Ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud to announce my first game ever: Shapes of Gray, an action-arcade game inspired by broken arcade cabinets from the 70's and what it means for a video game to be a video game.
I've been secretly working on it for the past couple months in my spare time; there's still a tooooon of work left to do on it, but I really wanted to announce it before the end of the year. I've submitted the game to Steam Greenlight; what this means is that, if I get enough votes from the community, I'll be able to sell my game on Steam!
Of course, getting a game greenlit is a very hard and long process. The one developer I talked to who had worked on a project of similar scale said it took him eight months to finally get his game approved. So, if you like what you see so far, I'd be hugely grateful if you threw a vote my way. You'll need a Steam account to vote, but making one only takes about three minutes.
And did I mention that the music is being done by our very own Zero?
I should thank you all too though; Negative World has been a huge part of my gaming life for the past few years, and you've all given me a ton of inspiration on my path to becoming a game developer. I owe a lot to this chill community for being such an awesome place to talk about games in. Who knows where I'd be if all I had was The IGN Vestibule?
Oh, and go give an upvote to Tadpole Treble as well (even though technically it's competition). Matthew's been so busy with his Kickstarter that he forgot to pimp his Greenlight page as well! What a GOOF!
Coding is the most important thing you can learn as a game designer. Even if you're not good with the GML syntax (I'm not either aside from some super-basic stuff), I'd highly recommend doing stuff in drag and drop just to get that part of your brain working. And you really can do a lot just with drag and drop.
@Secret_Tunnel Coding is only important if you want to be a programmer. I can doe decently, just not well enough to make a game out of it. I much prefer things like Story and planning and level design.
Being able to rapidly prototype your ideas directly from your brain is a very valuable skill to have, even when you're working with a team. It'll help you communicate with your fellow team members better, since you'll have a solid thing to refer to. Of course, it depends a bit on the structure and size of your team and what role you play in it, but from what you want to do, it sounds to me like programming would be a really great tool for you to have. Having a great prototype might even help you find a team to work with.
Not that I'm an expert or anything, I'm just relaying what I've been told by the few developers I've asked.
@Secret_Tunnel It is a great tool to have, but it all depends on circumstances. Many popular developers have terrible coding skills. Edmund McMillen for example. I understand the gift of code and navigate my way around it well enough to know what each bit does, I just don't have the skill to solve all the problems and go off my own skill enough.
I kind of doubt Edmund McMillen has "terrible" coding skills. He probably describes them that way, but everyone thinks they suck at things. I think I suck at coding when in reality I probably have a better idea of how to make things work than a lot of people.
I think if you're working on a team everyone can kind of specialize in one thing and not know much about the rest, but if you want to make your own game well... coding is almost a necessity. You can make games in RPG Maker and such but eventually you will get unique ideas that you just can't do without writing your own code.
The thing is um... how to word this nicely... most indie teams don't really want to bother with someone who "only" can do story, level design, etc. You have a team of 2 or 3 people everyone needs to take on a bunch of roles, and having tech skills that no one else has becomes essential, because "anyone" can do the non-tech stuff.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm of the opinion that good story-telling is a skill that few people have. The same with good level design. But it's not technical... any artist or musician or programmer can do that stuff, maybe not well, but they can, so when it comes to doing it themselves versus bringing on someone else to do it... they will probably do it themselves, unless they are bringing on someone with serious experience.
This is just from my experience hanging out with indies and working with indies and stuff. It tends to come down to... if you're not doing art, music, or code, people don't want to deal with you.
Agreed. This is advice I've given out for years to young friends who've talked about becoming game designers. (I'm not a game designer, of course, but I do hang around software developers.) Above all else, learn to code.
The thing you gotta keep in mind is that "design" is the fun part. Coming up with levels, characters... that's why kids dream of getting into games in the first place. And even though design is a skill just like anything else, and all talents are not equal, pretty much everyone's going to want to take a crack at it because that's the part everyone wants to do. It's also the part they probably assume they're good at because vanity and all that. Most people don't get into gaming because they want to be code monkeys, spending hours chasing down some bug that makes the character accidentally phase through walls. They want to be the guy who designs the next Mario or next Zelda dungeon.
You're not going to get too far in the software business if your pitch is, "I'm going to do the fun, easy parts and you'll do all the hard, mind-numbing parts." Unless you've got a lot of money or an audience you're bringing to the table or something. In which case it works like any other rich guy's vanity project.
EDIT: Well, let me back up a little. I can imagine someone who has some great ideas who's really good at getting financing together or some other non-tech skill succeeding in this business. You don't have to be a rich guy, but you might still be the sort of guy who can get backing for his team. At that point you're probably a producer and not a developer, but I could imagine an indie where that'd be enough to get your ideas worked on. Talking to banks is a skill, too.
Maybe there are other roles like this. I don't want to come across like I think of myself as an expert. But I would still caution any dreamers against getting into the game business expecting to do design work right away without any other skills to back it up.
Also: Start small. I have a young twenty-something friend who, a few years back, explained to me how he was getting a team together to build his first game. It's an MMO. And it's going to be bigger than World of Warcraft.
As you can imagine, I'm still waiting for the beta invite.
Oh yeah that is the 4th skill indies will get excited about someone having... marketing. Although most that I've seen either try to do it themselves or go to an outside source, few pick up someone whose only job is marketing.
Now, marketing + having your own money that you're willing to put into a project? Yeah, then you might be able to get on a team with minimal tech skills. But you will have to accept that you're on the team because you have money.
And yeah starting small is key, and if you want your first project to be something large, I'd say at least make sure it is scalable (IE you can make a neat small version of it that works on its own and then expand it from there...)
BUT... I don't even know what we're talking about anymore. I feel like an old man offering advice no one asked for, lol.