Thursday, July 5, 2007

Getting my failures out of the way

Hi! I'm Greg

I've been playing games for a long time. I remember the introduction of the Prodigy internet service, the rise and fall of Sierra games, and a jaw-dropping incident with Pong at an uncle's house. Today, I am studying graphic design at Iowa State University, with a heavy emphasis on game development. While ISU doesn't offer a game-dev major, a few classes do help with networking like-minded individuals towards a common goal. Combine that with 3D modeling & animation classes, a background in english at the University of Iowa, and a pretty solid design education, all that seems to be missing is the programming. This blog isn't about any of that though, at least not directly. Instead I will share some of the information and misinformation I've gathered over the last 4 or 5 years with all of you guys, and then once that's over with, which will be soon, I'll post documentation, process and maybe even some tutorials.

So here are some simple lessons that ring true for just about everyone trying to get into this industry at this age (college aged and younger) without much experience.

Make games, don't play them
Sure, you wanna play games, and you should, but game development has nothing to do with high-scores or head-shots, and everything to do with a passion for creation.

Start small
Use flash, Torque game builder trial version, Multimedia Fusion or something like that to prototype your first simple game idea. Make checkers or breakout, you'll learn a lot. If you want to break into the 3D realm, make a mod with the SDK of an existing engine, half-life unreal tournament 2004 and etc.

At least a little bit. You still have to make compromises about your ideas. If you don't have to make compromises, then you're either a rich programmer/artist and don't need funding or you'll never get your game past pre-alpha due to the scope being larger than SPORE and you not budging on any of your ideas with your team members .

Work like crazy
The harder the work, the more you will learn, the better you will be. This industry is not for the weak-willed and throws a ton of obstacles in your way of becoming part of it.

Focus on your craft, prepare for rejection
After a year or two, you shop your stuff around and nobody likes it, keep going. After 5 years, find a different craft, or a better way to do it.

Do it yourself
With nearly all the jobs in the land requiring 2-3 years of experience with a AAA release under your belt, it seems like you're staring down the business end of a catch-22. And you are. However by working on your own portfolio, in small projects and in unfunded teams, you can overcome this gap by investing your time into all your failures. Or better yet, go indy!

Fail first
Failures are a necessary and important part of learning how to develop, especially with such a technical art form, skills are constantly improving, as is software and tools. Learning how to structure a project, gauge feasibility and beyond, are all huge parts of a project's success, and by getting them wrong without anyone footing the bill for it, you'll do your career and your would-be publishers all a favor.

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