Programmer Transitioning into Game Development

Feb 27, 2010

Q: I can code: experience in C, ASM, C++, Python, JS, Java, C# and Haskell. Give me a language, docs and a graphics library and I’ll give you pong or tetris in 24hrs. How can I work toward creating a 2D platformer with RPG elements?

A: Technical ability is best thought of as a gate to entry – while it’s great to have it behind you, it’d be counter-productive (and inaccurate) to presume that the most important things to learn and get practice with are already learned.

> give me a language, docs and a graphics library and I’ll give you pong or tetris in 24hrs

Have you done this yet? Is it in shareable condition – i.e. has some acceptable art, plays music, has menus instead of going straight into gameplay, maybe offers some options like volume changing or customization of controls?

If not, and if it only takes 24 hours, then by all means, do it. There’s a good chance that you’ll learn some useful little details that you’re one step from knowing (but don’t yet), and it can also cement your current understanding of how to wire a game together into a tangible form. That also allows you to worry less about overall structure for the next project.

By the time you’re working on a game project that you care about, you shouldn’t need to devote much mental energy or development time to the aspects of it that every project needs. For the 2D platformer, you should be able to borrow code liberally from yourself, and build upon that, freeing you to focus on the creative challenges. This also means that as many pieces as possible will be starting at a second draft level of polish and functionality. The game that you want to build shouldn’t be the first one you work on, presuming that you want the game that you want to build to come out as well as it can.

Programming language and platform are entirely up to you. My background and suggestion tends to be C++ for downloadable games (higher performance), ActionScript 3 for web stuff (larger audience, simplifies distribution and exposure). Since you have experience in technical matters I’ll trust those details on your end.

Congrats on the strong start, and good luck with the road ahead!

(Originally posted as part of GameDevLessons.com Vol. 11)



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