What next?

So, I wanted to write a big, long article on Unity.  Explaining the pros, cons, etc of not only Unity specifically, but of using a pre-built engine in general.  This ended up taking forever because, well, I have mixed feelings about Unity.  A bit of a love-hate relationship with it, if you will.  I wasn’t quite sure how to approach that, so instead I’ll just go straight to what’s important.

Let’s say, hypothetically, you’ve followed my Expert advice from my last article, and started your adventure into game development through the wonderful world of modding.  You’ve got your feet wet, you’re comfortable with what you see, and you’ve chosen not to spend the next year or two working on some massive mod project.

Or, maybe you’ve already got quite a bit of programming experience.  Maybe you followed your own path, maybe you’ve taken a few classes at university, and you want to try making something fun.

Where do you go from here?

The best thing you can do at this point is to simply make a game.  Download Unity, Unreal, Cryengine, or whatever free game engine you can find.  The first game I made was using Gamemaker.  Use the assets that come bundled with the engine, download free assets from wherever you can find them online, and make something.

Now, what you make at this stage doesn’t actually have to be good.  It probably wont be.  The first game I ever made wasn’t very good.  You may want to share your creation, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you share it anywhere beyond immediate friends and family, be prepared for some harsh criticism.  And, please don’t upload your first ever game to Steam Greenlight; unless you’re some kind of genius who magically happened upon some simple-but-profound game design (ala Minecraft), nobody’s going to want to pay for your first practice game.  Especially if it’s filled with stock free assets that people will recognize from the millions of other shovelware games that get uploaded to Steam.

But that’s okay.  The point isn’t to make something amazing, or profitable, or even decent.  The point is to just make something.  Simply having the experience of actually making a game puts you leaps and bounds ahead of everyone who hasn’t.  That experience is valuable, and will serve you well no matter where you go from here; whether you continue with game development in your engine of choice, or start working on your own engine, or get employed by some company or studio, or even if you move on to non-game projects.

I wont go into detail about how, exactly, to go about making your first game.  There’s plenty of resources for that out there.  Your engine will come with guide videos; follow those first.  I highly recommend Lynda.com, as well; check with your local library to see if you can get access for free.  Beyond that, google always gives you a wealth of educational resources.  You have the entire human race’s wealth of knowledge at your fingertips – take advantage of that!

The one thing you definitely do not want to do for your first ever game is to make it from scratch.  You need to know how a real engine works before you can even begin to build something competent yourself.  Once you have a bit of experience making games in an environment that somebody else built, then you’ll start to see the limitations of working in such an environment.  Little problems that you can’t fix yourself, etc.  That’ll be our next topic; for now, go have fun.  That’s the most important thing you can do for yourself as an amateur – have fun learning, and have fun building!

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