I’ll be completely honest with you all. I screw up, and I screw up a lot. I’ve spend more hours debugging code and fixing errors than I’m willing to admit. But with every gamedev project I complete, I get a little bit better. Let me enlighten you all with what I’ve learned you should never, ever do while working on a video game.
10. Working on too Many Projects at Once
Everyone in the game development industry is passionate about what they do. Because of this, it’s so easy to think up a killer idea for a game and immediately work on that project, in addition to the other five projects you’ve already started. I know it’s tempting, I’ve been there, but take a step back and resist the urge. Write down the idea and come back to it later. Otherwise, you’ll get your code architectures and designs all jumbled up, and so many bugs will emerge it will be as if you forgot to put away last week’s potato salad.
9. Starting Out With Projects That are too Big
When I first learned how to code, the first idea I had for a game was an RPG. Don’t. Do. That. Thankfully I slapped myself silly a few times and knocked that idea out of my head. Always start with a small project that helps you learn collision detection, logic, and other essential game development skills. If you’re just about to make your first game, try something like Pong.
8. Refusing to Use Game Engines
The first game I made on the iPhone involved a full fledged physics engine, fully equipped with collision detection between circles, rectangles, and tons of other different shapes. I also chose to design a graphics engine with shaders using OpenGL ES. If I would have tried to use a game engine like Cocos2D, I would have cut at least 2 months out of development time. Let me say that it is a nice learning experience to design everything from scratch. However, sometimes it’s best to swallow your pride and not reinvent the wheel.
7. Being too Hesitant
Sometimes it’s hard to get yourself going in a new project. Whether you’re burned out from the last game you made, or you feel like all of your ideas are falling flat, tell that little voice inside your head to shut up! Don’t be afraid to go for an idea that sounds stupid – it may turn out to be a hit.
6. Forgetting to Write Down Great Ideas You Have
The best ideas for games always come from the oddest places: in your dreams, in the shower, or while you’re driving. It’s way too easy to tell yourself “Oh, I’ll remember that idea! I don’t need to write it down!” Maybe one out of every ten times the idea will stick, but I can safely say from firsthand experience that you’re going to forget a lot of your great ideas. Always jot down random thoughts into a notebook, or plug them into your phone. Just don’t use your phone while driving 😉
5. Skipping the Marketing Stage of Game Development
After I finished my first game, I was so excited to release it to the public! …Until it only received one download every day for months. Then I was pretty sad. Don’t forget to pursue marketing deals and strategies, especially during the development process. If you start marketing early, you’ll be able to create a buzz that will really help opening day sales. Eventually, I got a gig with a local newspaper for my first game that generated hundreds of sales. Marketing is essential.
4. Limiting Potential Target Platforms
Don’t forget that there are multiple release platforms out there. You never have to limit yourself to just iPhone development, or just PC development. Releasing on multiple platforms could potentially double, triple, or even quadruple your target market! If you have the opportunity to expand your application to another platform, I highly encourage you to jump on the opportunity.
3. Not Letting Others Test Completed Games
I’ve seen two different mindsets that can have adverse effects when it comes to testing: people are either too shy to share their game with peers, or they think their game is the best game ever and doesn’t need any testing. Reach an equilibrium between these two ways of thinking. Have confidence in your game! You worked hard on it – people will be impressed. But at the same times, there might be some small bugs you couldn’t pick up on that need to be fixed. Worst comes to worst, let your family and friends test your game to have some sort of testing team.
2. Trying to Design All Game Assets
I’ll be the first to admit that I suck at graphic design and sound design. I’m horrible at them. Pathetically awful. Instead of trying to create all the sprites and sound files for my games, I choose to outsource them. This preserves the quality and polish of my games. I stick to the coding aspect, and I let the professionals make my game look more – well, professional. Check out my articles on graphic design and sound design to see if they’re right for you.
1. Not Planning Out the Design of the Game
Ah, planning out the code of my games. This is the bane of my existence. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to create an outline of your program’s code. I recommend you try to come up with all of the classes, and maybe even some methods and variables, that you want to be in your game. If you don’t do this, you’ll find that it is extremely difficult to make large adjustments to your game. Content updates will be tough to implement because the structure of your code will be too rigid. Design dynamic and purposeful code for every single game you develop.
Over time, you’ll find that mistakes will inevitably happen. You can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape the wrath of game development errors. But you will get better. You will overcome. You will succeed.