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Designing a video game. Unqualified, hopeless?

RalaneRalane Registered User new member
edited January 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
Hi all,

Me and my friend decided we were going to try and design a game as a side project. Without going in to too much detail it pretty much ticks all the boxes we'd like to see ticked as gamers ourselves.

The problem is, I'm a psychologist and he's a doctor in training. Very different qualifications from what I think most game producers would be looking for in writers.
To clarify, we are writing a storyline and game mechanics etc. Based on what we've seen in the past. I have a little experience in programming but nothing that will win any prizes. We just wanted to approach someone with our idea and see if they'd like to work on it with us.

We've been trying to contact a few companies but to no avail. Does anyone have any advice on how to get noticed or should we just cut our losses before we go too far with it?

Thanks

Ralane on

Posts

  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    That's not the way it works in video games. Big companies have their own internal ideas, and are not interested in external ideas, full stop. It's seen as cheeky, much as if you wrote to J K Rowling and said "I have a great idea for a new book, will you write it for me, and then we can share the profits?"

    Game writers are hired to work on a game company's own projects only. Your design is only useful in that context in terms of a portfolio sample to get you the job. It will not actually get made. Since you have better career prospects than "game designer", I'd advise you not to do this, because designers are badly paid and insecurely employed.

    To get your game made you'd need to pay someone to make it. If it's a smallish idea, you might well be able to do this when you are both employed and making plenty of money in your real professions, which I believe are quite well-paid.

  • darkmayodarkmayo Registered User regular
    Unless one of you guys can program or have a friend who can program and wants to take a crack at it for free then you probably aren't going to be making a game.

    Switch SW-6182-1526-0041
  • RalaneRalane Registered User new member
    Thanks guys.

    That's really what I was afraid of but nevertheless did expect. I was just hoping I was wrong.

    Thanks for the replies. :]



  • schussschuss Registered User regular
    This isn't to say you can't LEARN, but know that ideas are basically worthless, whereas art and programming get things done.

  • wonderpugwonderpug Registered User regular
    If learning a programming language and doing it yourself isn't a viable option, you could still explore the options of various "Build a Game" software packages that take care of most of the programming for you. You'll be more pigeonholed as far as the game mechanics, but it'll still let you explore game design as a side project.

    If you want to just come up with the idea and have someone else do everything for free? Not very likely.

  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Ralane wrote:
    That's really what I was afraid of but nevertheless did expect. I was just hoping I was wrong.

    There's no need to give up hope. You can persuade other amateurs to work on the idea for free (can be frustrating and hard work), or delay until you have sufficient savings to pay professional programmers and artists to work on it. If you have any programming or art skills it's best to just make it yourself.

    All that's assuming it is a smallish idea (think Braid or The Binding of Isaac or Angry Birds). If its triple-A (sold in shops, console quality, think Skyrim or Modern Warfare) then there really is no hope. Companies at that level would take an idea from an unknown when hell freezes over.

  • RalaneRalane Registered User new member
    Yeah the idea we had in mind was a sort of indie game, nothing like the blockbuster titles.

    We're quite comfortable when it comes to artwork, as it happens we've drawn up quite a lot for character design etc. already.
    I've written pages and pages of story line and mechanics so all we're really looking for is someone to programme it.
    But you're all right, it isn't as simple as we hoped/wished :]

    I guess we'll do as you say, try and find like-minded people who like the idea of making a game with us.

    Thanks again for all the advice.

  • zilozilo Registered User regular
    All of those like-minded people are going to have their own games they want to make. If you don't do it yourself, it's not getting done.

    Sorry. Depending on your idea, and your level of dedication, you could potentially leverage something like Unreal or Unity, or even something more basic like RPG Maker (or whatever it's called). That's still a lot of work but it's something you could make progress on without a programmer.

  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    What genre is the game in? Being comfortable with rough sketch art is different from being able to make and animate 3d models or pixel art.

  • DemerdarDemerdar Registered User regular
    Also, if this can be made into an RPG I would look into developing using the Neverwinter Nights development kit. It's rather simple to use and you can add in as much story/text as you can imagine, scripting, etc.

    y6GGs3o.gif
  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    Demerdar wrote:
    Also, if this can be made into an RPG I would look into developing using the Neverwinter Nights development kit. It's rather simple to use and you can add in as much story/text as you can imagine, scripting, etc.

