232: Game Development for the Damned and Delirious

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Game Development for the Damned and Delirious

Thanks to the proliferation of user-friendly game creation software, the amateur game development scene is more crowded than ever. Unfortunately, so are the forums devoted to it. Bradley Campbell explains how online indie game development communities aren't as helpful as they initially seem.

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Well... this is abit of a downer. All valid points though; especially the thing about the internet as a communication medium - it simply is very hard to keep motivated when your only form of communication with, say, the art guy or the writter guy is via IM and email.

I fear that this article has sparked my masochistic side. Must. Learn. C#.

Today's "constructive criticism" is nothing more than looking at a preview of some hero character's sprites and saying "What the hell is wrong with his head? Hats do not work that way!"

This, as you point out later, is no different than what, say, a budding novelist might receive in terms of "constructive criticism" from other would-be novelists. This considering literary criticism is hundreds of years old. So I wouldn't bet too much on that the atmosphere is going to change terribly much with time (growing pains, not so much)! Yet, there are luckily exceptions to the rule, and that's where art can truly prosper, whether it's indie game developement or poetry.

Nice article!

I admit there have been times on the game dev forums where I have ridiculed a "I have a great idea" post, or felt smugly superior when I hear some guy gave up on his dream due to lack of interest. But on a whole my experience with Indie Game Dev sites has been quite positive.

Many times the old guard have helped me over come a technical hurdle. There is no better place to turn if you need a function or a library that does this, this, and this... but you don't know its exact name. I have even reciprocated towards younger members with regard to their coding troubles.

I can get some free play testing done by submitting working demos. Usually people are pretty supportive once they see I put in some effort into an idea, be it concept art, design doccument, or demo. I think effort you put in outside of these forums is what mostly determines how people will react to you. For example asking a technical question before asking google will get you shunned. Where as asking a technical question and listing the google searches that have not turned up useful information, will get you pity and maybe even help.

Our differing experiences may also be due to the forums we go to. I have found TIGSource and Allegro.cc to be very supportive environments. I never went near gamemaker forums because I don't use gamemaker.

I guess that many people don't realise that the key to successful bedroom game programming is to have modest goals and to put in a lot of work. Even reading that people will not realise how modest their goals would have to be and just how many hours of mentally demanding work they will have to do.

There is also a terrible sort of bragging game in the indie development community where developers boast about how they created a world class game in 3 hours after staying up all night partying. Yeah, for the amount of attention and praise most of these games get that is probably what they wish they had spent making them. The amount of time it takes to work out all of the techniques and tricks needed to make a game in that time frame has to be more than that. Also with software development of any sort, something that outsiders can easily be fooled by is the fact that prototypes are often fun and relatively easy to make. The real boring, soul crushing, grind of software development is taking the prototype and working on it until it is something worth a damn. "I made this game in 3 hours," yeah son, that's great for you, I'll give you some respect when you have spent 20 hours working on a hard to fix bug that makes your game suck.

I agree with the above post. I used to tour the Game Maker forums often, actually, and I will say from a Game Maker based magazine article that smarting small is the best thing you can do for yourself, as an individual.

I screwed up big time in that aspect, and I learned that I am not a jack of all trades in game programming or design. I can only do so much.

What's interesting is you don't find this kind of thing very much in PnP game development. I think it has a lot to do with an older crowd. Really so long as you don't blatantly say you're trying to make "DnD but better" most message boards can be rather informative if you know where to go.

Even if you are trying to drop a fantasy heartbreaker on them they'll at least give you insight in to your mechanics and probably pull the thread of an idea that will unravel the cover of DnD and reveal a much better game.

I think the best thing any new game developer can do is to do their homework. A lot of these message boards get flooded with the same question over and over again. To this end using the search function on a message board and combing through the stickies before making a post can often answer your question before you must suffer the wrath of people pretending to be Yahtzee.

Speaking of which I'm curious on to his take on this considering his experiences in that area.

When Mark Overmars created Game Maker, I doubt he had any idea of the Pandora's box of horrible games he was about to open onto the world. Every time I visit the Game Maker forums, it's full of 12-year olds asking people for help with making their own remake of Sonic, or their Zelda clone, or their 2D version of Halo. How do I know they're only 12 years old? Well, they can't even seem to afford the $20 registration fee for the pro version of GM.

