If you are looking to make the next World of Warcraft, sorry but reading this will not help you towards your goal. This article is targeted at people with completely no knowledge on how video-games are made, but intend to step into the video game development industry. If you have some programming background and experience, you will probably have a better start than those without.
Well, for someone like you, to make the next Flappy Bird is definitely more possible than making the next World of Warcraft (assuming you do not have sufficient capital to acquire huge existing video game firms or a whole team of developers under your charge). Games like Flappy Bird are known as Indie games, or independent video games. As defined by Wikipedia: Indie games are “video games created by individuals or small teams generally without video game publisher financial support. Indie games often focus on innovation and rely on digital distribution.”
Flappy Bird is definitely not the first Indie game to be successful (or at least, viral), but it has probably captured way more attention than most others. Some other successful and popular indie games include Minecraft by Markus “Notch” Persson, World of Goo by 2D Boy (consisting of Kyle Gabler and Ron Carmel) and Braid by Jonathan Blow. These games are way more complex than Flappy Bird, but are also a lot more sustainable and reputable in the industry (They are some of my personal favourites!).
Although I mentioned that this article will not help you towards making the next biggest AAA video game title (video games made by large firms with huge budgets), your indie games may actually make larger video game firms recognise your talents and even hire you to be part of their development teams! However, indie games may be more than just a stepping stone towards building the next AAA title. This article has shown how indie games have been getting more popular, and some even beating AAA titles in terms of popularity. You may even want to stay as an indie game developer if your game is raking in more than $50k a day (again, look at Flappy Bird).
So to start, you may want to look at other examples of successful indie games, or indie game developers. Indiegames.com features the latest Indie games too. Having a rough idea of what you intend to do for your first game, you may start visualizing your first game! Here is an useful beginner’s guide to making your first video game, by Zoe Quinn on Kotaku. Basically, how you can start your first game goes like this:
- Gather a bunch of like-minded friends that you can trust, or just start working alone
- Generate as many crazy game ideas as you can
- Harness the best ideas from each to put into your game idea (There should be a key fun element for your game!)
- Assess the feasibility of game based on your capabilities, a.k.a “Am I able to do something like this?” (Certain capabilities may be acquired, e.g. technical skills may be replaced with video game engines, artwork may be bought, and knowledge about game development/programming may be learnt)
- Assess the demand for your game, a.k.a “Will people even play this?” (Do this unless you intend to make your game for your own entertainment)
- Create a prototype (Can be pen&paper tabletop style, or prototypes using software like Adobe Flash)
- Test the fun element of your game (Testers can be anyone including your friends or family, but they must provide honest feedback)
- If it’s fun, go to step 9! If not, go back to step 2 and repeat the process.
- Settle on a development platform/tool that is able to deliver your game and within your capabilities to use. If required, you may get more friends/people-for-hire to help.
- Gather resources such as game art and sound/music. Pixelprospector has tons too. (Take note that certain development platforms only allow certain file formats to be used)
- Build the game using the development platform/tool you’ve decided on. (As you are building the game, test individual segments of the game and fine-tune parts by parts)
- Once it’s compiled and ready to be played, test the game!
- Ready to go!
This process can be iterative and each part may be repeated if the game does not seem to be on track towards your initial dream. Do not be afraid to return to the storyboard to tweak the core ideas if necessary. Always remember to scope your project right from the start. You may have more and more interesting ideas to add onto the game during development, but it is always better to release the game first and add ideas subsequently, or you may never finish developing it.
I hope that this article has given you a rough idea on how you can start your own video game. Game development can be really fulfilling and fun, so start working towards your dream now!