I Wanna be a Game Designer [part 3]

Where Do I Start?
If you want to design games, you should start designing games. You can design games with a deck of cards. With index cards. And a pen, don’t forget a pen. You can do it with some poker chips, with some Lego bricks, with an old chess board. Your first lesson is: “games are not their graphics”. Or their framerate. They are their rules. You can start making games with whatever you have to hand. Raph Koster

That’s pretty much it, really. Raph Koster nailed it. If you want to design games, you should immediately start by making games. Making games is NOT writing concepts. Making games means to take your concept and bring it to a finished status. If you still don’t know how to code (mind you: you should learn), just put it on paper, as Koster says. There’s plenty of shops selling wooden game bits and dice and other stuff you can use to start making games (and if you can’t get some of those you can just look into your dust-covered tabletop games.

A game designer should always be making games. Plus, your first ten games will probably suck (it’s not your fault), so it’s better to get them out of the way as soon as possible.

How Can I Make My First Game?
There are a lot of ways to do it. If you can’t code, you can just start on paper. Creating a board game will teach you a lot, and you won’t need a lot of stuff to start (but if you do, head to Spielmaterial to get some nice game bits). Creating a board game is a great way to start designing games. There’s always time to get digital.

If you still want to use your computer screen, though, you can start with semi-visual tools like Game Maker or Stencyl. They are both pretty good to learn the basics about how a game works. Sure, they are pretty limited (especially Stencyl), but right now you have to learn how to make small, fun games. Leave the complexity for later, when you will have gathered enough experience.

If you are more into 3D games, Unity 3D is a popular choice. It’s quite simple to learn and there is a huge community to call upon if you’ll need help.

Please note that these are just mere suggestions: there is a huge amount of tools and engines dedicated to create games and the landscape is ever changing. Use what you feel comfortable with. Remember: this is your first game, so, don’t bite more than you can chew. Stick to something very very simple. You aim to finish a game. It won’t be a masterpiece (it will probably suck) but you’ll learn a great deal of things in the process.

If you need to stay simple and be motivated, you may check the Tiny Game Design Tool, which was conceived exactly to maintain your idea simple and to motivate you towards finishing a game.

How Do I Get Known?
First of all, start a project. Work hard to make at least a good prototype. Even better: do some small games and start showing them around. Don’t start empty handed.

Three words for the job: use the Internet.
No, seriously. The best way you have to get known is to live into the Internet. Follow interesting people on Twitter. Read their blogs. Comment them. Engage in the discussions. Subscribe to the most interesting bulletin boards and start asking and giving advice about what you’re doing.

And even more important, start building your identity on the web: put a website/blog on; open a Twitter account and start using it at least daily; make mood boards on Pinterest. When you have a definite project start writing about it in a devlog. Release often screenshots, videos and updates. This will help you getting real about it and help you to get known. Show what you’re doing as much as you can. Don’t fear to have your ideas stolen. Remember: ideas are worth nothing until they are realised. The more you talk about yourself and your work, the more help you can get. And you’ll start knowing people who matter and get known by them.

Then, you can think about going to conferences and events. This is extremely important to meet like-minded people and to get advice from them. You can even make them play your game and see how they react. When you travel, always try to find if there are developers in the area you’re staying. Contact them and try to hang out with them. As for what events are the most relevant to be attended, the first choice should probably be the Game Developer Conference. It is by far the most important event for game developers, and you could get in touch with a lot of very cool people and game developer legends. Now, if you can, I’ll suggest to aim for the central event in San Francisco. But the European instance could still be a great choice to start. If you are overwhelmed by the ticket price, don’t get discouraged. All the GDC instances have a great volunteer program: they will ask you a part-time commitment (you’ll basically have to help people find the right conference room, or to check badges at the entrance) and offer in exchange a full access to the conference. You’ll still have plenty of time to follow conferences and meet people while working there. It’s a refreshing and very cool experience. And don’t forget parties! Traditionally, a lot of parties are thrown during the GDC days. There you can get to know people in a far more relaxed mood, play their games and hang out. You’ll have a lot of fun and you’ll take away a lot of important knowledge.

Getting known is extremely important. If you choose to go indie and self-publish your game, knowing people will greatly help you spread the word (obviously, you need a good project). If you are looking for a job in some company, having a good presence on the web can greatly help.

Game Jams
Game Jams are extremely precious to get started (and to keep yourself motivated!). A Game Jam is an event in which game developers try to complete a game, often following a given theme, in a very short span of time (usually 48 hours), but there are longer jams as well as crazy 2-hours jams). The International Game Developers Association hosts once a year a Global Game Jam, an event organised in several cities throughout the world, taking place in the same weekend. The GGJ is a live event, so it’s a good chance to know people and find someone to work with. Similar jams are held in Sweden (No More Sweden) and in Norway (Nordic Game Jam), so you have plenty of possibilities to attend.

If you cannot travel, well, there’s no problem at all! You can always attend one of the many online jams held periodically. One of the most important is Ludum Dare, which is held every three months. Another pretty interesting jam is the Experimental Gameplay Project, which runs for an entire week and challenges game developers to try something new and completely different.

Often the aim of game jams is to give you some time and motivation to explore something new and original. So they are a great way to make games and to hang out with likeminded people. If you want to be a game designer, you should try to attend a jam every time you can, because you’ll learn a lot from them. Try to do a jam as soon as you can. And don’t feel inadequate! And don’t feel inadequate: the first times it will be almost impossible to create and finish something playable, but rest assured the next time you’ll manage! And if you need ideas or just want to know what to expect, you can read The Game Jam Survival Guide. It’s a great book, full of useful advice.

CREDIT : http://wannabe.urustar.net/

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