Video Games

Diary of a Game Developer: Episode 1 – Concept & Tools

Diary of a Game Developer: Episode 1 | Gamerwife.com

Diary of a Game Developer: Episode 1 | Gamerwife.com
Way back in January I declared my intention to make my own video game. Being generally surrounded by game makers and having worked in games in some capacity since I arrived in Montreal close to nine years ago, I’ll admit to feeling a certain amount of insecurity for not having made a game myself yet. While this probably feels like an insanely ambitious project to take on all by myself, I’m fortunate to have been exposed to the tools and techniques needed to take on this sort of project.

That said, while I have a good concept and idea of the game I want to make, I’ve been having trouble forcing myself to sit down and actually work on it, so I’m hoping this game developer diary series will force me to be more productive and give you all some insight into what it takes to make your very own video game.

For the first episode I’m going to stick to the basics: coming up with a concept, choosing the right tools and planning the next steps.

The very first thing I had to do once I’d decided to make my own video game was to decide what kind of game I’d like to make. For those starting out, it’s probably a good idea to base this decision on what skills you already have, or what skills you want to learn. Being that I am a writer, have limited programming skills and can’t draw to save my life, an interactive fiction project seemed like a good place to start my game development adventure.

The next step was choosing my tools. Indie game makers these days are blessed with a huge array of free or super-affordable game making tools to choose from. From big engines like Unity and Unreal, to small code-less engines like Construct 2 and GameMaker: Studio, there’s an option out there for whatever you want to make, whether’s it’s 2D, 3D or something in-between. While I’ve attended workshops on Unity and Construct 2, for this particular project I wanted to keep things super simple and decided to make it in Twine.

Twine is a text-based game engine that allows you to link story segments together with hyperlinks. You don’t need to know how to code to use it, but a basis in HTML would certainly help, so no worries there. It also supports CSS style sheets if I want to dress things up a bit, which is the same language most blogs use to handle design. It’s also 100% free to use and there are a ton of free resources online to help me learn how to squeeze every last drop of functionality from it.

As for the structure of the game itself, I was very inspired by the Lifeline series of mobile games. The games themselves are interactive fiction, that because of they were designed for mobile always have very limited player choices, usually just two options for every choice the main character asks you for help with. There’s something about the simplicity of these choices that really appeals to me, keeping in mind that the more instances of these two choices there are, the more variations there could be in the story.

I’ll show you what I mean in Twine:
Twine Example | Diary of a Game Dev: Episode 1 | Gamerwife.com Isn’t that pretty? All those branching threads? Notice how I made some of the later choices loop back to existing choices? And that’s basically how Twine works. Write some text. Link it to another bit of text. Guess what? You just made a game!

So that’s what Twine looks like to work with. As for what the player will see, I’ll be able to pretty that up later with images and font styles once I’ve got the branching structure all worked out. But, basically it’ll just be text with links that will lead to next branch(es) of the story. Being that the tool I’ve chosen is fairly simple to work with, I’m not too worried about the actual “game making” part of making a game.

It’s the story that’s going to be the most work. But more about that next week in Episode 2.

Are you a game maker? How do you choose the tools you work with?

You Might Also Like

13 Comments

  • Reply
    chaq686
    July 5, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    Depends on the scope of your game. If it is a small game, just to make a little money you can use Unity.

    If it is a big game that will have DLC and other stuff. Like a more complex engine and take advantange of its libraries, tools and APIs and generate your engine/tools.

    If you want to go deeper like portability you need to go deeper on the coding stuff, for the compatibility.

    • Reply
      Mariko
      July 5, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      Unity can get pretty deep if you know what you’re doing, but like I said, I’ve decided to keep things simple and just use Twine.

      • Reply
        chaq686
        July 5, 2016 at 11:48 pm

        Cool. I have never tried Twine. I was doing a Unity course from Udemy and it looked pretty simple. But for lack of free-time, I haven’t finished it. I don’t have anything in mine. Maybe a shooter or a beat’em up. But now I’m on vacation maybe I’ll try Twine a little bit.

        • Reply
          Mariko
          July 6, 2016 at 12:53 pm

          It’s very, very bare bones and really only good for making narrative games/interactive fiction, but it’s free, you can use it in your browser and there a tons of free resources online to help you learn it so it’s good to total beginners like me.

  • Reply
    kaycreate
    July 6, 2016 at 10:32 am

    Nifty! I’m excited you’ll be sharing the process (or at least pieces of it) along the way. Despite enjoying games, I know very little about game development, so it’ll be cool to see from the ground up!

    • Reply
      Mariko
      July 6, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks, Kay. I know it’s just a tiny peak, but hopefully I’ll be getting more into the nitty-gritty soon.

  • Reply
    Ben Sparks (@Warspawn)
    July 6, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Nice article! The link to Twine is broken in the post.

    • Reply
      Mariko
      July 7, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Whoops. Thanks for the heads up. Fixing now.

  • Reply
    Jane Y.
    July 7, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    This is pretty freaking cool! Can’t wait to see the process. This is remotely not as close to what you are doing but it totally reminded me of something from elementary school! I can’t remember exactly what class it was but it was introducing kids to computers. That time any free time we got everyone was playing Oregon Trail but we were given the opportunity to make our own games. It needed a full story that led to different paths and different endings. Depending on what the player decided to choose, the game would end differently. Thinking back, I can’t believe I made something like that at such a young age. Unfortunately I don’t remember what my storyline was but I remember enjoying it immensely. I think I was the only girl in my class who enjoyed it. Anyhow! Looking forward to this very much!

    • Reply
      Mariko
      July 7, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      Actually, that’s exactly the kind of game that I’m making. Like, exactly. I guess the biggest challenge will be making a story that’s interesting enough for people to want to try different paths, but more on that in a future episode.

  • Reply
    Fiona
    July 10, 2016 at 4:19 am

    I’m so impressed Mariko! Making a game sounds like a super daunting project will be fun to follow along with you 🙂 🙂 I like the thought of using your talents and matching the game making process to your strengths

    • Reply
      Mariko
      July 11, 2016 at 12:48 pm

      Please don’t be too impressed yet, I really haven’t done anything. :p But I do think it’s important for first time game makers to be honest about their game’s scope to their abilities. Start small and build from there. Success builds on itself like a snowball and maybe in time I’ll be able to attempt something more ambitious. But for right now I’m comfortable.

  • Reply
    Diary of a Game Developer: Episode 2 - Story & Mechanics - Gamerwife
    July 12, 2016 at 9:00 am

    […] This post is part 2 in an on-going series about my adventures as a first time game developer. You can find part 1 here. […]

  • Penny for your thoughts...