From web design to game design

  • Posted on: 1 December 2013
  • By: Antti

For the past 3 months I've been working on a mobile game. Yesterday I had it released on Google Play. Here's a brief story on how it came to be.

Game controller

Starting out

Things got a little quiet on the web front a few months back in terms of client work. Typically at times like these I've turned into my own web projects, some of which are listed in the portfolio section. This time however I wanted something different. Something new, exciting and challenging. So I started looking into game development.

What I didn't want to do was spend years learning how to program a game. I wanted to get results fast rather than code things from scratch (which was above my skill level anyway). Having a platform/engine is like having a CMS for your web projects. The most popular names in this area seemed to be Unity, GameMaker and Construct. My personal choice to begin my journey into game development was GameMaker.

The in-game tutorials help you get on your way with the basic mechanics. You are quickly shown how to remake classic games such as Asteroids, Breakout and 1942. This learning phase took me around 2 weeks. During this time I was already putting down some notes and ideas for my first game.

The ultimate challenge

Creating a game is probably the ultimate challenge. The freedom you have in it is unlike anything I've experienced. You can basically take any crazy idea and turn it into a game. Websites on the other hand are often restrictive with their conventions. Not with games. Of course it takes skill and a lot of hard work to make your game fun and something memorable. There's just no way around it; creating a game is a lot of work. Sure, you can mock around and create a game prototype in a matter of hours/days but turning that into a polished product is where the grunt work is. This is why if you look around the internet you will find a lot of enthusiastic developers posting an "alpha" version of their game never to be heard again.

I wanted to finish my game. I needed to do it as a learning experience but also to prove to myself that I could. As a beginner there's so much to learn that the worst idea for you to do is make your idea/project too big. This is what all the experienced developers will tell you and they're right. Besides the core game mechanics you have to think about the graphics, sounds, music, level design, dialogs/menus, story and so much more. Even my small project took over 3 months from start to finish. I exceeded over 600 hours according to Steam. Sure, I was basically learning as I went along but that's probably true with most projects.

Getting there and moving on

So last night I published my game, The Cannon on Google Play. The days before launch were exciting and nerve-racking to say the least. I'm absolutely thrilled to have it in a state of 'completed' but can't help the feeling of emptiness. The game was such a massive part of me for the past months and now it's done. Now what? Well, I guess I just hope that many people will find it and enjoy it. I'll deal with any bugs and updates as they come. In the meantime I am keen on putting ideas together for a new project.

While working on the game was likely the most challenging thing I've ever done, I also enjoyed the hell out of it. I want more. I wonder at what point can you call yourself a game developer? When you release a game? When you make money with it? Regardless, at this point I'm just happy to "work with games". Perhaps the future will answer this question for me.

Disclaimer: I am still a web designer and create websites. Got to pay the bills after all!