Posted in Can You Make A Video Game With NO Experience?, Contexts of Games and Play (Academic), My Quiet Story (Chris Bowring), Quiet Stories

Quiet Stories’ 9 Tips for Success

How do we know when it’s the right time to take a chance? Will I ever achieve my dream job? What am I missing? These are questions that plague many of us, and hopefully the following 9 tips will help you on your path to success.

For the next month and a half Quiet Stories will be releasing content related to the process of game development. We’ll be looking at a variety of games and a variety of topics. We’ll be looking at games we love with a more analytical and academic lens. We’ll hopefully be able to provide you with some content that is not only interesting, but informative.

 

 “Design games. Start now! Don’t wait! Don’t even finish this conversation! Just start designing! Go! Now! And some of them do just that. But many have a crisis of confidence and feel stuck in a catch-22: If only game designers can design games and you can only become a game designer by designing games, how can anyone ever get started?”

Jesse Schell, The Art of Game Design

 

The idea of creating a game seems unfathomable to most. The idea of coding, art design and marketing all seem so daunting. Once you begin attempting to make a game, it doesn’t get easier, in fact it begins to seem even more insurmountable. You slowly start to see that all the things you so harshly critiqued from other games, seem impossible to replicate. The list of skills to master if you’re going to make your own game is lengthy.

  1. Animation
  2. Architecture
  3. Consumer Psychology
  4. Business Management
  5. Cinematography
  6. Understanding of Multiple Languages
  7. Creative Writing
  8. Economics
  9. Engineering
  10. History
  11. Team Management
  12. Mathematics
  13. Music
  14. Public Speaking
  15. Sound Design
  16. And Visual Arts just to name a few.

 

It’s no wonder game development teams can reach the 1000’s and independent developers contract out entire portions of their game. You have to have a pretty broad skill set to accomplish something like this on your own. This week we’re looking at Quiet Stories’ 9 tips for success. The tips we use and have used to succeed. This article could be viewed and beneficial to an abundance of professions, but for the purpose of this piece we’ll be relating everything back to game development.

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1). It’s Ok to Doubt Yourself

“It is terribly important that you get good at building your confidence, for doubts about your abilities will forever plague you. As a novice designer, you will think, “I’ve never done this— I don’t know what I’m doing.” Once you have a little experience, you will think, “My skills are so narrow— this new title is different. Maybe I just got lucky last time.” And when you are a seasoned designer, you will think, “The world is different now. Maybe I’ve lost my touch.””

Jesse Schell, The Art of Game Design

 

You will forever doubt yourself when venturing into uncharted territory. But that’s ok, because what really matters, is if you let that doubt stop you. Video game legend, Tim Schafer (The Secret of Monkey Island/ Broken Age), recently stated on the AIAS Game Maker’s Podcast that he almost gave up on game development entirely. As a boy he wrote into Analogue Magazine asking how they got into the games industry. When he never heard back, he gave up on his dream, and assumed he couldn’t do it. Years later, Schafer is one of the most well-known names in game development. As Vince Vaughn said on the Tim Ferriss Podcast, it isn’t how many times you fail, it’s how quickly you recover from failure and try again.

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2). To Make Games, You Need to Play Games

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Stephen King

 

It’s commonly known that to be a good writer, you need to read a lot. To make good music, you need to be inspired by an abundance of music. To master film making, you need to analyse what makes the best films so good. The same can be said for game development, or any craft. I’ve met an abundance of game designers over the years who spend all their time making games, and none of their time playing. If the only game you play is DOTA 2, and you’re planning to make a game that you enjoy, you’re probably going to make a worse version of DOTA 2. To understand what makes great games great, what the market is looking for, and what your game can do differently, you need to play an abundance of games. You need to play games of every genre, on every platform, from a variety of eras. I’ve seen too many devs attempt to reskin the one game they know, without adding a unique edge.

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3). Listen to your Audience

“The most important skill for a game designer is listening. Game designers must listen to many things. These can be grouped into five major categories: team, audience, game, client, and self.”

Jesse Schell, The Art of Game Design

 

Just because you should play an abundance of games, doesn’t mean you can’t try and create a better version of your favorite game. Part of achieving such a feat on your own, or in a small team, is not only to listen to yourself. Yes you may ideas of how to improve or change the game that inspired your work, and those ideas are important, but there are other places where you can draw information from. If you’re working in a team, what excites them about the project, what input can they offer? If your team is more excited about what they’re working on, their more likely to stay committed until the end. What does the audience want? Look to forums or influencers focused on the genre of game you’re trying to create, and listen carefully to what peaks their interest. Developer Xaviant recently released The Culling 2. Not only did the game suffer from bad reviews and low player counts, but it failed to offer what fans of the series were looking for. Xaviant failed to listen to their audience, and as a result they shut down the game and scrapped roughly 2 years of work.

