Learn to create games, before you worry about selling games

Let me get on this high horse for a minute as I write this new entry in the weekly indie-business posts. I’m from a generation that grew up without smart phones, internet, and for a large amount of my generation: without computers.

When my dad brought home our first ever computer, it was round 1984, and it was a funny little plastic box with a rubbery-keyboard: the ZX Spectrum. The graphics where, what we now would call, programmer-art, not for the lack of artistic skills on the programmer’s side but simply because that’s all the computers could do back then.

In the years after this Spectrum other computers followed, from a bigger Spectrum (128kb!!) to my first love the C64, Amiga 500, and onwards to the PC era’s. Through all these years, there still was no internet, no forums, no social media, and no websites where you could upload your creations to.

And that’s where we get to the point of all this history!

Today’s aspiring game-developers are spoiled

That’s right, if you grew up with mobile phones, internet, app-stores, steam, websites, and all the other ways to contact friends and like-minded people, then you are spoiled.. and I’m truly jealous !

You see, when I was learning game programming I was mostly on my own. Sitting behind a computer, typing in listings from magazines, then after a whole afternoon typing, hoping I had not made a mistake and could hit the run-button to see a simple game appear. From there on I would try to change the program code a bit and see what happens, until I messed things up so badly, that nothing worked and I would move on to the next listing.

You can just google “open source game code” and probably find something on Github that looks a lot more impressive than that listing I typed up, with a lot more descriptions and informations on what the code actually does.

And again, I’m jealous! I wish I had all that information freely available to learn from.

This is without even mentioning the tools you have to work with. Not just talking about Unity, Unreal or Gamemaker, no just the simple and powerful languages you have. Back in the day we had to type assembler if we wanted to run anything at a decent pace. Have you ever looked at assembler? It’s literally moving numbers around from box to box. Want to add two numbers? place one number in box A, then place the other number in box B, then tell the CPU to add those boxes, and then store the result in box C.  That’s 3 commands for doing a+b=c, imaging doing more then just additions.

It was a lot of work to get anything done, let alone show something on the screen. Which brings us to the problem.

You’re going too fast

You, my young friend, are going too fast. So you created a cool little thing in Unity or Gamemaker, and you can play around with it, and your friends think it’s awesome and they all enjoy it? Great…. just don’t publish it.  You’re first game is CRAP, sorry it’s true, it’s terrible.

Back in the day, this old man said, we would save our first creations to a big black floppy-disk, and it would most likely stay there until we would write something over it (often by accident and stupidity). Sometimes we would show it to our friends and family and they would think it’s awesome. Great.. but we didn’t publish it.

My point being, you don’t need to publish and sell every thing you make. Put the time into learning your craft and save yourself from becoming disappointed with the business around games. I understand the feeling of having created something “pretty cool” and wanting as many people to see it, we all have that, and sadly it has been made too easy for today’s aspiring game developers to do exactly that: show it to the world, put it on the app-store, market it, and sell it..

but why so fast?  Improve your skills, your next game will be better, and your 10th, 40th or 60th game will be miles ahead of what you think is “pretty cool” right now.

So please, learn your craft, before you sell your craft.

I’ll just let me high horse stroll towards the horizon now as I work on my next few games, I lost count, but it must be close to 200, of which only half of those ever got published or even shown to others because I simply grew up in another time.

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