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How I Made My First Game
by Christopher Floyd on 01/10/13 03:32:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I have often heard it stated that there are some writers whose primary goal in covering a subject matter is to learn enough about it before they can try it out themselves. Like a form of distance learning, through talking to the right people and discussing the right subjects, eventually one can garner enough knowledge in order to tackle a task first-hand. While I am willing to believe that these types exist, I do not consider myself to be one of them.

I have been writing about games in various capacities for approximately three years. Not much time at all, in cosmic terms at least. When I started, my hope was to become to a professional games writer –in any sector of the industry. As time has progressed, even over such a short period as these three years, I have begun to find myself being lured ever deeper into the mechanics behind making games.

I put myself off the idea with a variety of effective excuses such as:

  • Not knowing how to code (at all)
  • Not owning a Windows PC
  • Not owning a PC
  • Not owning a mouse
  • Having no tangible computer science background
  • Not knowing how to create art assets
  • Not knowing how to implement anything
  • Probably having stupid ideas
  • Likely having unrealistic goals
While many of those have remained the same, a few notable challenges have been overcome within the past few months.
  • Own a mouse
  • Took a short class in Python where I learned how to make a frame
I place those in order of their use up until now. The mouse is in a shoebox behind me. It's an electronic mouse, and not an animal. It turns out I still opt for a trackpad even when I no longer have to rely on it for navigation.

In speaking with a number of videogame developers, I became increasingly tempted to want to try my hand at this concept of making games, no matter how basic it was going to have to be. I found an article by Anna Anthropy concerning the wonders of Twine, and decided immediately it would be my first new tool of 2013. This is year I would make a game.

Snapshot of Drive

Strictly speaking, these are more akin to 'Choose Your Own Adventure' novels. Novellas, even. They're short and quick and easy to digest, but they're a heck of a lot of fun to make. In the short space of around a week or thereabouts, I created three of them. Here they are:

  1. A Topical Videogame
  2. This Is Your Life
  3. Drive

It's worth going ahead and taking a few moments to play through them. It won't take much longer than a half-hour for all three to be completed.

The most notable aspect is that, whilst all three are functionally the same experience, each entry iterates on the previous method. These are three experiences that took me approximately 4 hours to assemble, in total.

The joy of Twine, and what gives it serious value for anyone interested in game design, is the instant gratification that Team Meat's Tommy Refenes has described as being so crucial in learning's early stages in his Gamasutra piece 'How do I get started making games???'. I didn't even use that aforementioned mouse.

I have previously taken tutorials in Unity, confused myself with where to start in GameMaker, and entangled myself in a web of declaratives with Inform7.

If you've been doing as much reading as I did in order to prepare for designing that big first game, I implore you to take a break this afternoon, download Twine, and break the ground. It's January 10, 2013. I have released three games this year. What about you?

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Comments


Soren Nowak
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3 games already...

I have some video tutorials that could get you started with Game Maker Studio: http://freegameschool.com/ (they are made for people who have never tried game development before).

After video 5 you should have an understanding of the basic concepts + a small breakout-styled game.

Btw. You will need your mouse ;)

Christopher Floyd
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I'll finally get to use it!

Christopher Totten
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Soren, that's a great little site you've put together there. I'll have to look into that myself, as I'm not greatly versed in Game Maker.

Luis Guimaraes
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For everybody wanting to learn/teach game development, or improve one's tutorials:
http://worrydream.com/LearnableProgramming/

Christopher Floyd
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Apparently the Sunday Sidebar interviews link is broken. I currently can't see how to edit it, so here is another link: http://videogamewriters.com/category/braincandy/sunday-sidebar

William Volk
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There are also tools to create Infocom-like text adventures. That could be your next step.

Christopher Floyd
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Any recommendations?

scott anderson
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He's probably specifically talking about Inform 7 (http://inform7.com/). Which is cool, it uses a "natural" language based programming language which is very readable by anyone that knows English.

There are other tools out there including Adrift (http://www.adrift.co) which is entirely visual, like Twine on steroids, and TADS (http://www.tads.org/) which looks much more like "traditional" coding in Javascript, although is still a domain specific language for writing text adventures.

All of these engines are for building interactive fiction, which assumes the player is interacting through a command line parser and might limit your audience. Other tools for building interactive narrative games that are more powerful and not much harder to use than Twine include Ren'Py (http://www.renpy.org/) and Choice of Games ChoiceScript (http://www.choiceofgames.com/make-your-own-games/choicescript-int
ro/).

Christopher Floyd
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I'd like to officially welcome another Christopher Floyd to the ranks of game design! The more, the merrier! I don't know what's possible with Twine, but I would encourage you to now look for chances to create what I would call a "game dynamic." The situation you built in "Drive" where you had to restart the test if you gave an unorthodox answer is an example of a dynamic (although it was intentionally one that undermined the power of the player). Games (in my opinion) require a system like that that the player can master or understand. If text is a comfortable format for you, then perhaps Inform would be the best next step. I started with text adventures, too!

Christopher Floyd
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This is hilarious! I'm honored to be welcomed by a fellow Christopher Floyd –why is this name so oddly ubiquitous?!

I actually started with Inform first, but found myself lost in the complexities of its system for defining object placement (Incidentally, I wanted a key to be on someone's person, but couldn't make the system play nice).

I'm glad that Drive's subversion came over as intended. It could easily be seen as pig-headed. Those dynamics you mentioned are what I learned most over those three simple exercises - the idea of making the game world feel more like a game and less like a click-through. The implementation is crude, of course, but I consider it significant progress for me at this early stage.

I shall likely fiddle about with Twine a little more, and then look to moving onto either more complicated text systems (Inform) or something more traditionally game-y (Game Maker, Unity, etc). The bar to entry for those latter options is going to be familiarising myself better with code, which I would hope to make happen in the near future.

Thanks for the advice!


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