How hard is it to make a beautiful game alone

Discussion in 'Indie Basics' started by ManEatingFridge, Sep 7, 2016.

  1. ManEatingFridge

    ManEatingFridge New Member

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    So I'm thinking of going off the deep end into game development

    I love games. Both the simple and exciting and thought provoking and beautiful. And so for my student project I decided to make a game in Unity without any prior knowledge of it and java or C#. The question is... How hard is it to make a game that is beautiful. Like let's say Oxenfree. The movement and animations are smooth, the camera moves dynamically and adjusts for different scenes, the soundtrack fits, the menus and UI are clean yet fit well, the visuals effects give it tone and so on. What makes these games seem professional to me is how they flow thanks to the detail, down to things like how the loading screen looks and how the sound is professionally recorded and mastered.

    If I'd want to make a game as smooth and not-amateurish, lets say just one level... how long would it take to reach that level of polish for the core game systems. Games like these are usually made by a team that has programmers, voice actors, artists and so on. I've programmed, made apps, music and a bit of art before and I think I know how to refine myself as an artist. But to reach the level of something like Brothers: A tale of two sons, Journey or Limbo: games that give the player an experience, making full use of the interactive medium of video games. Is that even doable? Even for like a simple and short game with minimalistic art and assets to save on time, but with a lot of soul and hard work to make it meet my self-criticizing expectations. I feel like I'm dreaming too big and would need years of experience, but I am ready to fail honestly.

    What do you guys think?
    PS: sry for the long rambling question.
     
  2. zadig

    zadig New Member

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    Well, don't be fooled believing the idea that "just one level" will take much less efforts and time than an entire game.
    Considering you want to achieve a "smooth" feeling, audio-visual and game-play wise, the engine powering it (being Unity or anything else) has to be as polished as the one powering the final product... Or at least, say, 80% as polished.
    A proof of concept can be made in a few days / weeks. A "one level" demo with a final product felling will take you at least 50% of the time you'd need to put an entire game together.
    Avoiding saying that is hard, it is very time consuming to make a game alone. Much more time consuming making a beautiful game alone. Very few people have all the talents needed, both artistically and technically.
    I am not trying to put your hopes down. I am being realistic so you know from the beginning what to expect.
    Cave Story took 4 years to be created alone. Out of this world took 2~3 years... The last having being created by an experienced programmer at the time.
    If you manage to create a beautiful AND playable one-level game in 6 months you are very talented.
    I wouldn't hurry however. We lack good professionals because people try to finish stuff before even knowing their stuff. Lot's of amateurs in a hurry. Take your time to develop your skills and focus in one area. Are there good programmers who are also good artists? Yes, but it is something very rare and these few people usually focus in one thing each project.
    Please, understand that this is my opinion and obviously it varies. The only thing I can tell you that really worths something:

    Don't hurry! Invest time into becoming a good professional. The rest will be a consequence.

    And the one suggestion I'd like to give:

    Don't start using a full featured engine. Program a simple game creating a simple engine all by yourself at least once, just for the sake of understanding game programming (e.g. using "Processing", the java-based language, to create a simple 2D platformer). There are many "unity game developers" lacking very basic game prog. concepts.

    Best of luck!
     
  3. NO9

    NO9
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    There are some examples of good looking games made by a single person ( http://www.gamespew.com/2015/09/top-10-games-made-by-one-person/ ) but if you decide to follow their path you should have a lot of self-discipline to set and pursue precisely defined goals. Because there is always an temptation to 'add another little feature in no time' which ends in dozens of them with a lot of time lost. If you seriously thinking about making game by yourself you should write down all what you plan to include in your game, all the work that needs to be done with a time estimations for particular tasks. This will give you very blurry picture of the amount of the work i requires.

    Did you work on any game yet with the team and did you deliver it?
     
  4. ManEatingFridge

    ManEatingFridge New Member

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    Thanks a lot for the suggestions, opinions and ideas guys.

    @NO9
    The only thing close to game development I've done is making small Android apps/games and making a flappy bird clone in Python. Although I have experience in the separate subjects (art, music, programming, lots of ideas and info on the gaming industry and development as a whole) I have yet to put them all into a coherent product. As a part of the project I have to put my ideas and budget down in the next few months so I will try to set realistic goals and consult this forum and others for feedback. I don't really have the experience to know what is realistic for 6 months and it depends wholly on the game I want to make. Thankfully I've seen what featurecreep can do and I think I'll be able to steer clear if I do the planning part well.

    So far I know I want to focus on making good visuals and audio as opposed to a bunch of half baked mechanics in an ugly game. I want to make a narrative experience as opposed to a intricate mechanic driven game. I feel like it would save me time on making the core systems for the game simple and with few mechanics so I could fit in more content. Like The Final Station. Making and balancing gameplay mechanics to make them feel fun and not repetitive seems to take a long time. Which is why I have respect for games like Ori. I already have a few short stories written out (also minimalistic like Thomas was alone) and some soundtrack ideas put down. Though I don't want to make a walking simulator either so I'll need to tie it together with atleast some gameplay. That's the fuzzy part for me right now. Luckily there are mountains of guides and lessons for me on the internet.

    What do you think is the bare minimum of gameplay I could have to make my (hopefully) 1 hour or so game not boring.
     
  5. NO9

    NO9
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    I can't recall the name of a game but it was online and it was about 20 minutes long or so. And it was well spent 20 minutes. But it was free. I think the gameplay length is secondary to the experience it brings. It also depends of many factors like replay value, narration linearity and so. The case is more complex when the price enters the scene. So most of that questions you need to answer by yourself I think. Since you have some experience it will be easier to you to evaluate time you need to create all game elements.
     
  6. kevintrepanier

    Original Member Indie Author

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    To answer your original question : it's very freaking hard. And time consuming. Don't go into it thinking otherwise because that's the reality of it. I like making games, I've made games I'm proud of, I've been doing it professionally since 2007 and then way back before it as a hobbyist and despite my experience it has always been hard and it's still hard today. It's challenging and that's what makes it fun in the end!

    My advice : think small. You think you have an idea that is small and that should be easy to make? You're most probably wrong. I've failed at evaluating development time over and over again. It's always more work than it sounds. I actually got pissed off with long development time so I started working on Sprite Sequence to feel more productive. Now I make a tiny game every week as part of an on-going story. Having very tight deadlines is quite motivating and ensures I reduce the scope to the strict minimum. And every new game can build on existing material.

    You can check out Sprite Sequence here (latest entry so far).

    You can also browse the archive or start at the first to see how it evolved with time. The first 4 are really crappy. But then, don't you go making a weekly game series! That's MY thing!!
     

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