List of tools for building a first video game:
Unity 5 & Visual Studio Community edition for 3D and 2D games. (Two hour download time)
Construct 2, GameMaker: Studio, or Stencyl for simple 2D games. (One hour download time)
RPGMaker for Role Playing Games.
RenPy for anime-style Visual Novels.
Adventure Game Studio for adventure games like Monkey Island.
Inform or Twine for text-based games.
For assets like art and sound, check out OpenGameArt.org and FreeGameArts.
Craig Stern: It’s good to have the right attitude and expectations, but that’s no substitute for actually knowing how to make games. Sorting Hat is an extremely useful interactive tool made by Zoe Quinn that gives you personalized resources to help you get started making your first game.
Rami Ismail: Make, in the following order, Space Invaders, Pong, Pac Man. If that works out and you’re happy with the results, come back and try again. If you’re not happy with the results, improve them until you think they’re ‘close enough’. If you get stuck, don’t fret asking for help. Best of luck.
Alex Trowers: Whilst Rami puts forward the argument for Space Invaders, I lean towards Asteroids. Personally, I think it’s a simpler task – as long as you can get your head around the rotation thing which is already done for you if you end up using a third party engine like Unity.
Dave Voyles: Best piece of advice: Make video games. That’s how you get “into” the industry as a developer. I don’t know if there is ever a moment you are “in” the industry either. I still don’t if I’m “in” it either. But I’d like to think that I’m getting there.
Allen Turner: My first response typically is, “What have you made?” or “Are you making anything now?” If the answer is Nothing, then I point out that there is no reason they’re not working on something. Access to tools, engines, software is free in most cases. It just requires time and research. If they’re not willing to do that, they’re in the wrong business.
In all cases, I encourage people to just start making small, simple experiences and grow from there. The rule, though, is that they’ve got to shut up and make.
Catherine Vice: As a follow up to that, I like to encourage newcomers to make a “get your feet wet” game before moving onto a dream project. Define what makes a game exhilarating.
The most important thing is for newcomers to not take too much on. Ease into game design. The thing about good design is it requires a lot of patience. The ones who have the least patience for the process are the ones whose games suck. I’m closing in on 500 reviews, and I’ve certainly noticed that the best games are the ones by developers who didn’t crunch themselves.
Allen Turner: That “get your feet wet” game is the small and simple one I was speaking of. Make Breakout. Now make modified Breakout. Now make a game that uses Breakout as a core mechanic but is not, itself, simply a Breakout game. Add a narrative and create play that supports the narrative goals. Creating in layers builds skill, and helps to reduce your ego as a designer. Ideally you learn that your goal is to find and create fun in any set of interactions and your favorite game, engine, mechanic, whatever, doesn’t matter and becomes less of a crutch. Then it becomes about voice, style, and the ability to implement and recover and course correct.
Catherine Vice: You never know with the Feet Wetting games. Pong was a “get your feet wet” game. It was an assignment to help Atari’s new hire Al Alcorn learn how to enter code and make a game. And it launched an industry.
Amanda Lange: I try to tell students: 1. Get comfortable with the tools that you’ll be trying to use. 2. A story idea is not a game idea, so be careful about doing too much story writing up front before coding something (common student problem). 3. Learn to play games critically, which will lead to understanding their systems better (this includes board games and games otherwise unfamiliar to them too). 4. Make stuff. Join game jams. Don’t focus too much on making your “dream game” out of the box, but skill up first and fail fast so you can get good at what you’re trying. You may also find our very basic games MVA useful.
Nick Joebgen: Coming from an upperclassman perspective, whenever freshmen ask me about surviving as a game designer, I tell them to get as hands-on with their projects as they can, and that it’s okay to fail. Not every project is going to become the next big thing, but that a phoenix can always rise from the ashes.
Marc Straight: I think a big clarification point is to have them do a game jam. It’s fun and challenging for them as they begin design. Furthermore it allows them to feel the harsh realities of crunch time with the proud rush of completing a game you worked hard on.
In addition, I urge everyone new to develop in their own palate first. Make what you know before expanding into new territory. A good exercise could be having them discuss their favorite genre of game then having them add a new mechanic to the genre. This keeps them in a comfort zone and gets them thinking in design terms. You can later approach the pros and con’s of their design as well which is a useful exercise.
Overall, I think if people want to make games or are considering it – encourage events to have beginners group up and make one.
Summer Howard: Game Jams are everything. I have seven games on my belt because of them, and the last three were in the top spots. Find a video game club and start making games, regardless of if it’s a game jam or not.
Heather M Decker: I second everyone who is saying MAKE GAMES! People often get tripped up thinking they must be granted some sort of mystical permission from the games industry to make games… which is so not true. Hobby away! Then I suggest they make tons of things, many different things. And definitely fail a whole bunch. It’s fantastic. In the spirit of that, I enjoy sharing that Rovio made fifty-one games over the course of six years before they had a hit with Angry Birds.
When encountered with someone just getting started, who purely has an interest in making games at this point, no matter how young or old, I start listing off all the free tools they can tutorial through and play around with. I point out that they can make analog (board/card/object) games to completely remove the software barrier, if they like. Hell, they can make physical games like freeze tag. Anything goes. Have fun!
Robert Lockhart: I think it’s really important to meet other people involved in games. Find out if you like the kind of people you’ll most likely work with. Hear some stories of success and failure. Learning from others, where possible, is less expensive than trial-and-error. It’s more fun, too! Game Jams combine the experiences of getting your feet wet making a game and getting to know some other devs, so those are particularly good.
Patrick Scott Patterson: Few things in life are harder than pursuing your true dreams. It’s far easier to just go get a “regular job” and work 9 to 5 for life, but far less rewarding. Not only should those pushing be told to keep pushing even on the hardest days but to help support others along the way, even on those days where you feel like throwing up your hands yourself. Whatever you do… KEEP GOING. The path is hard as hell but the payoff will eventually be worth it.
Alan Au: I encourage people to start small. Mods are fine. Working prototypes are fine if they show off the skills you want to promote. Between the perfect unfinished game and the imperfect finished game, the *finished* one wins every time.
Alex Chmaj: Do what you want to do, aim high and work towards it.
Get a job and a life outside of it – the experience ultimately helps.
Josiah Chaney: Here, I will help you along the way. Start with these two tutorials: Ghost Shooter and Platform for Beginners, and I will tell you which ones you need to be ready to make a real first game after just 2 or 3 weeks of learning. Programming languages will be great to learn along your journey, and you can even learn Java to help enhance your experience with Construct 2, but this experience should prove to be very adventurous and healthy for you. As long as you are willing to work hard, pull all-nighters, meet deadlines, and push your way through the problems that are only hard until you learn how to do them and afterwards manageable or easy. Whatever is holding you back can be resolved by asking for help, or picking up some new skills.