3. How Will I Make the Game?

Now that I know I want to create a series of iterative mini-golf games, I’ve got figure out how to go about doing that.

Let’s start with the basic considerations I’m bringing with me:

  1. I don’t code

I mean, I kind of do. To the extent that I learned HTML back in the day on Angelfire (and Expages…did anyone else use Expages? I need a good <marquee> now.) and know enough of that and CSS to make a reasonably functional website today. But none of that really helps me with game development

2. I want to spend as little money as possible, but don’t mind spending some

This is just a hobby after all. Times are tough.

3. I would like the end product to be HTML5 friendly

Because that’s the kind of game I’m looking to make – not a facsimile of a AAA title.

4. My goal is to learn, not to create a wildly popular gmae

I’m only planning on creating small games, nothing bigger than what you might find on Newgrounds or Kongregate. So I can already rule out some of the big 3D engines like Unity or Unreal.

So, knowing these four things I started to do my homework. Fortunately, I was pointed to the really awesome website Sorting Hat by Zoe Quinn which gives you resources that you need by asking you some questions about your game.\

Screenshot from construct.net

I choose the first option, “Something 2D” and was pointed to a program that looked promising: Construct 2 (now 3). After some research, here are the Pros and Cons that made it look like a winner for me:

  • Visual editor, no coding experience required
  • Free version
  • Export to HTML5
  • Popular (as per itch.io’s “Most Used Engines” page)
  • Lots of documentation and support
  • Great for 2D

It comes with a $99/year price tag for the full individual package and the free version is quite limited, but it seems like a great starting point.

Because on the flip side, I was pointed by a number of other websites to Godot, a free and open source gaming engine. The Godot subreddit is pretty active (compared especially to Construct’s extremely minimal presence there) with lots of community documentation and ideas.

But the primary issue here seems to be a need for coding knowledge and a steep learning curve, as one reddit commenter put it:

Honestly, Godot has a bit of a learning curve.

I’ve worked with a lot of engines, and it’s taken me a while to get proficient with it. The documentation is bare bones, and there aren’t a ton of tutorials compared to Unity.

That being said, guys like GDQuest and GamesFromScratch are making more and more Godot tutorials now which is great. Also in 3.0, the documentation is significantly improved.

So if it is your first engine ever and you are an absolute beginner and feeling overwhelmed, you may want to start with Construct 2 (or now Construct 3), or GameMaker, or something like that, and then return to Godot later.

And I think this is some really great advice. So here’s the plan now:

I’m going to start learning game development with Construct to take advantage of my lack of coding skills and preferred game type. I can start free, and pay up if I need to – it’s just within my price range for fun and hobby stuff.

If this project is successful and I find that I am maxing out what Construct can do, then I will have the option to invest a bit more in knowledge and learn C++ and the Godot system.

So let’s get started! Up next, we’ll tackle one of Construct’s tutorials.

2. What Kind of Game Should I Make?

There’s a lot of really solid advice out there about making your first game, and I think you can sort of distill that absolute basic advice into a small flowchart:

  1. Think about what kind of games you like
  2. Shave that idea down to the complexity of pong
  3. Do it again because you’re still probably being too ambitious

So we start with the first point – what kind of games do I like?

Right off the bat, the answer is MMOs – I am a fiend for them and always have been. Star Wars: Galaxies, WoW, Guild Wars 2 were all past obsessions and my current one is Final Fantasy XIV.

But MMOs are way too complex to even think about, so scratch that.

What about RPGS, then? I love the Final Fantasy series, and my favorite classics are all 2D and on the shorter side.

Still, any decent RPG is going to full of mechanics, writing, and graphics – too ambitious for just starting out.

And so after wracking my brain, I’m left with one thing:

Golf Story Is Just Adorable
Golf Story, from kotaku.com

For whatever reason, despite my complete inability to play the sport in real life, I’ve always loved golf games. Golf Story was one of my sleeper favorites recently, and Everybody’s Golf is one of my go-to downtime games. I still play Mario Golf on the N64 when I see my college buddies, too.

And I think we can scale this back one step as well: for a truly simple beginner game, let’s make a 2D single-hole mini-golf game. We keep it on a single plane and can use minimal graphics.

I also like this idea because I can see a clear chain of growth in terms of complexity over the course of three separate but related games:

  1. Single-hole mini-golf
  2. 18 hole mini-golf
  3. Added mechanic to create unique game

This is where I’m going to start. So how hard can it be?

1. Why Am I Doing This?

To start, I think, I want to address the “why”. Why am I doing this?

The answer goes back a number of years, when I was in my final stretch of college. I decided that for an entire year, I’d watch a documentary every single Sunday, invite friends to join me, write down my thoughts, and reflect after it was all done. I did it, and I’m super glad that I did.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Since then, I’ve made a habit that I’m proud of – each year, I do my level best to come up with a new year’s resolution where I learn or do something. Sometimes it works (in 2015, I wrote a sci-fi story of 100 words or more every single day and posted them on tumblr) and sometimes it doesn’t (this year I was supposed to learn how to make a bunch of different types of bread).

A few years ago I also decided to write a novel, partially because I wanted to get a better sense of what it looks and feels like to write a book so that – hopefully – I would better appreciate and understand what I read thereafter. I’m happy to report that as a success.

And so here we are, in 2020 – I’ve been playing a lot of video games in my tiny Brooklyn apartment, cooped up during a global pandemic. And I’ve gotten not just more curious about what goes into making games, but also fascinated by the skill set it takes to be a solo game dev. You need:

  • Artistic skills (graphics)
  • Artistic skills (music)
  • Writing skills
  • Coding skills
  • Organizational skills

That, to me, sounds like a lovely challenge. Writing and organization I’m somewhat familiar with, but the rest are almost entirely foreign.

So the core answer to “why” is this: I want to challenge myself and build a new, broader skillset, as well as develop a better appreciation for the games I play.

Now we just have to see how long it takes me to get there.