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Cellz: A greenthumbs foray into mobile game development – Lessons

Bug’s bite.

But you knew that already. So I’ll rephrase the opening statement:

Program bugs bite.

I’ve been itching and scratching bug bites for weeks now. I’m quite close to completing my game and I’ve noticed I’m greener than spring-time vegetation. I apologize for not providing updates on my progress; I promise to post the game and links to the complete source when I’ve completed it. It’s been an exciting, and sometimes depressing, journey so far and I’ve learnt a couple of lessons I would love to share with you:

  1. START SMALL; GROW SLOWLY.

You dream of making a better RPG than Final Fantasy. That’s cool. But when you do start developing that RPG, like I tried, ‘it’ hits you:

“There’s so much to do!”

Yes, so very much! Even with tools like RPGMaker VX, and a dedicated development team, you could still take months making a skeletal game. This also applies to other game genres.

The dream of being a game developer is suddenly eclipsed by reality.

You could develop a tiny, Pong clone instead. Later, when your developer biceps have swollen, you could develop a Pacman clone. Then a Tetris clone. A slow progression, yes. But a progression nonetheless. You’ll find you are actually making games, not just dreams of games, and learning a lot about game development at the same time. You’ll find yourself closer to that RPG with each game you complete.

But don’t rush your growth. Please.

  1. INK IS THE BEST DOODLE-JUICE!

Doodling has gone digital!

Galaxy Note. Evernote. OneNote. Notepad. You can grab your tablet and a stylus, take a couple of notes, make some sketches, mind-map, and save them to the cloud. Easy as pie! But its much easier to pull out a writing pad and a pen and start scribling , or sketching. Plus, you feel much closer to your work.

Disclaimer: I’m no expert at note-taking; I’m only sharing my experience.

  1. BROADCAST YOUR PASSION!Tell your friends, family, classmates that you make games; convince them that its not some random hobby. It’ll do wonders for your productivity. Seriously.

How does ‘broadcasting’ help you? I’ll explain using two scenarios:

Scenario 1

A classmate who knew I was working on a game, found me playing a flash game on my laptop and asked : “Did you make this?” I replied in the negative of course but I smiled inside: he believed I could create that flash game. So I resolved to get better at game development so next time my reply would be: “Yes, I did.”

Scenario 2

You’ve been working hard on a ‘physics’ game and you’re pretty impressed with yourself. A friend looks at it and says: “Is this Pacman?” You become sad because you thought you had created something better than Pacman. You decide to fix the game. Some days (or weeks) later, the same friend takes a look and says: “Angry Birds is way better than this silly game.” Success!

You should always remember that people are not predisposed to giving praise. So read between the lines.

  1. “A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION…”“…a little more action.” You do remember the line, right? Elvis Presley?

Lesson 3 said “BROADCAST”. Lesson 4 says “BACK IT UP”.

Put the hours in: develop a game. It’s easy to tell people about your revolutionary game ideas but if there’s no ‘deliverable’, you lose your credibilty. Speak less about what you will do and more about what you have done.

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH.Whether people want to believe it or not, game development is serious business. Treat it as such. Research, like you would any other endeavour:

    Play the games you want to make.

    Read articles written by other indie developers. Visit indie game developer sites.

    Ask questions on Game Development or similar sites.

Study like you’re in college.

The video game ecosystem changes a lot. Make sure you’re well-informed.

I appreciate your reading this article to the end. I feel like I’ve shared my experiences with a circle of friends. Thanks. This article is definitely not the last on this subject – I’m still learning and I hope to share my lessons with you very soon.

Do you have any similar experiences? I’m all ears. Thanks, for sharing.

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