How to Make a Game: A Beginner's Guide
So, you enjoy playing games, but have you ever wondered how much fun it would be to make a game?
What's this I hear, you can't code? That's fine. You say you're no designer? That's no show-stopper either!
Nowadays games are becoming increasingly easier to create, with assets freely available to the public; yes, that includes you! Indie developers are popping up everywhere with unique game concepts which are catching the public's attention. Of course, building a game such as No Man's Sky will not happen overnight; but, like anything, practice makes perfect!
This is an obvious starting point. Get creative and start thinking about what you would enjoy in a game, chances are that if you'll like it then some one else out there will too! However, with this in mind, remember to keep the concept simple. You don't want to over-complicate things so much that it sucks the fun out of what you're making. Don't be making complex plans for the next Bioshock game. Instead, would you kindly think more along the lines a text-based or space invaders-type game.
Once you have your idea, the next bit of obvious advice I will give you is: stick to it. It's far too easy to jump from one brilliant idea to the next, leaving each one unfinished. But one finished game will mean so much more than a dozen unfinished ones. Yes, you will run into bugs which might make you want to start all over again, but it's fixing these bugs that will help you develop your skills and move on to make bigger and better games! (Think of finishing a game as achieving a new level up)
The Technical Part
Now that you have your awesome idea let's have a look at how you can start developing it into a real-life video game! This is the daunting part. However, if you look around there are so many options out there with no coding skills required. Below I have listed out free and simple ways to create a game, starting with the most simple:
Twine is an open-source tool that's completely free! It's text-based so will work very well for you Dungeons and Dragons fans who enjoy a good choose-your-own-adventure style of game. Text-based choice games are at the heart of every one that you see nowadays; not long ago BioWare was explaining how they often go back to reference pen-and-paper games to get inspiration for their own. If BioWare think that it's a good starting point, then why not give it a go?
GameSalad is yet another free design engine which allows you to have a variety of choice as to what platform your game will be on, including: iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle, Nook, Windows 8 and Mac desktop. No coding skills are required at all with its visual, drag-and-drop interface. A game is made by adding pre-made behaviours (yet still editable) to customisable shapes. To put it more visually, you could make a flock of blocky enemies chase a 'hero' character in a triangle space ship within seconds using this simple interface.
The most interesting part about using GameSalad is that, after creating the game, you are able to use their In-App Previewer to test it out for mobile performance as well as desktop. Then, when it's perfected, you simply publish it to the GameSalad Arcade and make it playable for people around the world. Pretty cool eh?!
Would you rather make a 3D game? Unity makes 3D worlds a lot more simple to create than they seem, and it's all free! (Unless you want to get really fancy with your in-game components or end up grossing over $100,000, but you shouldn't need to worry about that now.) Unity is a powerful rendering engine which allows creators to build their own 3D scenes in no time at all! It includes many of its own prefixes which allow the user to play around with AI routines, light-sources, in-game physics, and so much more! It can also be used to create 2D, or 2.5D games.
This is the most flexible option, allowing you to publish your game on PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, Windows Store apps and BlackBerry 10.
The Design Part
Luckily, most games design engines for beginners will have their own designs implemented; from blocks that you can manipulate to simple colour changes.
However, for others, especially Unity, you will need to be able to design those ideas in your head to make them become a reality. You could work your butt off in Blender attempting to make 3D models or creating sprite sheets in Adobe Illustrator; if you're up for the challenge then that's great! However, if you enjoy taking it one step at a time and would like to search elsewhere for some help with this part then here are some helpful websites:
TurboSquid is a website filled with 3D models for your commercial use. These models range from humans, monsters and animals all the way through to furniture and environmental objects. Some of them are free, however you will have to pay for the more detailed ones. These 3D models are available in 3ds Max, Lightwave, C4D, Maya and other file types so you're bound to find at least one to suit your needs.
You'll be needing some textures to go with those models, how about some free ones from Texturer? With textures ranging from animals to home decor there's plenty to choose from.
If you're going for a more retro feel for your game, then these are the designs you'll be wanting to look at. OpenGameArt is filled with pixellated characters and assets, including animated elements. It also offers free textures and music; what more could you need!
Now all you'll need is a catchy background jingle and some action noises to make the game more polished. Free sound does exactly what the title suggests; giving you various sound effects for free!
Time For Some Testing
You now have your masterpiece of a game, but don't go jumping for joy just yet. As with any creative project, there is always room for improvement. This is the part where you swallow your pride and take on some constructive criticism. Try to get a feel for who your target audience is for the game and have them try it out for you. Have you made a puzzle game which would entertain middle-aged people on their commute to work, or is it so cute that only a child could understand the effort you spent finding the perfect pixellated kitten? Gain their opinions on what works and what doesn't, as well as what they would like to see added into the game (although you'll have to remind them of your plans to keep things simple).
It's your game at the end of the day, but if your dream is to one day see this reach a global audience then this step is crucial!
Believe in Yourself
Throughout these stages, you have to believe in yourself to make this happen. You may not feel like you know anything about game design or development at the moment, but remember that everyone has to start somewhere. There will be times when you feel that you can't get past a problem, as though you've hit a brick wall. It may even make you feel stupid at the time, but real intelligence is within the problem solving itself. Never give up.
Lastly and most importantly...
Edit: For inspiration, here is my first ever Unity3D creation!
Please, feel free to leave any links to your own games in the comments.