Videogames – What does it take?

Growing up in the 2000s has created a much different childhood through early adult experience than ever before because of the vast advancements in videogame entertainment technology. Games are becoming both more complex and immersive, to the point that one can get completely lost in the character, world, and story-building found in thousands upon thousands of games. With that being said, how often is it that us consumers really think about the immense amount of time, work, and passion put into these projects, and what does it really take to create something amazing?

For as long as I can remember, my brother and I have had a fascination with videogames. Personally, I was always more interested in thinking about the art and stories within games, while my brother wanted to figure out how it all worked and the steps developers go through to make everything function correctly to make an incredibly enjoyable gaming experience. When it comes down to it, both the creative and the programming side in the development of a videogame prove to be vastly important and never as easy as it looks.

Two of my favorite games of all time, Hades and Terraria, on the surface show phenomenal artistry, whether it’s the more painterly feel of Hades or the pixel art style of Terraria. A lot of the beauty of the games boils down to the implementation of smooth mechanics that make it more than just wonderful to look at but also satisfying to play. Whether it’s in the way one can battle through enemies and bosses with silky, smooth animations, or the ability to have creative freedom to construct your world to fully fit your desires with helpful and easy to use tools, these games are excellent examples of polished games. Upon looking at games like these, especially games that look like Terraria or Minecraft, you may think “Well, that couldn’t be too hard to make.” After taking upon a similar mindset and then putting in hours of effort to make something even slightly playable, I’ve personally found that that statement is much more ambitious than I had ever realized.

The first problem you run into is actually figuring out how to start in the first place. You may have ideas, and the perfect game may be already living inside your head, but to start you need tools. As a beginner, some online resources work very well at a basic level. I chose to use Construct, as it has clean menus and is fairly easy to navigate. After watching a quick tutorial, I felt that I had the basics down. I was wrong. There is actually SO much functionality and so many features that almost instantly things become overwhelming. Focusing in on smaller details, building things up one step at a time, helps overcome this a little bit, rather than getting bogged down by the vast array of tools and options, but eventually you are faced with the task of applying all the effects and behaviors you’d like to your project. This is when things get extremely finnicky and difficult, trying to get everything exactly perfect and trying to figure out just exactly what everything does. Personally, this is where I hit a roadblock, but this helped me really put things into perspective.

I made a turtle. It wasn’t much, though doing a pixel art style ending up being a bit more difficult than I had expected. I was happy with how he turned out and was able to throw on some full-range movement to the little guy. Soon enough, I had him sliding around a brick floor, ready to start fighting monsters. This is when I started to realize what I was really in for, becoming more and more impressed by the minute at how incredibly talented developers are, especially those at small Indie companies. I, for the life of me, could not get the turtle to trace the mouse and attack in a way that was satisfying. I also had trouble creating a bit of an animation for the turtle to make it less static. I started to think about how I already had an excellent tool at my disposal, Construct, and was still running into struggle after struggle. Realistically, most games I play and deeply enjoy are built up in a much more stressful and painful process, using thousands of line of hand-typed code and engines such as Unity or Unreal Engine. Though these developers have countless more hours of experience than me, I truly was unaware of the work that this all took.

With all of this being said, with more time, focus, and help from tutorials online, I’m sure that I could have developed something that could at least be regarded as a “cute little game.” Unfortunately, the amount of time that it would take me to produce something I’m truly happy with is currently unreasonable, but I’m glad to have been shown Construct. This program, along with plenty of other resources online, relate back to earlier in the semester when we touched on the idea of learning and sharing knowledge on the internet. The creators of this program know the intensity of “good ol’ coding” and understand that there are people out there who would just like to learn an easier way or have some fun creating a game. Though I was overwhelmed by the plethora of options for customization, it doesn’t make any of it a bad thing. Instead, it shows that though there are limitations on a software like this, you can really get your feet off the ground and start your way down the road of videogame creation with just a little bit of effort. I will most certainly be coming back to this to try to expand on my humble beginnings and hopefully create something slightly impressive and fun, but for now I will take this as a lesson to appreciate the hard work of others, creating incredible games with jaw-dropping atmospheres, environment, and immersion.