    As someone with 7 years experience using the NWN toolset to run a massive NWN persistent world , I'd stay away from it if you ever want more than a few dozen people to play your game for free. It it, for all practical purposes, a dead platform. Even when it was a living platform, you weren't allowed to charge money for anything you built with it. Consider Ogre, Unity, or (depending on just how full-featured it is, and whether you really want to make money with your game) the upcoming development kit for Skyrim.

    I don't think it's impossible to find a group of people who share your vision and want to implement it, but that is going to be pretty damned rare. Among the major AAA actual game companies, you will never get your game idea even looked at for fear of copyright issues down the line. Not only do they have thousands of their own ideas, and the ability to produce the best ones, they aggressively shield themselves from reading your ideas so you can't sue them later.

    If you guys have some money, you might consider: pay some programmers to write your game. Where it's very very unlikely you'll find a group of bored coders and artists who all flip over your game design and decide to band together and make a new company where they do 80% of the work on an idea you own, it's much more likely that you'll find a group of broke coders who will write your game for a paycheck.

    spool32 on
  • zilozilo Registered User regular
    You won't find any broke programmers who actually know what they're doing in game programming. Once you've got a few years under your belt and a couple of shipped games (the kind of person you'd want to write a game from scratch) it's not hard to find gainful employment. What you will find are hundreds of thousands of wide-eyed new graduates with barely a journeyman's grasp of programming, though. Unless you know how to tell the difference, steer clear.

    Like I said before, if you don't do it yourself then it's not getting done. That's the reality of indie development. Unity or Unreal or something like that is going to be your best bet.

    Or you could turn your idea into a board game.

  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    zilo wrote:
    What you will find are hundreds of thousands of wide-eyed new graduates with barely a journeyman's grasp of programming, though.

    Some of them are great, especially with direction. However, you need the patience to deal with that, and the fact that most of them will flake when they get a real job/girlfriend.

  • EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    http://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/comment/21619706

    Check that thread. Basically, what you want isn't going to happen.

  • wonkaincwonkainc Registered User regular
    If you're trying to get a company to buy your game idea from you, everybody else is pretty much right. You're SOL.

    If you want to hire someone, or find someone to develop your game you've got a better shot. I think everyone is a little more pessimistic than you ought to be. EA bought and liquidated a bunch of development studios a while back. This means there are quite a few game programmers out there that are either unemployeed, underemployeed, or employed in the wrong field. Finding one shouldn't be too difficult but asking in a forum like this isn't quite the right place. Try posting this question in some game programming forums.(such as gamasutra[dot]com or gamedev[dot]net)

    But before you do that make sure you have a really good idea for what your game is. Game programmers usually aren't the creative ones. They don't want to come up with all the content or level scripts etc. Have your game fleshed out to the point where it could almost be played with pen and paper. (obviosly if its an action game this doesn't quite work, but I hope you get the idea)

    You also want to know what platform or medium is the game for. Are you thinking something along the lines of the PS3 or Xbox live market place, or more cell phone games?
    Cell phone games open a whole other can of worms because there are quite a few companies that will develop cellphone app ideas for free. (they also take the money the app may make)

    Hope this is useful, and good luck.

    I'd love to hear your game idea too. Might even be able to connect you to someone, but I need a better idea of project scope.

  • nevilleneville The Worst Gay (Seriously. The Worst!)Registered User regular
    Esh wrote:
    http://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/comment/21619706

    Check that thread. Basically, what you want isn't going to happen.

    I don't agree entirely with that thread, specifically how getting into QA you need to know someone and upwards mobility is very difficult.
    That simply isn't the case.

    However, I would agree if you or your friends don't know how to program, your options are extremely limited.
    RPGMaker is probably something you could research and try out with minimal programming.
    You're certain to find a number of things you dislike, but there's not much else you can do there.

    It may motivate you to pick up programming as a hobby, which is great, but you'll generally need some pretty in depth learning before you're at a level to be able to create systems in a game.
    Or even the framework to support a game.

