Jimmy’s Thoughts: How Hard Is It To Make A Game?

Since the dawn of video games, gamers have longed to create their own little masterpieces, whether it be a clone of Final Fantasy, a brand new game idea, or just a mod added in to Fallout: New Vegas. Most of the time, we give up, we run out of ideas, or we just forget about it completely. For me, it's a combination of all three.

Why do we want to make games? Why do we want work with the very thing which we enjoy? I don't enjoy work, so why would I want to work on Video Games? The answers are short and sweet, but that is only the silver lining. Games are hard to make these days, but it was never always the case.

After the jump, we will delve straight into the depths of hell… I mean game development.

Have You Made A Game Before?

In my 30 years on this planet, I have managed to make 3 complete games (of which I am extremely proud of), around 30 incomplete games, hundreds of test projects and probably around a thousand pieces of paper with ideas, sketches, notes and rubbish. The earliest I can remember trying to design a game was when I was around 10 years old. I had created this weird sort of character named “Indle”’ and thus created "Indle's Adventure". Safe to say that was stupid. It was some blue squiggly bloke with a cheesy grin. He would wander around doing... uh… stuff. Actually I forget the rest. At one point after playing Goldeneye 64, I tried to create an FPS game. I designed “Boris Schneider” and drew a few levels. Looking back, that was just trash, but Boris looked awesome.

Since then, I'd tried multiple times to create games - all without a computer might I add. I got my first PC when I was about 13 years old and quickly found a game maker online. The first engine I found was a very early version of the DOS based program called OHRRPGCE (Official Hamster Republic RPG Creation Engine). With this new found program, I designed and developed a game, but as the engine wasn’t advanced enough to import assets, everything in the game had to be drawn pixel by pixel, but it didn’t take too much to put together. The final game was called The Legend of Marsden.

Before we go any further I'll quickly explain something. In High School, my Geography teacher was Mr. Marsden, he had a moustache – a very prominent moustache, and to be frank, we sort of picked on him. In the year 2000, I decided that I'd use him for my game, but he was to be the hero. I also used some of the other teachers from my school – Mr. Dempster (the villain), Mrs. Shortly (a boss) and Mr. Bannister (another boss). The game was set in and around the grounds of my school, so I went about developing the entire school in the game. Anyway to cut a long story short, the game was somewhat successful. I gave it out to my friends, who gave it to their friends, and even Mr. Marsden himself played it. Everybody was having a great time.

In 2001, I left school to go to college, and it was at this point I had finished my next "masterpiece" - The Legend of Marsden II: Moustache of Time. I'll assume at this point you've picked up on my influences for these games. In this game, Mr. Marsden sported a Hawaiian shirt and was the king in a land known as Tirmena (Yes, it was influenced by the Legend of Zelda games on the Nintendo 64). Top and bottom of it all was that this game had more RPG elements than the first, but by the time I had finished it, nobody was interested in Mr. Marsden anymore. It took me longer to make the second game due to the depth of it. Shame really, it was better than the first game in almost every way.

In 2003, I attempted to make a third one, but after multiple failed attempts, and an aging development kit, I ultimately scrapped it. It was tentatively titled The Legend of Marsden III: Moustache Mask. The two previous games were fairly easy to make but didn't look amazing, and I wanted the third to be so much better. Putting everything into perspective, it wasn’t worth my time to send Mr. Marsden on another adventure. They looked like they belonged on the NES or Master System... Games were easier to make back then.

A few years later I discovered RPG Maker XP - one of the most well-known RPG maker kits out there. After getting to grips with it I designed a massive RPG game as a tribute to Final Fantasy

I had several ideas, and as the engine provided so many assets for commercial use, it was easy to use, but required much more time than my previous attempts. I had to use some of my own assets during the process as I eventually ran out of the given material. Anyway, time passed and I devoted myself to finishing the game.

After around two and a half years my game was nearly finished. I was very proud of the amount of content I had put into the game, and as my influence was Final Fantasy, there was plenty of hidden content in the game, mini games and side quests. In late 2007, I had it finished. It was named Beyond Eternity, and it was in the style of a SNES RPG game. It looked amazing, and a speed run of the game took me about 8 hours. I had somebody who had never seen the game before play it, and it took them 20+ hours to get through. At the time, I estimated that if you did everything in the game (the story, side quests, bonus dungeons etc.) it would take you over 40 hours.
I even attempted to sell it, and I made a little money off it and got some good feedback, but way back in 2007, I had no idea how to market a game, so that’s why you've never seen or heard of it (until now). To this day, I still have the game, data files, scripts and assets to Beyond Eternity. Maybe I will distribute it again someday.

