With a huge variety of game engines, graphics editing tools, and 3D modeling apps available, it’s never been easier to make a video game. Whether you’re interested in developing the next big 3D shooter or a simple side-scrolling adventure, anyone can now make their video game design dreams a reality.
In this guide, you’ll learn the basics of making your own video game, from selecting a game engine to creating art assets. From concept to completion, get ready to make your creative gaming ideas a reality.
Have you always wanted to be a video game designer? Join over 3,000 students and learn the fundamentals of video game design in our course, A Brief Introduction to Game Design.
Creating a video game concept
Every video game starts as a concept. From Super Mario Bros. to Half-Life, all of the world’s most successful games started as pen-and-paper ideas. Before you can start designing levels, you need to prepare a rough concept for your game.
The type of concept you’ll need to prepare depends on the type of video game you’re interested in developing. A large-scale RPG requires a lot more planning than a basic side-scrolling arcade game or a simplistic multiplayer first person shooter.
Think of your concept as a one-page description of your game. Your concept should outline the type of game you’re creating, its story, what sets it apart from games that are already available, and the type of audience that will enjoy it.
Writing a video game proposal
Ready to start creating your game? Don’t get too eager – there’s still more planning to be done. Writing a proposal for your game lets you lay out the scope of the game, its features and setting, its development schedule, and its rough budget.
Think of your game proposal like a business proposal – it should outline how your game will be made, its schedule, and its target audience. Even if you’re not planning to make money from your game, it’s important to know who your users will be.
The type of game you’re developing will influence your proposal. For example, large RPGs and first person games will require voice acting, scripting, and a bigger team in order to be developed than 2D platforms. All game proposals should include:
- The game’s concept
- Core features and gameplay
- Setting, story and art style
- Development requirements
- Scheduling and deadlines
- A budget for development
Video game proposals are long and detailed documents, covering aspects of game development like engines, art assets, and marketing ideas. Learn how to write an excellent game proposal with our Game Design Documents instructional course.
Choosing a game engine
Every video game needs an engine. A game engine provides a framework for a game to run within – a set of programs covering things like physics, artificial intelligence, rendering, collision detection, and more.
These days, a variety of pre-built game engines are available for developers to use in creating their own games. It hasn’t always been so easy to make a video game; most of the game developers of the early 1990s had to build game engines from scratch.
There are two game engines which are particularly popular with today’s generation of indie developers: the Unreal Engine (known as the Unreal Development Kit) and the Unity Engine.
Think you need an original engine? Think again. Some of the most well-known and critically acclaimed games – from Deus Ex to BioShock – were built using a licensed game engine; in this case, the Unreal Engine and Unreal Engine 2.
Game engines are incredibly powerful, and mastering the art of building levels and characters can take a long time. Join over 3,000 other students to learn the basics of game design in Unity 3D with our Introduction to Game Design course.
Do you want to develop your video game using the powerful Unreal Engine? Enroll in Building 3D Worlds in UDK and 3ds Max to learn how to start developing a game using the Unreal Development Kit.
Is your game concept two-dimensional? Developing a 2D game takes significantly less time than developing a 3D game, especially if you use a purpose-built engine designed from the ground up for sprite-based game development.
Join our course, Creating 2D Games in Unity, to learn the fundamentals of building a two-dimensional game using the Unity Engine. From interfaces to targets, learn the ins and outs of developing your own side-scroller, platformer, or roleplaying game.
Creating arts assets and models
Once you’ve selected an engine for your game, you’ll need to start creating models and art assets. If your game is 3D, you’ll be designing levels and models using tools like 3DS Max; if it’s 2D, you can use an image editing application like Photoshop.
Your game concept and proposal should cover the art style of your game. A massive variety of art styles are used in modern games, from cel shading and cartoon visuals to photorealistic environments and dark, noir-style aesthetics.
If your game is two-dimensional, you’ll need to start creating sprites for your game’s characters and levels. 2D game art is created in the form of images, which your game engine will render to create levels and animated in-game characters.
You can use a wide variety of applications to draw 2D game art, from Photoshop to Flash. Enroll in our Professional Video Game Art School to learn how to draw your own video game textures for 2D and 3D games.
Want a simpler look? If you’re developing a cel shaded or cartoonish game, you can draw all of your game art using Adobe Flash. Join 300 other students in Draw Your Game Art with Adobe Flash to learn how to draw cool, stylish sprites for your game.
If your game is three-dimensional, you’ll need to create models and textures for all of your in-game environments, objects, and characters. A variety of applications are available for designing 3D models, from 3ds Max to sculpting tools like Zbrush.
Models are essentially wireframes that show the shape of your levels, characters, and in-game objects. Once you add textures to these models, they can resemble a human, a natural environment, or anything else.
One of the most popular and powerful applications for creating 3D models is 3ds Max. Used by leading game developers like Silicon Knights and Epic Games, it’s an incredibly powerful tool in the hands of the right digital artist.
Learn the basics of using 3ds Max to create character models, levels, and more in our course, Learn the Art of Modeling and Animation. From creating and naming objects to adding modifiers, you’ll learn the fundamentals of 3D model design.
Many modern games use a combination of tools to create the most detailed models and textures. Learn how to sculpt your 3D characters for the best possible in-game graphics by enrolling in our 3D Character Creation in Zbrush course.
Bug testing your video game
There’s nothing more frustrating than playing a brilliantly designed game plagued by bugs and glitches. From the teleporting wildlife in Skyrim to corrupt save games in Fallout: New Vegas, glitches can break the immersion of an otherwise great video game.
Before you release your game, it’s important to bug test it to find glitches and repair them before end users get their hands on it. The more testing you do before release, the fewer patches you’ll need to create afterwards.
Testing video games might sound fun, but it’s actually quite a lot of work. In order to find and fix bugs, you’ll need a strategy that lets you encounter bugs and determine their causes easily. Our Software Testing course features over 31 lectures and more than 19 hours of content covering every aspect of pre-release testing.
Marketing and distributing your game
There’s more to creating a successful game than the design and development. There are thousands of games released every year, and many fantastic games don’t get the attention they deserve because of poor marketing and distribution.
With platforms like Steam giving you access to tens of millions of gamers around the world, distributing your video game is easier than ever before. You can submit your game to millions of Steam users via the Steam Greenlight program.
Aside from Steam, there are many other ways to distribute your video game. If your game is a mainstream title with big commercial potential, you can team up with one of the big game distribution companies and sell it through retail stores.
Learn how to dominate the video game world in our blog post on selling games. The best distribution strategy for you depends on your game’s target market and type; a small indie game, for example, is often best sold through Steam than in retailers.
Are you ready to make a video game?
Thanks to the wide variety of game engines, 3D modeling tools, graphic editing apps, and game distribution networks available today, creating and marketing a game has never been easier.
Are you ready to make a video game? Enroll in our Learning Game Design course to cover the topics discussed in this guide in depth and learn how to conceptualize and create your very own video game.