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5). Experience Points

“People may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

 

People play games to have an experience, not just to be entertained. Therefore it is up to you as a game designer to make your game a memorable experience. An effective experience could range from the emotional turmoil of The Last of Us’ narrative, to the satisfaction of management in State of Decay, to the tense moments of a final lap of Mario Kart. It is up to you what experience you wish to create, but when designing; music, art or story beats, always keep in mind how you want the player to feel in that very moment. Without this, you might make a fun game mechanically, but it won’t be talked about in the years to come.

state-of-decay-2-official-gameplay-launch-trailer_fs9x

6). Problem Solving isn’t only in Maths

“The purpose of design is to solve problems, and game design is no exception. Before you start coming up with ideas, you need to be certain of why you are doing it.”

Jesse Schell, The Art of Game Design

 

Every project you work on creatively should solve a problem. This a lesson I learned during my time working on Advertising briefs. If you’re selling a product or a brand it isn’t enough to merely make something ‘cool.’ You need to look at both what you’re client is hoping the ad campaign will solve, and what issue the advertised product may solve for consumers. By addressing this first and foremost, you can then start to build interesting elements around an already solid core. Recreating a classic game with your own spin, could be fun, but you’re creating the product more for yourself than an audience. To find success, look at what the market is lacking, what consumers are crying out for and what unique elements you bring to the table.

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7). If you Don’t Love it, You won’t Make it

“There are two kinds (of gifts). First, there is the innate gift of a given skill. This is the minor gift. If you have this gift, a skill such as game design, mathematics, or playing the piano comes naturally to you. You can do it easily, almost without thinking. But you don’t necessarily enjoy doing it. There are millions of people with minor gifts of all kinds, who, though skilled, never do anything great with their gifted skill, and this is because they lack the major gift. The major gift is love of the work.”

Jesse Schell, The Art of Game Design

 

When I was a teenager I started a comedy focussed YouTube channel called hashbrownaddict. When I started there were people at my school who were better at acting, funnier and better at editing. However none of them worked at those skills. They were naturally good at them, but never tried to improve, learn or produce work at a constant rate. Although I didn’t have the skills naturally, I worked hard, constantly learned and endeavoured to produce a new video every week. Within a year I had over 3000 subscribers and almost reached the top 100 most subscribed channels in my country. If you don’t love what you’re doing, don’t have a passion to keep learning and improving upon your skillset, and aren’t inspired to work at your project every day even if it fails, you’ll never achieve your goal.

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8). Don’t be Ashamed of Doing what you Love

“Everything popular is wrong.”

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Ernest

 

I recently spoke in an article (click here to read) about how, despite the amazing experiences I was privy to, due to working as games journalist, I have made almost no income from that work in three years. I’ve often been ashamed when talking to friends about my career, lying about the level of financial compensation I was receiving. We live in a world where we judge each other over status and pay check size. Yet I know plenty of people who make far more money than me, and none of them are happy with how their lives turned out. Many despise going to work each day. Don’t let yourself be ashamed of doing what you love. Even if the pay check is small, or the job title is embarrassing, you know deep down that you’re headed in the right direction. Very few of us have a job that makes us want to get out of bed in the morning. Finding such a job is worth a small period of scrutiny.

Female office worker is tired of work and exhausted.

9). Embrace all your Quirky Talents

“Know why my tricks look so different?”

“Uh, practice?” I managed.

“No— everybody practices. Look around! They’re all practicing. No, my tricks look different because of where I get them. These guys, they get their tricks from each other. Which is fine— you can learn a lot that way. But it will never make you stand out.”

I thought about it. “So where do you get them?” I asked. “Books?”

“Ha! Books. That’s a good one. No, not books. You wanna know the secret?”

“Sure.”

“The secret is: don’t look to other jugglers for inspiration— look everywhere else.”

Jesse Schell, The Art of Game Design

 

People often use lack of experience as an excuse. I never studied game design, so I don’t have the ability to make a game. I can’t write a book, I studied how to be a chef. Every skill you have is useful, and every skill you gain opens up more options. When I decided I wanted to start making games, I didn’t think I’d know where to start. I started writing the games script and realized my writing skills from making short films in high school was useful. I started learning how to use Game Maker, and realized my familiarity with Premiere Pro made the interface easier to utilize. As I mentioned, as a teenager I ran a comedy focused YouTube channel. On that channel I created simple animations that I learned to make online. I hadn’t attempted to create art of any kind in years, but the skills I mastered as a teenager were directly transferable into game art and design. Every skill you have is useful, no matter what intended purpose it was originally for.

GameMaker-Studio_-Fully-configure-your-game-for-the-app-store-through-simple-GUI-1

These are the 9 tips that I personally follow to succeed. You may still be unconvinced, maybe even skeptical. Who am I to state what skills are needed to succeed? I’m hardly rich, or traditionally successful. Yet I went from a class clown to an academic scholarship winner. I went from struggling to pass the lowest level literacy class in intermediate (middle) school, to self-publishing a book in 2014. I went from admiring developers, to interviewing them. One day I hope to go from playing games, to making them. Fingers crossed you find some of this beneficial and hopefully we can all one day succeed.

“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”

Niels Bohr, Physicist and Nobel Prize Winner

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