    Good luck to you!

    nevillexmassig1.png
  • zilozilo Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    neville wrote:
    I don't agree entirely with that thread, specifically how getting into QA you need to know someone and upwards mobility is very difficult.
    That simply isn't the case.

    This is off topic, apologies. There are many different kinds of QA these days. The kind that gets you a foot in the door for a development position is increasingly rare and much more competitive than it was five years ago, and even then you're not guaranteed anything. The trend lately is towards offshore or publisher-centralized QA, where the QA people work in a different location entirely from the development team because it's cheaper. It kind of sucks for everyone involved except the accountants.

    It's certainly possible to get the right kind of QA job and move up but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. I know loads of really talented QA people that left the industry entirely after trying for years to make it happen. I've worked at 3 companies in my 5 years in the industry, including both of the largest publishers, so I'm not talking out of my ass here.

    zilo on
  • nevilleneville The Worst Gay (Seriously. The Worst!)Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    zilo wrote:
    neville wrote:
    I don't agree entirely with that thread, specifically how getting into QA you need to know someone and upwards mobility is very difficult.
    That simply isn't the case.

    This is off topic, apologies. There are many different kinds of QA these days. The kind that gets you a foot in the door for a development position is increasingly rare and much more competitive than it was five years ago, and even then you're not guaranteed anything. The trend lately is towards offshore or publisher-centralized QA, where the QA people work in a different location entirely from the development team because it's cheaper. It kind of sucks for everyone involved except the accountants.

    It's certainly possible to get the right kind of QA job and move up but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. I know loads of really talented QA people that left the industry entirely after trying for years to make it happen. I've worked at 3 companies in my 5 years in the industry, including both of the largest publishers, so I'm not talking out of my ass here.

    I've been in it for 8 and over half of my team alone at a very large and well-respected company were promotions from QA. I've also worked at a number of other large companies, both in the game industry and in software in general. So I'm not either.

    The bottom line is if you want in the game industry bad enough, you'll do anything -- ANYTHING -- to get in. If you just have a casual interest, then unless you're extremely skilled (and quite lucky), you likely won't get in.
    But if you go into QA (or any position, really) just with the intention of moving on ASAP, you generally won't have the drive as others who are enjoying what they are doing. That sort of thing can make it hard to transition out of QA. If you won't put forth 110% now, why would we pay you more to potentially do the same thing in another department?



    To return a bit more to the OP's point: Try RPGMaker or something casual.
    See how you like it; making a game is 5% the fun you expect/want and 95% a lot more work.
    If you genuinely enjoy that on the easy scale, then is when you consider the next step.

    neville on
    nevillexmassig1.png
  • FireflashFireflash Montreal, QCRegistered User regular
    edited January 2012
    It's quite possible to move up from QA to production at the right places. A lot of the people around me that had the talent and motivation to do so ended up moving on to a production job. Heck one guy knew nothing about scripting and ended up being offered a job as a mission designer for a high profile game.

    Edit: although what Neville said is true. You can't go in QA then not put effort in the QA job and expect to move up through networking. People that do that are pretty obvious and they don't move up.

    Fireflash on
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  • redraptorredraptor Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    There threads are always so awful. Making games is shit tons of fun and it's never felt any different to me. No you don't whisper ideas into your CPU's disk tray and games pop out, but it is an incredibly rewarding, diverse if undertaking if done right.

    To the poster though, of course the likelihood of enlisting more than unreliable journeymen is quite low, there is always the option of simply contracting people. You did mention yourself as a pair having very high paying jobs, so perhaps you could look into something like a self funded producer's role in the future.

    Of course I advise great digression and knowing what you are looking for when enlisting. If it's a particularly difficult project you might as well be looking at a sizable chunk of moneys. There's so much more to it than just this, so be sure to read around if considering that route.



    redraptor on
  • nevilleneville The Worst Gay (Seriously. The Worst!)Registered User regular
    Another EXCELLENT way to learn about making games?
    Go to a Global Game Jam: http://globalgamejam.org/

    They are free and lots of professionals (indie and AAA studios alike) go.
    You can contribute as little or much as you're able. You'll see first hand what it is like to make one.
    Maybe you'll see "Hey, I can do this if we do _____" or maybe you'll realize it isn't for you.

