Making a video game is a lot easier these days than even a decade ago. If you know how to use a robust game engine, developing a new game is no longer a matter of years. It might be a matter of weeks or months, depending on how complicated the game is. It’s just a matter of having an idea and being wiling to learn how to create your game. If you’re just starting out, invest your time in learning a game engine.
The Mechanics of Developing a Game
A video game is made up of many different elements: the actual code the game runs on, the elements of game play that engage a user and the visual style of the game. These different elements are why many video games are the work of not just one person, but of a team — it’s not impossible to entirely build a game on your own, but the wide variety of skills necessary to be successful does make it harder. You need to be able to create an entire virtual world. A game engine will give you the basics, but you need to understand the logic behind how an engine behaves.
You need to invest some serious time into deciding how you want your game to play out, preferably before you start programming. By deciding details about the game play, design, and development, you can guarantee that you’re learning the right skills to create the game you have imagined.
Keep your platform in mind as you’re deciding what to create as your first game. There are some games that do particularly well because of their platform: Angry Birds succeed on mobile devices because it was a quick casual game that people could come back to whenever they had a few minutes. You have a wealth of platforms available to you, especially if you’re starting from scratch. You can learn to program a mobile game as easily as one for a desktop computer these days. There are game development frameworks that make the process simple, even for newer developers.
Building from a Game Engine
Game engines usually offer very specific tools for writing a video game, like a rendering engine, collision detection and sound. The general idea is that you shouldn’t need to recreate the whole software package behind running a video game from scratch for every single game. While a few big companies will do so, they often make their engines available to other game developers to speed up the process of creating new games.
For many game developers, the rendering engine is one of the biggest points of differentiation between different game engines. There’s a big difference between rendering a simple puzzle game and a first-person shooter. Some systems can easily display 3D graphics, extrapolating from graphics with little programming on the part of the game developer, while others only offer real-time rendering, requiring the game developer to implement any other functionality he or she needs. The game engine can also decide what platforms a game can run on.
There are hundreds of game engines, many of which are specialized for specific types of games. The level of programming each one requires also varies. There are a few engines which are essentially drag and drop tools — they may not be capable of creating the most earth-shattering games, but they’re good starting points. There are others that are far more flexible, which usually require that the game developer knows some C, C++ or Java.