Your First Project (GameDev)

This article was originally posted over on the official RPG Maker website. It turned out to be pretty popular over there, and everyone seems to be of the consensus that it’s helpful to newbies, so I decided to reproduce it here as a blog post, so that any aspiring game developers who stumble across my site are able to heed these words of wisdom.

Listen up! You’re starting out in game development? You’re going to create the biggest, most epic indie game this side of Minecraft, you say? Give this article a read first; there’s important things you need to learn.

On First Projects

This article is intended to show new RPG Makers why a simple first project is often the best choice. In this article, I’ll try to explain the reasons why newbies should, at first, put their ambitions on hold, including:

  • A simple project is not overwhelming
  • Simple projects allow the user to play around and learn.
  • Simple projects offer no distractions for inexperienced users.

As you all most of you know, I’ve been a part of the RPG Maker community for quite a while now. I haven’t yet reached the elusive status of “legendary” but I’ve been around long enough that I begin to notice trends and failings in the community. In my many years in the community, I’ve seen and played uncountable projects. Some were great, some only mediocre. Some were horrible. Over time, I’ve noticed that game making trends change, so new projects eventually steal the thunder of old ones, and the community moves on. There’s one thing, however, that has remained the same ever since I first opened up RPG Maker to make my very first Final Fantasy fangame.

How many times have you seen newbies announce their epic, 20+ hour long, feature ladden, script infested first projects that they cancel shortly after? Why are first projects almost always doomed to fail? It seems that people new to the art of RPG Making are far too ambitious for their own good. I’ve done it myself, many moons ago; I’ve decided that my first project’s going to be an epic saga set to rival the cherished classics of the RPG genre. Eventually, I learned that trying to pull off an ambitious project with little or no experience under my belt has two possible outcomes: either I become overwhelmed with the sheer scale of the project, realise I don’t have the skill to do it justice, and cancel it, or else I finish it and release a bug-ridden crapfest. The moral here is that new RPG Makers must learn to recognise their limitations, and work within them until they are experienced enough to tackle a project that is truly spectacular.

The key piece of advice that anyone new to game making should heed is that to make a truly revolutionary game requires patience, skill and experience, three things that people often lack at the start of their RPG Making careers. A first project should be a tool for refining these things. The ideal first project should be something simple that isn’t too hard to make. It’s important for new RPG Makers to learn the finer operations of the program such as switches, variables, making skills, and editing the database. Likewise, there are fundamental aspects of RPG design that must be learned, such as how to create a balanced difficulty level, how to create interesting battles and strategies and how to construct an interesting, well paced storyline and likable characters.

This is a tremendous amount of things to learn, and this is why it’s often better to start off with something simple rather than that epic saga (powered by 10,000 scripts and custom systems) that you’ve always dreamed of making. Furthermore, it’s important for any game maker to learn how to present a game correctly, and how to read and respond to criticism, so that they can further their abilities. Taking on a simple project that has a steady rate of progress and is not too overwhelming allows newbies to have the very valuable experience of actually releasing a completed game to the community and receiving feedback.

You don’t always have to make a game so tremendously revolutionary that it turns the community upside down. A large part of being a member of the RPG Maker community is learning skills and gathering experience. Even a very simple game with no fancy scripts or custom features can be a joy to play if it’s made well and clearly shows effort. Likewise, even a game done badly gives its creator an important opportunity to learn how to improve and become a better game maker. Think of it this way, new users: would you rather release a short, simple game that’s helped you learn the nuances of game making and release that epic saga later and really do it justice, or would you like to release it now and have it fall far short of your ambitions? Taking on a small, simple game as your first project is really the most logical choice a new RPG Maker can make.

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