Stop Trying to Learn Everything Before Starting*

Feb 1, 2013

Don’t wait until you know everything there is to know before starting.

Learn just enough to get started. That includes having a rough idea of a realistic scope for a first project, so that you don’t wind up hopelessly lost and frustrated.

Then get started. Get your development environment set up and compiling empty/test/placeholder/example code. Just get anything on the screen that runs, meaning a .exe if you’re programming for Windows, a .swf if you’re making a web game in AS3, etc.

At this point, you’re already ahead of an untold number of people that have only ever thought about videogame development, but have been too caught up in waiting for the perfect idea, or trying hopelessly to fill their brains with everything ever written and said about it before actually getting started. So far so good.

Find a way in your programming language or environment to load an image file and get it on the screen, to respond to keyboard and mouse or whatever input’s needed, to load and play back sound effect files and looping music. Depending on the platform, picking a library may be helpful for this (ex. SFML/SDL/Allegro/XNA, if in C/C++), or this may be functionality built into what you’re working with (Unity). Often the easiest way to get to this point is to just find some simple example code that already does these things, then twiddle settings in your development environment until you can compile and run it as expected.

Does the player character need to… (continued in ebook)

*This entry is now in the Videogame Developer’s Strategy Guide, free with Gamkedo Weekly Check-In.

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  1. […] Read this article, it’s fantastic, and rings true. It’s exactly what I’m NOT doing, just so I can […]

  2. […] Stop Trying to Learn Everything Before Starting […]

  3. You’re spot on, the best kind of learning comes from doing. From my experience infinite preparation just creates feelings of inadequacy, which eventually halt any progress. In this state you are aware you’re not capable of creating things to some imaginary level of perfection, but if you never start, you’ll never get there either.

    Thanks for the article, it helped reinforce my own thoughts and keep me grinding 🙂 .

  4. […] don’t know if you caught the entry for beginners that I wrote a few months back titled Stop Trying to Learn Everything Before Starting. To be clear though, this is that same message for people of intermediate skill level that now […]

  5. […] trying it (“the brain is not an emulator” being one of my oft-repeated arguments), procrastination by over preparation, and so […]

  6. […] activity not only for the content and the players but for you as the developer as well. Stop trying to learn everything before starting. Videogame development is a skill that only improves with consistent […]

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  8. Mass KonFuzion says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I’m starting with super-small, old-school game remakes (like Pong), for 2 reason:

    (1) Starting with a game you know (and possibly have already played many, many times) means that you know how the game is supposed to turn out, before you start making it. That allows you to focus on game mechanics, algorithms, etc. Game developer stuff

    (2) Like you said, small, old games tend to be “bite-size” projects that you can actually finish. And even though, as you mentioned, “bite-size” doesn’t always mean “quick,” it does often mean you can get from start to finish.

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