I want to make video games, part three.

So I’ve decided that I want to make video games as a hobby. See part two of this series if you missed that. I’m a few steps into my journey, but I’m still just starting out. While there’s plenty of ways to get started, here’s how I’m doing it.

First thing I did was to name my company.

Sure, that’s probably not the first step in a lot of how-to’s on the subject, but I did it for a couple reasons, which I’ll get to. I chose the name ‘Heuretic Studios’ and designed a logo. For the record, here’s the definition according to Wiktionary.org:

heuretic (plural heuretics)

  1. (logic) The branch of logic concerned with discovery or invention

Apparently, the word isn’t in any actual dictionaries. Oh well.

Moving along, here’s what I’ve done so far to get myself going. Apart from the first bullet point, this list may not be in the correct chronologic order:

    • The Name: I did this first mainly for motivation. I would’ve needed a name eventually heuretic(can’t just use my name), so I did it early. I can’t really explain why having a name and a logo would motivate me, so I won’t try. I wanted to buy the domain name as soon as possible, too. I won’t try to explain that one either. I also won’t link to it here, because there’s nothing but a placeholder. For now.
    • The History: While most people who want to make video games have spent many, many hours playing them, there’s plenty more to games than just the games themselves. Although you can’t get the entire picture from just a few books, I think you can get pretty close. I recommend The Ultimate History of Video Games by Steven L. Kent and Smartbomb by Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby. I linked to the books on Amazon, but I actually checked them out from the library (I mentioned I was cheap). Like any field, there’s lessons to be learned in the history of video games, and I figure every bit of info helps.
    • The Business: I plan on selling the games I make, but even if I planned on giving them away, there’s a lot of legal stuff to keep in mind. I mentioned the book Business and Legal Primer for Game Development by S. Gregory Boyd and Brian Green in my last post, and it’s worth mentioning again. It’s good for pointing the hobby game developer in the right directions, although it’s no substitute for actual legal advice. I know that when I’m seeking to copyright my intellectual properties, I’m calling a lawyer. Probably. Maybe. This book I actually bought.
    • The Plan: I don’t know anything about making games. I could ask my brother, but his experience is with large teams on big projects. Might not be applicable to my situation. So I picked up another book, Game Project Management by John Hight and Jeannie Novak from the Game Development Essentials series. This book isn’t really named properly; it’s not really about Project Management as some may know it. It is highly specific to the development of video games, and is full of useful info (some is about large teams on big projects, but not all). I also read a book on traditional Project Management, but I can’t remember which one.
    • The Tech: Video games are complex. I had to accept the fact that I simply had no idea how these things were made, from a technological standpoint. So I turned to another book (maybe I should’ve just gone to school). This was another one from the library, Game Engine Architecture by Jason Gregory, Jeff Lander, and Matt Whiting. This book provides a high-level overview of how game engines are put together, and also goes into a bit of technical detail that all went over my head. I’ll go over game engines in future posts, but in a nutshell, the game engine is the framework over which a game is built.
    • The Team: Ah, here’s where a choice needs to be made. Do you go it alone, or do you ask for help? There’s plenty to consider here. Who does what, who has time for how much, etc. Then there’s splitting costs (of which there will be some) and profits (of which there may be a little). My brother’s a professional video game artist, but he’s also under contract to his employer, so is he even allowed to contribute? Does he want to? These are all things I haven’t completely figured out yet, so stay tuned.
    • The Idea: Yeah, I read a lot of books before I even had a full, decent idea for a game I might want to make. At first all I had were narratives, stories I wanted to tell through gameplay. The idea was to bring together my love of writing and my love of video games. What I ended up with were outlines for great stories and not a clue as to how the actual games were going to work. This, to me, is not acceptable. Sure, plenty of games are more story than gameplay (and I’ll withhold my opinion of them for now), but it’s not what I wanted. So I started over, focusing instead on player experience, then filling in the details of the narrative after. I’ve got a few ideas that are pretty far along, it’s just a matter of choosing one and coming up with a plan.
    • The Tools: This is something that’s worthy of several individual blog posts. I’ve tinkered with lots of different game engines, programming languages, 2D and 3D art packages, and sound and music applications. I plan on sharing my experience with each piece of software in future posts, and finally revealing which tools I’ll be using to create my games.

I should note that not all of that book-learning was strictly necessary. I read a lot, and sometimes it isn’t a fiction book in my hand (I’ve checked out books on subjects ranging from home landscaping to the history of the KGB). Basically, I like knowing stuff. The video game stuff is going to come in handy, I think, and besides, no acquisition of knowledge is ever a waste of time.

Speaking of time, I don’t yet have a good way of budgeting my own time to work on my games. I need to be able to split what free time I have between writing, playing video games, and making video games. I have a full-time job, two sick cats that need periodic attention, a wife that also needs attention, and the doctors say I need sleep in there somewhere. Not to mention the need for occasional social contact. It may not be easy, but it’ll be worth it. Budgeting time is a good life skill anyway.

Above all, making games, like any hobby, should be fun. Your only boss is yourself, you’ve got no deadlines except the ones you set, and you have complete creative control. If you can’t have fun in those conditions, seek medical help. Games are fun to play, after all. They should be fun to make, too.

Part four is next.

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