Roll on to 2014, and in that time I've tried several times to create a new game, but everything I did failed in some way. As some of you may already know, I now run several YouTube tutorials on how to develop your own game in the Unity 3D Engine. As time has passed, I found it increasingly difficult to put together a game, so I resorted to showing people how to make games instead.

Where Is The Learning Curve?

Back in the 90's games were simple, and didn't require too much precision. It was pretty simple to put together a platform game like Mario or Sonic. As the years passed, and the 3D worlds of video games became more prominent, it took bigger and smarter teams to develop games. Compare Super Mario Bros to Mario 64. The team had to be expanded, as there were new elements in games which were not around 10 years earlier. 3D modelling had to be used more efficiently over the years, and as consoles became more powerful, the gamers demanded bigger and better games.

Think about it, one man could have created Super Mario Bros in a relatively short time, as there wouldn't have been too much programming, minimal assets and the repetition of gameplay. To create Mario 64 would have taken one man much longer - most likely several years. Skip ahead to something like Dark Souls II, could one man on his own have created this within a reasonable timeframe? I highly doubt it.

How Do Developers Get Games Out Every Year?

Yes, games are difficult to develop in this day and age because they are so demanding, but don't forget that the size of the team on some of these projects is huge! Credit rolls for games are getting longer and longer by the day. There is absolutely no way one man could make a game like Assassin's Creed Unity all on his own. In fact, when you look at it now, even a massive team is finding it too difficult to develop a game. With the amount of bugs and glitches we see in new games every day, it begs the question: Have games become too difficult to develop?

No, they haven't, but developers are becoming too ambitious too quickly. Assassin's Creed Unity was a very ambitious game, and given the time it was developed in, it clearly wasn't ready for release. Sure, every game has a glitch or bug - whether it be a little spelling mistake or a spinning head on a deformed doctor, the fact of the matter is that games are easy to develop, but hard to develop flawlessly.

Annual franchises are things we have come to expect, and these sorts of games usually fall under one of two categories: 1. They are rushed and broken, or 2. They are short and not quite as broken. I'm not going to start banging on about how short and pointless some games are, or how some games are a broken mess, just remember that they are difficult to get out each year.

What About Those One-Man Indie Developers?

Some games today are still made by just one person - Thomas Was Alone is a good example - but let's be honest, it's no Elder Scrolls is it? Indie game developers strive to create huge masterpieces, but even some of these developers struggle - and they work in teams. Several games over the years have come out from Indie Developers, but you have to sit and think just how long it took them conception to release.
Minecraft is a good example of an Indie Developer doing it right. Notch created the game, marketed it right and went on to make millions (billions maybe?). How long did it really take to make though? Think about it, all the hours he put into making that game. The simplicity of the game on the outside appeals to almost any gamer, but beneath the surface is a complex routine of programming and logic.

Conclusion: Is It Hard To Make A Game Then?

No, it's not hard to make a game, but it is very hard to create a game. The days of easy coding and easy graphics are long gone - you're around 20 years too late for that. There is nothing stopping anybody making a retro-style game on Steam Greenlight, but the future of gaming is intense for developers.

Even doing my tutorials in Unity 3D is demanding, and so many things can go wrong. For example, I had a problem with some trees behaving badly in a recent tutorial. If I were a professional developer, that was time and money wasted. Developers want to spend as little money as possible on making their games, but in doing that, they make it even harder for themselves.

Games are getting harder and harder to make each day, and it is highly doubtful that you could feasibly make an AAA game in under a year. Remember, Beyond Eternity took me over two years to make and even now I know there are one or two bugs in it – Nothing game breaking, but it still sold a few copies and I still profited a little from it. If you want a deeper look at the game, speak up in the comments.

By all means, expand your knowledge on game development. It may even land you a job in the industry. Just don't forget your old pal Jimmy when you're making Fallout 5, Resident Evil 8 or Half Life 4.

Jimmy Vegas
All images are my own creation!

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