5 Mistakes I Made When I Started Making Games
We are going to talk about five mistakes that I made when I started in game development and all of that and so much more coming up. What’s up guys Tim Ruswick from Game Dev Underground. Now if you’re new here we routinely post videos about game development, motivation, marketing, sticking to it, all that kind of stuff. If that stuff that you would like to hear about consider subscribing and hit the bell to make sure you get notified when I post a video, which is daily. So today we’re going to talk about five mistakes that I made when I got started in game development.
This is going to be fun because I’m going to take you down trip down memory lane and we’re going to go through a lot of good stuff that I did wrong, and that’s what most of this channel is right? Shit that I do wrong and share with you guys and hopefully you can learn something from it. But so let’s start number one. First thing I did that I think was stupid, not to say that any of you do with your stupid, but for me this was stupid and I think any new game developer should not start here. The first thing I did coming from programming was I wanted to make a game so I built the game engine. And that was probably one of the worst things that I could have done.
That was a huge mistake that I made because for the following reasons: one, engine is so much more work than a game right? It’s just it’s a ridiculous amount of work. Two, an engine has so much dark work I call dark work basically the work that you do that you don’t see any results from, there’s no visual indicators that you’re making progress. Game engines have so much dark work there is so much leg work that you have to do in order just to see any kind of progress. Like especially if you don’t start with like a 3D library or something you’re trying to build a 3D game, you know how much work you have to do to actually get like a spinning cube on screen?
It’s ridiculous. Like obviously that’s super like you know that’s super advanced stuff but like even building an engine with with some modern modern tool sets and libraries and all this stuff can be you know difficult. And when you’re starting you want to see the cool things you want to say oh that’s cool you want to feel accomplished, you want to feel you know excited to move on, and the engine just sucks out so much of the work. Now if you’re super technical you’re advanced programmer maybe that’s something you want to tackle, but when you’re making your first game I always like to say build games not technology.
So that was a mistake that I made and like we won’t even go into how long it took me to build an engine that didn’t even get finished, didn’t even get released or anything. So mistake number one, build games not technology I build technology that was my mistake. So number two, I started on the game that was way too big this is the problem a lot of game developers face net effect I think this is the number one problem a game developers face, I did entire video on why you should cut your game in half if it’s your first game i’ll link that up.
But when I started I started in a game called project Exodus I had told the story few times but it was a huge FPS it was inspired by Halo it was going to have aliens and killer robots and all kinds of invasions and super twists and all kinds of locations and all kinds of guns and it was epic, and I never finished it I had to abandon it, because the scope was so massive. This was a game that seriously today if like 20 people were working on all Triple A super epic dudes it would still take a year or two to make.
And I feel like a lot of people make the same mistake, they start with a game that’s too big they start with and they may not realize that it’s too big there’s like a mean that you know indie game developers always making MMORPG as their first game. But a lot of people start with big projects man so if you’re watching this and you’re new and you haven’t finished your first game yet start on something like Pong man make a Pong clone.
I wouldn’t even go as far as Tetris, likes Tetris can get complicated. You know try Galactica or you know that’s a space game right? I think, oh no Asteroid, maybe that’s what I’m thinking about. Just try something simple that you can get your head around games and don’t think too big because you can always make that other game right? Try and make something that’s going to excite you and something that’s tiny enough to get finished in a week or a month or you know a small amount of time so you can kind of get excited and move on to the next.
So, mistake number two was scope was too big. Mistake number three, I didn’t show anybody my game. This is a big one we talked about this a lot on the channel. Showing people is really important for multiple reasons: one if you are isolated your motivation will drain, you will start to lose motivation and interest in your project if you isolate it from other people. I did this I worked alone on a game for a very long time and I ended up just abandoning it and then it was really easy for me to get shiny object syndrome from there and just jump from project to project to project because I wasn’t showing anybody my work and so there was no accountability, there was no people like and I guess like I would showed to my— back in the day way back in the day I would show my games to my mom and I’d work on a different game my own be like what happened to the other game you’re making and be like no mom you don’t understand okay this is a new game I’m making it’s gonna be way better.
And she knew she knew but she didn’t say anything. You need to show people so that they tell you stuff like that right they keep you on track they keep you accountable to keep you in that mode because that stuff is really important and you got to make sure that you are progressing and you want to be a finisher right? Like you want to get to the screen on work on Mortal Combat that says, Finish Him. You want to get to that point, you don’t want to be a dabbler that just makes half games and never gets released, because the world needs more indie games and you don’t wanna you don’t want your shit to just be unfinished right?
That’s not the people that we admire in the world are the people that have finished things. The artists that have finished paintings, the movie makers that are finished movies, the game developers that have make games, those are the people we look up to right? Like we wouldn’t look up to the creator of Doom if he never finished Doom. We would just be like we wouldn’t even know Doom existed you know. So don’t didn’t show anybody was a big mistake of mine and I went on a little rant about finishing which is important to, but just showing people getting feedback it’s also important for to make a better product right?
