Monday, June 15, 2009

So You Want to Make a Game?

I can only think of two things that could be better than gaming. Nice fresh chocolate chip cookies would the first one. And playing a game that you made yourself would be the second. Well, assuming the game is good, of course.

And since I appear to all out of cookies... and the chocolate chips with which to make them... lets look at making games. Or, more specifically, how any of us can dive in and start making our own game very soon.

First, let me be clear. You're game will not be pretty. Modern top selling titles look amazing because they are the work of dozens of artists who spend 40-70 hour a week for months making them look amazing. Anything you make on your own will not look that amazing. Or close to that amazing. Or even remotely close to that amazing. One person cannot replicate the efforts of dozens.

That's ok, though. Good games are not built by graphics alone, but by gameplay. Even good graphics can't rescue a title with poor gameplay. Gameplay then, should be your primary concern. As anyone who has sat down in front of original Zelda for ten minutes of nostalgia only to find themselves still playing five hours later can tell you, even the ugliest games be awesome if the gameplay is great. Pick a style of game to make, whether it be point-and-click adventure, or puzzle, or catapulting pies at parachuting puppies, just keep the idea fairly simple in the beginning. Complexity is not your friend when you're still learning the ropes.

With that in mind, there is a surprisingly wide array of software packages available, often for free, that are designed for people who can't even program their VCR, let alone write legit computer code. Some are more complex, some less so. The only way to know is dive in and try them out. Many of them have a fair sized community that can provide help getting started and learning the software. I will not attempt to mention all the possibilities here, but Ambrosine's Games Page has a tremendous list of programs and toolkits you can use.

However, in the category of simple game makers, I will introduce Game Maker 7. Featuring easy installation, plenty of community support, and a fair amount of flexibility, Game Maker 7 might be a decent place to start. If nothing else, there is quite a library of titles made with this program available to give you an idea what is possible.

So go get started. Try out a dozen or so programs and packages until you find one that fits you and your ideas, and get making games. There has never been a better time to be a hobby game maker, and there will never be anyone who will make the games that live only in your head if you don't go do it yourself. So, grab a plate of cookies and get busy. If you do make something worth sharing with the world, let me know. You just might find it being reviewed in this space one day.

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