Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Game Design Part 1: Learning to Program

Part 1 of my game design articles. Each article will contain my insights on how to create an indie video game. This article will discuss how to learn to program.

Many people want to make video games, but few are able to. From what I have seen, the biggest obstacle for most is programming. The task of programming can seem daunting. Many begin by attempting to teach themselves C++ or Java. This is a big mistake, you will almost certainly burn out before you are able to make anything more complex than tic tac toe, if you even make it that far.

Instead, I would recommend starting with game creation software. I started with Game Maker, which is a great program. It includes a number of excellent tutorials, thorough documentation, and is free. You can pay for a pro version that includes additional functionality, but for the beginner game designer the free version will be more than adequate. 

The best thing about using game creation software like Game Maker is that you don't need to learn everything at once. You can see the big picture with greater ease and learn how to program by filling in gaps. You will be able to create simple games before you burn out which is very encouraging  and taking advantage of the scripting tools provided (which you should do as soon as possible) will allow you to create surprisingly complex games.

Of course, there are drawbacks to software like Game Maker. A game creation tool like Game Maker is much easier to use than C++, but the price is that it is far less adaptable. Eventually you may want to move onto a tool that allows greater flexibility, but I would recommend you first learn to create simple games within the limitations of Game Maker. This will not only help you learn to program but will also give you actual experience creating video games, which will be more important to making a good video game than anything else you can do.

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