    Either way, it is definitely a cool thing.

    nevillexmassig1.png
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    There are a few platforms for people who wish to make games but do not have programming skills, like Construct and Construct 2.

    You'll need a lot more than just some nebulous ideas, though. You need time, someone to do your art, an understanding of the platform (and it's limitations) and preferably what people refer to as a 'white paper': a design document outlining what, exactly, you want to accomplish.

    With Love and Courage
  • zilozilo Registered User regular
    Seconding RPG Maker. Aside from pen and paper that's as easy as it gets in terms of technical skills.
    neville wrote:
    I've been in it for 8 and over half of my team alone at a very large and well-respected company were promotions from QA. I've also worked at a number of other large companies, both in the game industry and in software in general. So I'm not either.

    I'm not saying I don't believe you but... half? Really? How big is your team? I've worked with a few hundred different people and maybe a half dozen were from QA. I find it hard to believe the sample of people I've worked with is so unrepresentative of the rest of the industry. If you want to continue the discussion PM me, I'd like to know more about where you work.

  • OrikaeshigitaeOrikaeshigitae Registered User, ClubPA regular
    I do think you hit things at a sweet spot, Nevs. While your experience is not as rare as some might say, many things about your current situation are not necessarily demonstrative of greater trends in the industry.

  • OrikaeshigitaeOrikaeshigitae Registered User, ClubPA regular
    As far as the OP, don't bother doing any engine or storybuilding stuff until you've prototyped your game and made sure it's fun.

    1) Turn off your computer.
    2) Mock up the game mechanics you've outlined with index cards. Sit down with your friend and play through the essential game mechanics - combat loop, conversations, character upgrades, etc. Make all this stuff fun before you touch a line of code. This way, you won't have to overcome the insurmountable skill barrier to do that shit in code.
    3) once you've done that, buy this: http://www.amazon.ca/Art-Game-Design-book-lenses/dp/0123694965

    you can teach yourself the essential skills to make games. it's far easier now than it ever was before, and I suspect you guys have enough cash floating around to commission art assets and the like. But before you go any further, make sure you've got a game worth making.

  • shutzshutz Registered User regular
    I've worked as game QA at 3 different places. At the third place, I was able to graduate to a producer within 6 months. The first place I was at, a tester colleague who got in at the same time I did moved up to level design within less than a year, and he eventually became a lead designer on an expansion pack for the game we were both originally hired to test. Another tester who came in just a few weeks before me eventually moved up to artist.

    Upward mobility in game QA is certainly possible, but it very much depends on where you're working, how qualified you are for other things, how much initiative you have, and how well you can network within the company (and I'm not talking about the sleazy side of networking, I'm just saying you should try and make friends with people in other departments whenever possible, and get them to know you as more than another "QA monkey".)

    One of the things I've seen is that upward mobility for QA is inversely proportional to the size of the company you're working for (actually, that's often the case in other types of businesses, too.) Basically, the bigger the company, the bigger the QA department, the more likely you are to become isolated from the rest of the company -- you'll deal with several levels of QA management before your communications will even reach a programmer, for instance. In a smaller studio, when a QA tester finds a worthy bug, it's more common to go see the relevant programmer directly to show them the bug. Same goes with designers and artists. So if you're already well-known to some of the people working on making the game, you have better chances of being considered for another post, later on.


    As for the OP: the two of you must be of at least a certain intelligence level, considering your studies. While serious programming isn't for everyone, if you can think logically, and don't suck at math too much, it might be worth your while to make the effort to learn to program for real (as opposed to tools like Game Maker and RPG Maker and such.)

    If you're willing to put the effort into learning to program "for real", I would suggest you look into Microsoft C# and XNA. The first one is a fairly modern programming language that makes game programming a bit easier than with most other languages, plus the basic tools you need to program are all free (just get the latest Microsoft Visual C# Express). The second one is essentially an addon for Visual C# that makes it really easy to program games for Windows, Xbox360 (though if you want to test your games on an actual Xbox, you need to pay 100$/year) and Windows Phone.

