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How to Build a Video Game from Scratch!

  By : , ,       11.1.2018         Mail Now

Gaming industry is growing fast and there are many opportunities for those seeking to participate in this process. Interested in developing your own game

Here is what you need to know to go about it.

Today, game development is more common than ever before. However, it is still a complicated subject and the process of making a video game is not as straightforward as it may appear.

In this brief guide, we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about independent game development and show you the basics necessary to build a video game from scratch.

How to start a game development project?

Game development is similar to writing a novel. It requires passion, dedication and a great deal of patience and study. But no matter what you are making, follow the fun.

First, you should try spending a few days creating game concepts. It is very important to come up with as many ideas as possible and write down only the key points about tweet length for each one of them. Next, narrow it down to the top 2 or 3, and try to explore different flavors of these ideas: think of any new and

interesting features or game mechanics without going into specifics. This will be the Vision of your game. Describe it in a simple one-pager text document before moving on to writing a Game Design Document (GDD).

The GDD is a living document that translates the game concept and its Vision into the actual design. Basically, it is an instruction manual for the game, as it defines how the game works and looks, presents the back-story of your characters and describes all the assets required to have it working: art, sound effects, music and more. The GDD is intended to replace chaotic collections of spreadsheets and notes with a structured description that can help you find inconsistencies or errors in game logic.

The GDD serves three important purposes:

  •  It provides you and your team with a common avenue for all information related to the game development project in a structured and systematic manner;

  •  It allows for a smooth transition from Vision to a Technical Design Document (TDD) that meets the specifications of the GDD from the standpoint of technology, standards and software required for the implementation of your game;

  • It can be used as a “pitch” to raise funds, communicate with game publishers and serve as a starting point for budgeting and business planning.

How much does it cost to make a video game?

The cost of making a decent game title can vary depending on the situation. From "a few friends” working for “a few months" on a small game for nothing but fun, to major game companies investing millions to produce, complete and market their AAA titles.

Indeed, video games may take quite a lot of time and resources to complete. There is even a list of the most expensive video games ever built — Star Wars: The Old Republic, Grand Theft Auto V and Max Payne 3 are sitting at the top of it with $100m+ budgets. On the other hand, there are always outliers such as Flappy Bird which took 3 days to develop and was earning $50k a day from ads, according to its maker.

In practice, you can calculate the cost of production when both the TDD and GDD are completed. In fact, the TDD is, basically, a description of pieces that constitute the game engine, a fundamental component and one of the most expensive parts of a video game. It is best to license it, or use one with a free license, in order to save significant amounts of time and allocate resources to the actual gameplay and designing assets.

Next, estimate the amount of man-hours required to implement the TDD, together with everything mentioned in the GDD. Next, you should look up average salaries and per-hour rates for developers, designers and musicians that will be working on your game and its assets. For example, a game like Age of Empires III had around 75 principal team members and hundreds of other specialists such as voice actors and marketers.

Try to scale it down without compromising the playability and core game mechanics. All in all, you can be the person covering multiple positions. In addition, there are websites where you can get sounds, music and textures licensed free for commercial use. And, there is always an option to design it all by yourself with tools like Blender, Photoshop, 3ds Max and Autodesk Maya. However, it is important to understand that in-game designs, textures and levels take a huge amount of time and careful consideration to make the game compelling, with all the pieces in place and perfectly fitting together.

As the prototype comes together, you should assemble a focus group to test it. This will allow you to resolve UI design issues and gameplay inconsistencies. With focus testing, you will be reviewing both GDD and TDD. So plan a budget for patching up your game based on the feedback and add this to the total cost of a game development project.

When building a budget, estimate your marketing costs depending on the way you decide to publish your game. Publishers can fund the development and cover the marketing and distribution parts, but they will take most of the sales profits. To partner with a publisher, you will need to pitch your game and present the Vision, GDD and TDD in a clear, neat and well-written way, together with a small prototype to showcase the gameplay and your team’s actual development capabilities. If you are self-publishing, pick a game distribution platform and figure out a way to meet its requirements.

How long does it take to make it?

Depends on your experience as a game developer and the number of game projects you have already completed. If you have little-to-no experience, do not hesitate to limit the scope of your project to raise the chances of finishing it.

You may want to try building a couple of prototypes first and estimating how long it will take to build the actual game. The average prototype takes from 2 to 6 month to develop, while AAA titles require several years to complete.

In fact, it took more than a decade to produce some of the most popular video games such as Duke Nukem Forever and Diablo III. Due to various setbacks and financial hurdles, both of them spent more than 10 years in so-called “development hell”.

Is it possible to create a video game without programming?

It depends on your definition of programming and the level of complexity you want to achieve. With visual programming tools such as Scirra’s Construct or YoYo’s GameMaker Studio, you can build games without having to learn a programming language. They provide the infrastructure and pre-programmed assets necessary to visually define every aspect of your game instead of writing the actual code.

However, this is still programming, and you won’t be able to create a game without implementing the rules and logic. You can do it via Blueprints, the visual scripting system for Unreal Engine 4 by Epic Games. It is great for prototyping or making a small game, but EG advises to use it primarily for event-driven functionality that “don't get called every frame”, as it may impact performance when required to handle complex math.

Code-free and visual scripting tools like Blueprints should be treated as a good jumping-on points for using game development platforms or “game engines” such as Unity. Versions of it were used to build Firewatch, Rust, Syberia 3 and other well-known titles with full-fledged game mechanics and state-of-the-art designs. Unity is built to support 2D and 3D, it has drag-and-drop functionality and scripting powered with C#.

To learn C#, find the videos in the “Scripting” section on the project’s website and try to combine them with Udemy courses on Unity to enable project-based learning.

All in all, there is no way to make a video game without doing the programming part in one form or another. In addition, being a decent game developer is very different from being good at programming. So you will have to acquire the skills and experience, or hire someone to help you out with the implementation of your ideas.

About the author

Konstantin Boyko-Romanovsky is the founder of Destiny.Games, a video game company, and of The Abyss, a new kind of video game industry ecosystem where both developers and gamers can earn money. He has more than 17 years of experience in the industry. Konstantin is a blockchain investor, cryptocurrency expert, and technology entrepreneur.

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