Honestly, I love Game Maker, I use it every day and it's provided me with thousands of hours of fun, frustration and challenge. But it also proves a few fundamental truths about game development:

1. Even if you simplify the coding aspect as much as possible, making a good game is still a helluva lot of work.

2. Most people have no original ideas.

3. Most people don't understand the fundamental basics of game play design.

4. Most people barely have one (if that) of the many skillsets needed to make a good game.

As for the forums being useful, yes, they have been, as long as you have a high tolerance for the above. But these days I tend to avoid them. The occasional brilliant ideas tend to get buried under a massive sea of crap. And I can usually figure out the problems in my games without having to ask someone in a forum, thankfully.

hell with what I know about programing scene, most of programmers can't do their own shit, they only use what's already done. Games are a perfect reflection of it. ain't no GTA gonna be that perfect as GTA VC. It had motorcycle acrobatics, road reflections, night club, first person mission, sfi-fi headlight flares, killer toys, yacht-based missions, car hovercraft cheat, tanks, buyable property of actual gameplay value(auto showroom, strip club) and fuckload of style.
ain't none of that beaten.

EDIT:oh, and I am sure I left most of the other superb stuff out.

The article is slightly misleading. It makes it sound like this is new. I was trying to do this 6 years ago, when I was fifteen. One of my highschool friends even put out a variant of Angband (do you call that success?), asking older people to fix bugs in his C+/- code every time he put out a new version.

And then, you know, I'm sure that basic game design has been going on at that age for longer, if you count card games or board games or anything made without a computer.

Makes sense; too many people go for big grand projects. I'm currently trying to create a Pong clone. Pong. It's simple, and easy. That's how everyone should start; with stuff that is simple and easy.

Internet communities are harsh mistresses and you have to be able to cope with that if you really want to get something done as a solo-developer.

Most of the young kids coming in are just dreamers though and you can't begrudge them their enthusiasm. There should be a 'softer' way of lancing their bubbles but there simply isn't. Your grand idea is not grand and the insight you've acquired into its execution is worthless in sight of the labour ahead of you. Until that realisation strikes and you recover from it you're not going to produce something worthwhile (put bluntly).

Funnily enough I've had this experience myself with writing rather than gamedesign even though I'm actually a programmer by trade.

On the other hand there´s nothing more misleading than a community which only spouts praise at your works. Exemplified by the hordes of artists on Deviantart who produce nothing worthwhile and get nothing but praise leading to souldcrushing dissappointment later on.

Thanks for the article Bradley, it set me thinking.

As a graphical and musical imbecile, but decent coder, for about 2 years now I've been trying to create a MUD-like game from scratch. During those 2 years I've managed to get 3 working prototypes, but nothing playable. I had even tried different approaches: "normal" dev, web-based small-team dev (was going nice till we started arguing... yeah.) and a self-written robust modular architecture (most of the neccessary parts I've managed to finish and they worked, but together it resembled a rube-goldberg machine).

On the other hand, I've learnd A LOT during that time. Maybe what I, and other like me, need is just experience...

This remind me of some RPG maker forums, where the very atmosphere is poisonous. If you're not making a 100+ hour game with complete custom graphics musics and systems with a team of 25, you're not worth a reply. People will always criticize what you do, but they'll never actually TRY to play what you've made. As for the newbies, I try to help them when they need it, encourage them when their ideas are good and simply ignore them when they're bad. Most give up within a month anyway...

My strategy for the RPG i'm making is simply to work on it when I have free time. Who cares if I finish it in 10 years? I simply want to have fun while making it and be proud of what i've done. Sure I could make custom graphics and system, but I think having something fuctionnal is more important than having something pretty.

i currently know no codes, can anyone advise what would be the best code to learn, and where to learn it???

nice article, but what the hell is with that background pic, fire does not look that orange! =)

TailsRodrigez:
nice article, but what the hell is with that background pic, fire does not look that orange! =)

If it was sodium that was burning it might.

And that is why I design my mods solo. Sure the occasional help is great, but organizing and maintaining a team is a lot of work, and never delivers as well as something you created by yourself. As for learning, I've found the best way to do that is to look at how other mods/games are made, and figure it out from there. Internet tutorials can be a godsend as well.

I 100% agree with the statement that most people view game development as easy or a silly hobby. My parents were shocked when they found out that game development can be a paying job.

>Game Maker

Well, there's your problem. You're expecting a community about a piece of game-making software, as opposed to a community about *making games*, to have people on it who'll act like human beings. Frankly, that's your own damn fault. Go somewhere where the barrier to entry is higher and you won't get either the newbie dross or the people who prey on them.