    To give you an idea, I have Bachelor's in Computer Science, which I completed in 2001, and I haven't done any professional programming since (just a little bit of hobby stuff, never big projects) and about a month ago, I installed Visual C# and XNA, and within 2 weeks, I had programmed a Windows app that lets me use my Rock Band guitar controller to play music by generating MIDI signals. I essentially learned the basics of C# and XNA in about a week, and the other week was spent programming the app. I'm fairly confident I could now program a simple 2D game, with what I've learned. (And no, I'm not interested in working on your game, I have my own cool ideas that I want to make -- see my sig.)

    It would probably take you longer to learn to program, but there are many tutorials online (just google C# tutorials and XNA tutorials) not to mention many books you could get. Just don't expect to be making complex 3D games for a while. If your idea is a 2D game, though, you might be surprised at how easily it can be done.

    Creativity begets criticism.
    Check out my new blog: http://50wordstories.ca
    Also check out my old game design blog: http://stealmygamedesigns.blogspot.com
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    neville wrote:
    The bottom line is if you want in the game industry bad enough, you'll do anything -- ANYTHING -- to get in. If you just have a casual interest, then unless you're extremely skilled (and quite lucky), you likely won't get in.

    I've worked with a lot of people in the games industry who did not really give a crap about games. They just had the skills the company needed. I'd say only about half the people I've ever worked with in the games industry were passionate about games as such. Being interested in games as a career is very different to being interested in games as a player. If you are a bit more detached, it's easier to progress your career, as you will be more likely to be flexible as to the types of games you work on.

  • MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    neville wrote:
    The bottom line is if you want in the game industry bad enough, you'll do anything -- ANYTHING -- to get in. If you just have a casual interest, then unless you're extremely skilled (and quite lucky), you likely won't get in.

    I've worked with a lot of people in the games industry who did not really give a crap about games. They just had the skills the company needed. I'd say only about half the people I've ever worked with in the games industry were passionate about games as such. Being interested in games as a career is very different to being interested in games as a player. If you are a bit more detached, it's easier to progress your career, as you will be more likely to be flexible as to the types of games you work on.

    Those are probably the extremely skilled people neville was referring to (though it's probably more about the skill than the luck).

  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Those are probably the extremely skilled people neville was referring to (though it's probably more about the skill than the luck).

    Everyone (who didn't get fired) was skilled. If you are not skilled, any amount of enthusiasm and love for games won't get you the job.

  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    1) Turn off your computer.
    2) Mock up the game mechanics you've outlined with index cards. Sit down with your friend and play through the essential game mechanics - combat loop, conversations, character upgrades, etc. Make all this stuff fun before you touch a line of code. This way, you won't have to overcome the insurmountable skill barrier to do that shit in code.

    I've heard this before and I'm not sure I agree with it. It only really works on math-light games. You couldn't have prototyped FFVII with cards, hell you couldn't even do Angry Birds. Especially when it comes to RPGs, if you're attempting anything with a decent amount of complexity the fun factor between what the game would actually be like and playing it with index cards in so vast as to make it useless.

    "Well, let's see, this weapon has a 80% hit chance and the unit has a hit modifier of +1 which converts to 4% (in this testing iteration, down from 6% and 10% before that). Random dice roll says... yes, I hit. Oh, wait, I forgot to factor in the target's evasion stat, which is 12, and if I plug that into the linear equation with the target's level, that's 21%. Okay, I still hit. Actually he's on a forest tile, which gives him a bonus of... wait, where are the terrain index cards"

    And I hope you brought calculator batteries.

    Actually I can't think of any game off the top of my head that could have been feasibly prototyped this way. Any game I think of I end up mentally saying "well, it'd be a pain to keep track of X gameplay element, so I'd just make an excel spreadsheet..."

  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Delzhand wrote:
    "Well, let's see, this weapon has a 80% hit chance and the unit has a hit modifier of +1 which converts to 4% (in this testing iteration, down from 6% and 10% before that). Random dice roll says... yes, I hit. Oh, wait, I forgot to factor in the target's evasion stat, which is 12, and if I plug that into the linear equation with the target's level, that's 21%. Okay, I still hit. Actually he's on a forest tile, which gives him a bonus of... wait, where are the terrain index cards"

    I think you just invented GURPS :P

  • OrikaeshigitaeOrikaeshigitae Registered User, ClubPA regular
    That handily sums up the response I was going to write. Ain't cheating if you add dice.

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