Beginner Mistakes

in Advice

BLEEP BLOOP. -Community Manager ERROR- Reboot.

Hey, guys, and welcome back to the blog! Whew. It has been a while hasn’t it? Unfortunately, we had a malfunction with our Community Manager (… me), but things are fixed and the blog is back!

And when I'm down, Harold does nothing. Lazy bum.

And when I’m down, Harold does nothing. Lazy bum.

We still have our Challenge Solution post coming up later this week, but today, I want to talk instead about some of the biggest beginner mistakes I see when people go to make their first project.

First. First. Let me tell you something about your first project. It is going to be seriously, seriously flawed.

It might have some charm. It might have some really interesting ideas and it might have “soul”. But it will also more than likely have serious flaws that are going to make it. Well. Not good. I’ve almost never seen someone’s first game be good. Expect it to be bad. It is a learning experience.

The first time you write music, you aren’t going to compare to Mozart. Or even Nickelback. Game design is an ART and you have to practice it to get good.

So, your first game is going to be pretty bad more than likely. So what mistakes should you avoid?

Recruiting a Team

I see this a lot. Guy just made his forum account, he has an idea for a game. It’s going to be the best game. You’re gonna love it. Everyone say’s its great.

And to get it done, he just needs a mapper, an eventer, a writer, an artist, a coder, a musician, and a guy to massage his feet. I mean, I exaggerate but this happens a lot. And it always begs the question: What is it YOU are going to be doing?

You men go northwest! You men go southwest! I'm gonna walk around right here in a circle.

You men go northwest! You men go southwest! I’m gonna walk around right here in a circle.

“Oh, I’m the idea guy”. Look. Idea guy is not a job in game design. Yes, there are directors, but when we are talking small scale indie games, those directors still need to get their hands dirty. And in the big leagues? Those guys have worked their way up from being writers/programmers/etc.

Also, as we already established: Your first game is going to be bad. Don’t drag others into it. Work with what you can get around the forums. Grab some plugins you may need. Grab some sprites and tiles. Go pick up some DLC from our store or on Steam that could help. Then LEARN the program. You should at the least be able to event, map, and write. You’ll never really make a game without learning those skills.

So buckle down, and MAKE a game yourself.

Not Sticking to the Basics

You have to walk before you can run. Don’t try to build up a custom everything for your first game. You don’t need a custom battle system, a custom leveling, custom everything!

I need all these servers to hold my custom plugins.

I need all these servers to hold my custom plugins.

All you are going to do is cause yourself to never get anything done. You are going to get frustrated cause you can’t do what you want to do, and you are going to throw your project at the wall and you aren’t going to learn the basics of the program that you need to learn in order to work up to all that custom stuff.

Now, I’m not saying don’t pick up a few premade plugins. Plugins are great. But try not to pick up ones for your first game that are super complicated to set up. And try to make sure you know what is possible with events and in the editor first! There are plenty of people I’ve seen demand plugins for things the editor can already do, because they never paid enough attention to realize it was there.

Basics first. Then build on that.

50 Hour Epic!

Once again. And I know I’m beating this into your head. But your first game. IS. NOT. GOING. TO. BE. GOOD. You will still be learning. And for that matter, the stuff you work on last, because of what you’ve learned, will be better than the stuff you worked on first.

In a 1-3 hour game, that amount of unevenness is minor. In a 50 hour game… that unevenness will be massive. Not only that, but the amount of time necessary to make a 50 hour game… is huge. You’ll probably hate your game, and yourself by extension, by the time you get half done.

You either die the hero, or live long enough to become the Dark Lord.

You either die the hero, or live long enough to become the Dark Lord.

Let me tell you a little story. When I was in middle school, I thought I’d grow up to be a writer. Not like I’m doing now, writing a blog, but a novelist. I was going to write best selling science fiction and fantasy novels! So, then, at 12, I decided to start writing a series of novels. Not just one, but a SERIES. It was based on a weird board game thing that my brother and I had made.

About 300 pages in, I realized something. I had gotten better. What I wrote at the beginning, it was trash. What I had wrote near the end, it was… less trash. But I was no where near done. I had so many plot lines hanging. And also I noticed just how derivitive it was of one of my favorite novel series at the time, and I just… tossed the whole thing.

It was years before I ever wrote again. Look. Work on something small. Keep it manageable. Work on it alone, or with a single existing friend who is also just learning. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. And don’t expect your first game to be good. Learn. Make something. And maybe one day, you’ll bring that charm and soul of the first game you made and build a solid game around it.

But it is not this day.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ken Krath

    So with the first point, the hardest part is with your team. It is very difficult to have the same person working on your project even if you are paying them. What can you do though? Things happen and good talent will always be in demand.

  • David Worthington

    OK, a few problems with this article. First, if you have an idea for a long game, and it happens to be your first game, go for it ONLY if you know you can do it. I myself got quite lucky, and am now working with an amazing team. Second, not all first games are automatically bad. That’s a stigma, and in my opinion it’s unjustified.

  • Diretooth

    I think this ‘advice’ article thing doesn’t get to the meat of the matter: You need to learn the program to make a good game. You can have an idea and start making a game and work at it for months or years and have it come out very well as well as do the same but have crap come as a result.
    Cave Story, for instance, is a game that was developed by one man over a long course of time, and it is a very well loved game that is extremely fun to play. This is very much a case of a veritable one-man army making a game that turned out to be successful enough to be sold as a Wiiware game, among a PC version on Steam.

    I don’t know if it is the first game Studio Pixel made, but it is a good example of what happens when a single person has the persistence to make a game from the ground up.
    There are good points touched upon, such as putting too much into the game that just isn’t necessary, but at the same time, it’s a good idea to explore the idea of having a farming system in a game, or having a fun, inspired battle system added to it. Hell, I’d say it’s important for a budding developer to experiment and work on a game that probably won’t see the light of day. You cannot make a work of art and have it be the first draft.

  • When I first started making games, I always seen my project through to the end even if it was just a half hour playthrough.
    Biggest piece of advice is, don’t bite off more than you cna shew

  • Holly Rodriguez

    I made my first game back in 2002, and it was a simple fantasy RPG. I’m working on a mobile one now, and after all those years of experience with RPG Maker, it’s still not easy. I learn something new every day. Just take it one day at a time, don’t rush, and remember to be original. Also make sure you have a non-biased friend, or some people who can beta test for you to weed out any bugs/errors, and give feedback and critique so that you can work out any kinks before launching.

  • TheOddFellow

    Speaking of beginner mistakes begs another question is how do *you* specifically start your games? I’ve used RPG Maker for years and have my own formula; build a map, add basic places, add basic story, etc. one layer at a time. But, with all your experience, I bet that we could all benefit from getting your viewpoint as a designer.

    Just a thought,
    And thank you for all the effort, time, and passion I’ve seen you put into these blogs these past few years.
    *humble bow*