So You Want to Make a Computer Game: The First Step

September 18, 2015

Maybe you’ve just finished playing an amazing computer game and want to play another game of that type but there are none to be found. Maybe you’ve played a terrible game and thought, I can do better than that. Maybe you’ve had a long held ambition to create something in one of the most unique, dynamic, and interactive mediums there is. Regardless, you’ve decide that you want to make a computer game.

So, how do you do that?

That’s a question that was raised recently in the indie game developer group that I’m a part of. A new member arrived with a lot of passion and enthusiasm but didn’t know where to begin. A lot of suggestions were offered by the people who were already working on games, but the most common (almost universal) advice was to start small.

Starting small is really good advice. Really. It’s also really hard to take when you’re first entering into the field of game development. Undoubtedly you’ve come with a grand idea of what you want to build. Trust me, that’s how all people come to the field. The problem with starting large is that usually you don’t have the skills or experience to handle a large, complex game. Working on even just one small game will better prepare you for more ambitious projects later. At the end of the day, it will also give you a finished game in a relatively short time. It’s amazing how much a quick win will bolster your confidence for future projects.

I want to help you get to that win. This blog post is the first in a new ongoing series that will take you from the initial stages of planning a game right through to the final creation of that game.

Taking the advice outlined above, we’re going to start with a small game. Something simple to do, because even a simple game will give you plenty of valuable experience.

When people first come to work on games they usually have a lot of concerns. They don’t know how to program. Or they don’t know how to draw anything more complex than a smiley face. Or they can’t compose music. Or any of those other skills that they see listed in the credits of any commercial game.

To those concerns I say, not to worry. Again, because we’re keeping things simple, we’re going to tackle a game that anyone can build regardless of the level of skill they have.

What is this miracle game, you ask? Perhaps you’ve heard of a little game called Myst. It was one of the first full multimedia titles ever released, sold millions of copies, helped create the sub-genre of first person point-n-click games (sometimes called Myst clones or Myst alikes), and has been ported to pretty well every device that can possibly run a computer game.

We’re not going to do something as large or as ambitious as Myst. However, we will be creating a game in that style. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, for the most part it presents static images of locations that you are standing at. Clicking in different areas of one image (what we’ll call a node) typically takes you to another image. For example, you might have four images to represent progress down a hallway. Clicking on the first will take you to the second, the second will take you to the third, and the third will take you to the forth.

[Click to...walk down the hall!]
Click to…walk down the hall!

It’s a simple presentation style and simple to build a simple game with. However, we’ll get started on the actual production next time. Come back in two weeks to take the next step in your journey to being a game developer.

Read up on the whole “So You Want to Make a Computer Game” series: