to take more and more importance in the big studios.

3: The market :

Do a little market research if you intend to sell your work (s). Indeed, in France, for example, the biggest sales are for example: Pokemons, Sims, and FPS. For space games, Germany, Russia (the Russians are fond of it), England and the USA seem to be big consumers. Japan, China, Korea and generally eastern countries prefer RPGs. All this being given only as an indication, of course, this can vary according to the seasons and the modes. But one thing is certain: Plan translations accordingly and as you go. Adding additional languages at the end of the project would greatly increase your workload, especially if it’s an RPG, so with a lot of texts.

4: The lifetime :

Make sure your game is editable by the players. Indeed, some games have a longer life than others because of their mods (= modifications), unofficial extensions created by the players and the generated communities. So, if your first game is successful, the players will throw on your next production as misery on the poor world. An example: Freelancer and Star Citizen (Chris Roberts). The game is not even in stable release and officially released, but the community is already huge and global!

5: Create a website:

Yes, it is essential for a wide spread of your project

 6: NEVER claim having made yourself the work of others,

it could quickly turn against you.

So :

7: Remember to read carefully the licenses of everything you will use:

3D models, images, textures, and even fonts. Indeed, the most common mistake is to believe that because it’s free, it can be used in any case. An example: Avoid using the current Windows, Mac, or Linux fonts available from the OS itself. In the case of a commercial project, it could bring you very big trouble. Many sites offer 100% free fonts.

To finish:

Never be discouraged. The development of a game and its completion can take years depending on the time you spend and your budget. In addition, and while keeping in mind your main project, multiply small games (“Breakout” clones, “Pong” clones, small 2D platform games, etc.), this will allow you to well know your game engine, and could even generate some income.