I mean, come on. It's Game Maker. It was ridiculed as crap five years ago, and for good reason. The people who stick with it are the people who aren't using real tools (and I'm sorry, but "real tools" is a subset that definitely excludes Game Maker).

KhakiHat:
I fear that this article has sparked my masochistic side. Must. Learn. C#.

Good luck with that. I'm currently using C# and XNA for my Games Design and Development university course. It's no joke; and I'm learning Java, C (C++ later) and a variety of other programing languages.

They're all much easier to use than machine code, though. My god, machine code is finickey.

That isn't to say that C isn't a PICKY BASTARD of a development language either.

Actually, I'd like to re-evaluate my "They're all much easier to use than machine code" statement. Still isn't pretty, though.

But anyway, if you want to learn C# with XNA (In case you didn't know, XNA's a plug-in used with Microsoft Visual Studio C# to make games for the PC, 360 and Zune), I have a book to recomend: Learning XNA 3.0, written by Aaron Reed. I don't use it terribly much, but it's a helpful thing to have.

Sorry if you know all this already, but I hope I was at least somewhat helpful.

Anyway;
This article is spot-on; game design/development isn't something to take lightly. Good thing that I KNOW that this is what I want to do; I'm in a university course for it after all. Plus, if it doesn't pan out, I'm still a computer programer at the end of it. Though at the same time since I'm in a university course for it, that automatically discludes me from the 'aspiting indie developer' described in this article right from the get-go.

Ed Ropple:
>Game Maker

Well, there's your problem. You're expecting a community about a piece of game-making software, as opposed to a community about *making games*, to have people on it who'll act like human beings. Frankly, that's your own damn fault. Go somewhere where the barrier to entry is higher and you won't get either the newbie dross or the people who prey on them.

I mean, come on. It's Game Maker. It was ridiculed as crap five years ago, and for good reason. The people who stick with it are the people who aren't using real tools (and I'm sorry, but "real tools" is a subset that definitely excludes Game Maker).

I hope I'm not the only one to see the irony in what you said.

Congratulations, you have just epitomised the kinds of people that are described as being of no help in the article.

And yes, GameMaker is hardly 'A*' material for making games, put people have made some pretty decent stuff with it.

MGlBlaze:

Ed Ropple:
>Game Maker

Well, there's your problem. You're expecting a community about a piece of game-making software, as opposed to a community about *making games*, to have people on it who'll act like human beings. Frankly, that's your own damn fault. Go somewhere where the barrier to entry is higher and you won't get either the newbie dross or the people who prey on them.

I mean, come on. It's Game Maker. It was ridiculed as crap five years ago, and for good reason. The people who stick with it are the people who aren't using real tools (and I'm sorry, but "real tools" is a subset that definitely excludes Game Maker).

I hope I'm not the only one to see the irony in what you said.

Congratulations, you have just epitomised the kinds of people that are described as being of no help in the article.

And yes, GameMaker is hardly 'A*' material for making games, put people have made some pretty decent stuff with it.

I noticed it too. The irony was so good that I had trouble telling if he was being serious or not.

MGlBlaze:

Ed Ropple:
>Game Maker

Well, there's your problem. You're expecting a community about a piece of game-making software, as opposed to a community about *making games*, to have people on it who'll act like human beings. Frankly, that's your own damn fault. Go somewhere where the barrier to entry is higher and you won't get either the newbie dross or the people who prey on them.

I mean, come on. It's Game Maker. It was ridiculed as crap five years ago, and for good reason. The people who stick with it are the people who aren't using real tools (and I'm sorry, but "real tools" is a subset that definitely excludes Game Maker).

I hope I'm not the only one to see the irony in what you said.

Congratulations, you have just epitomised the kinds of people that are described as being of no help in the article.

And yes, GameMaker is hardly 'A*' material for making games, put people have made some pretty decent stuff with it.

I'm being entirely serious. You're going to get that kind of community around that kind of software because the barrier to entry is staggeringly low. The people who would have the ability to be positive forces for good in such a community eventually leave because there's little left for them there. But when there's a commitment of time and effort (not talent, it can all be learned!) on the scale necessary to master software development or other skills necessary to make a title sans training wheels, the dross does tend to go away. Go look at GameDev.Net, for example--there's very little of that kind of thing there, both because of community pressure and because the moderators will backhand anyone who acts like an ass just because they can. But few people do, because it's just not necessary there.

