If you are a young hopeful looking to join the game development community, here are some things to consider as you hone your skills for the future. All of these are especially true if you want to develop games as an indie.
1. Don’t reach out to your friends for validation
It’s highly likely that your friends don’t share your excitement or enthusiasm for a particular area of interest that you do. We are all unique people and some ideas that seem dumb to your friends may be the next “it” thing. I remember telling my friends about how cool it would be if we could use GPS to make a game that encouraged people to step outside. My friends thought it was dumb; I mean, who wants to go outside to play right?! 10 years later Pokemon GO blows up the Internet. So don’t let a dream die just because it’s not popular with your small circle. You might be surprised who else out there has the very same dream you do.
2. Don’t give up
Don’t give up just because someone else beat you to the idea.
News flash, every idea you’ve ever had and ever will have has probably been considered or implemented at some point in history. Most humans are insultingly unoriginal. Often times, the first person to market isn’t even the one who survives. The person who makes it better is often the one who reaps the greatest reward. Do you think Steve Jobs invented hand-held touch screen devices? No, he just made them better than anything we’d seen before. In fact, that was 3M’s mantra for many years, “We don’t make things, we make things better.”
Sometimes, it’s the wrapping that makes the difference between a birthday gift and a Christmas gift. Both are just as welcome to the right occasion and ideas are just the same.
3. Don’t be afraid to clone
Don’t be afraid to clone, but don’t be bound by your inspiration.
Cloning is frankly where most games start. The idea is always sparked by a brief, “what if,” thought that materializes into code. What if Mario had a gun? What if Samus didn’t? How would that change the experience? What if I mixed Minecraft with Starcraft; what would that play like? Cloning gets a bad reputation when your effort is not to clone what inspires you but rather you are trying to clone the success of something by mimicking every nuanced feature and art style that defines that experience.
If you are literally making a frame-by-frame replica of your favorite game you are wasting your time and the time of those who bothered to download your game. Instead, reach beyond what your favorite game has accomplished. Or instead, take 1 segment of your favorite game; a feature or mechanic that you felt was not fully explored in that game and focus on only that. Turn that idea up to 11, and see where it takes you.
Did you like the zero-g mechanic of Dead Space? Good, what if that was your entire game? Did you think the breach scenes in Call of Duty were cool? Could you make an entire game out of that 30 second experience? Dig deep in areas where others reached wide and you might find that there is much more under the surface because no one else bothered to explore.
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