So for me not showing people made me make this weird like thing that nobody wanted, the speed was off— like I’m in my first platformer I didn’t show anybody, speed was ridiculous this dude ran like a thousand miles a minute like faster than Sonic the Hedgehog it was insane, and the reason the speed had ended up to that point was because I play the game right I would test it out and then I would like make some tweaks play out yeah and play I played a little a couple times then I’d be like ah I can’t do that obstacle fast enough and then I would speed him up and I’m keep doing that. What I didn’t realize is that the game wasn’t too slow, I was just I was getting used to the game speed and I wanted to get through the process as quickly as possible so I had to make it the main dude like super fast and you know that would have been super easy if I let one person play it they gave me feedback and sure enough when I show people they said the dude is super fast, and I was like, aw! That made sense.
But for a lot of time I didn’t show people and so I just kind of existed in this worse state because I didn’t have people to look at it. So mistake number three was not showing anybody. Mistake number four which relates to not showing anybody because after I didn’t show people for a long time when I started showing people then I tried to please everybody which is mistake number four.
So I went from not showing everybody to trying to please everybody. And one of things I realized like for this platform plenty people told me, Tim, this dude is way too fast and then I would slow him down and people would tell me oh he’s not fast enough he’s not fast enough. And I’d be like well shit what you know and I’ll go back and forth between people and I will try to make everybody happy and then a weird thing happened. I started asking people like okay do you play platformers? Do you like platformers?
Like I tried to get like understand who they were and where the feedback was coming from and what I realized was a lot of my instincts were correct on some of the speed like obviously he was a little too fast in the beginning, but the people that play platformers and enjoy platformers and it was a game similar to Super Meat Boy so people that played that game those are the people that I want to listen to because those are the fans of my game. And so don’t make the mistake of trying to please everybody. Now this is a really tight like line to walk right because on one side you want to take feedback from people but on the other side you want to make your game your way right?
So knowing which feedback to take and which feedback to discard is really important. There are plenty of people that would give your shitty feedback and you got to know that. So don’t take all feedback, you got to get feedback it’s important but don’t take it all, and realize who you’re talking to understand the person giving you feedback. That’s not to say you should you know get an ego and dismiss people’s feedback like, oh they know what they’re talking about be careful about that right?
But you know as feedback for people that you trust that are going to give you the the real deal that like your genra of game and 2, one of the cool ways that i’ve gotten feedback too before just as an example of what you can do instead of trying to please everybody and getting feedback from all these different people, was watch someone play your game don’t ask them about it don’t say anything they’ll tell them how to play it watch them play it. I recently did a playthrough on Ludum dare games and I know for a fact that some people watching that were like, holy shit! Tim fucked up there, he shouldn’t have done that, or he did something wrong.
I know that there are people that said that watching me play that game I know that happens because it’s happened with my game before. I know like it’s so much easier to see something when you watch someone else do it because you don’t know what what mindset they’re in. So watching a player play through your game is really important because you can learn a lot just by watching them, you don’t actually have to talk to them.
So the feedback that you get doesn’t always have to be verbal, it can be you know, visual from watching them. So that’s how I got past number four— number five, my biggest mistake of all time for sure this has had more impact on my ability to finish and release projects than anything else and I think that has been getting stuck in perfectionism. A lot of times as game developers we are artists we are creators we are makers, and perfectionism is a horrible disease this disease to want to constantly tweak.
Now a lot of developers look at perfectionism as a badge of honor right? I think yet look at me I’m working hard I’m getting the ship done i’ll make it happen, I’m dedicated to making the best game ever, but in reality what perfectionism does is you tweak way too long for way little result. You get stuck on little things that you because you don’t know the right answer like there are so many things like especially when it comes to like variables and speeds and stuff for me my biggest issue was always like what’s the right speed what’s the acceleration what like I would mess with it mess with it mess with it mess with it and it would it would be be exhausting.
And not only that but like especially in a platformer right if you mess with the acceleration of speed and the jump height, after you’ve built some levels you’ve got to go rebuild those levels now, because all that stuff is designed around the jump height and the interaction the speed and all that. So there are so many loops that I went through just because I could not stop myself from obsessing over perfection.
And so if you’re starting to something like this now, one of my big things on the channel is is go with good enough right go at 80% go at 90% that’s okay good. There’s a such thing as good enough because you’re never going to get to perfect perfect doesn’t exist. Like you should try and make something great make something excellent not make something perfect, because you’ll be there forever.
And games there are so many developers out there that don’t consider their complete game finished. There are so many games that have been released on Steam where if you talk to the developer, they don’t fit then consider their games finished, they don’t think of it as done, it’s just released. And sometimes that released state is more important than the perfect state, because that gets your game out there and you can always add stuff on top of it later, but getting stuck in that perfectionism loop has been really detrimental to my completion and my motivation.
So those are my five top mistakes that I made when I first started, I hope they helped you guys out. If you’ve made a big mistake in your game development you want to share with other people please leave me a comment below I would love to hear from you and I’m sure plenty of people that are not as far advanced as you can learn from you as well. So let’s start it a such discussion in the comments once again I’m Tim Ruswick and I will see you guys in the next video.