Now, like most places that cater to technical people, they don't take very kindly to questions posed without some kind of research or attempt at solving the problem on their own, but why should they? If it wasn't important enough that the questioner did, say, a basic Google search, it probably isn't important enough to give it a serious answer. (Learning to ask questions intelligently is a skill, and one that isn't hard to pick up.)

The Game Maker forums are filled with kids. Which is fine; there's nothing wrong with that. But don't make them out to be more than they are, expect them to be more than that, or try to extrapolate experiences there to indie game development in general. All I'm saying is that if you raise your game and bring said raised game somewhere a little more matured, and you will find far better results.

The overall impression of the indie community doesn't sound anything different than most forums out there.

Frankly I made better games programming them from scratch than with a program such as this one. It takes much more work as you have to take care of all the design and mechanics yourself but you know your game inside out and will likely be bug free.

wow i didnt know it was so tough for all of those indie designers.
kudos for those who band together some people to help, but i guess one loan designer doesnt make a huge difference

I remember back when indie game development was for the strictly devoted and dedicated few. Now because every community college has a "game design" program and advertises between Jerry Springer The Peoples Court, every suburban dipshit thinks he's a few keystrokes away from being the next Braid or Audiosurf.

What used to be a barely-tapped market is now undergone the same faggotry and egotistical drama you see in art communities (DeviantTART), web design (EVERYTHING MUST BE HELVETICA) and the gaming community (I don't have to list examples here).

It's fucking disgusting to see what even game DESIGN has become. But whatever, I guess I'm going to have to suck someone's dick to see if I can get in on a decent game design company now. Fuckers.

So yeah... I've spent over 200 hours just making levels for Source engine games...
yes, you be impressed.

And I did this by asking nice people for help and asking the right questions... looking elsewhere on the internet.

but yeah, I can't say that when a new guy asks me for help and he doesn't even know how to draw a block in Hammer I kinda try to get him to look at the INTERNET AND STOP ASKING ME THE EASIEST THING IN THE ENTIRE BOOK!

@Scrythe:

Yes. We are all very shocked indeed due to this development. After the break; tomorrow the sun is expected to rise again, and several fish are going to be eaten by sharks. More on that later.

Glic2003:
2. Most people have no original ideas.

All people have no original ideas. It is a chicken and the egg thing with the added bonus of unlike the chicken and the egg it has no actual simple explanation.

All ideas are rehashes of previous ideas. The original ones are simply old ideas masked properly enough that people don't notice it is the exact idea.

Painting a rose gold does not change the fact that under the gold is the exact same rose that grows every year. That is what people do. They simply put a new coat over an old rose.

Now. I know someone will get defensive about this because they confuse this point with negativity.

There is nothing bad at all about this. It is just how it is.

Well that was fun. Off to bed.

So you can get sued by some UBERdouche when your game has the letters

E

D

G

E
in them and you'll get sued? Nah..not for me.

I've never understood why people are always dissing Game Maker. I assume people just look at the games that were made with it and see that they're mostly crap, so they assume the tool is crap...when actually it was the game creators that were crap. :)

I mean Derek Yu is a fucking game design genius, and Game Maker was apparently good enough for him to use. I would rate his Spelunky in the top 10 best games I've played, ever.

"theultimateend" said:
All ideas are rehashes of previous ideas. The original ones are simply old ideas masked properly enough that people don't notice it is the exact idea.

Painting a rose gold does not change the fact that under the gold is the exact same rose that grows every year. That is what people do. They simply put a new coat over an old rose.

--//--

Simple rehashing of old ideas is a extreme oversimplification of what creativity is.

No current ideas are purely original ones, in the sense of creating something out of thin air. But it is a fact that the human psyche recreates and transforms notions it acquires from the world around it.

We started this process by watching nature and have been going forward from that ever since.

If everything were a simple gold coating over the same old rose, one would never be able to tell apart what is considered true classic works of every art and design ever produced in human history.

True creativity takes true work.

Glic2003:
I mean Derek Yu is a fucking game design genius, and Game Maker was apparently good enough for him to use. I would rate his Spelunky in the top 10 best games I've played, ever.

What games did he produce in Game Maker? I'm curious about that one.

I'll stay away from the haters,then.

Escapist, bringing reality and depression to your very own doorstep.

Kidding, interesting read and alot of truths hidden within this article. Thoroughly enjoyed it, keep it up.

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