Session Summary 1: Intros & Inspiration

session1

The incubator has now officially started for 2016!! Our 10 participants met together for the first time, and were joined by some alumna as well. Many of you are undoubtedly excited to start and this blog post is certainly the place to be! Don’t be put off by the overwhelming amount of the resources here though — it’s a long post because there’s so much choice. As our incubees found out, the options narrow down once you decide what it is you would like your game to be. There’s lots of advice in here on exactly how to start, so pay attention, tuck in…!

Online Discussion!

There is a dedicated, secret-ish (shhh!) Facebook Group that you can request to join! Use it to post your game’s progress, ask for help, and get to know others who are journeying with you on this quest to make your first video-game! We’ll be posting extra tips and resources.

With the exact same purpose but in a different venue, we’ve also created a dedicated Slack group if that is more your speed. Category is: game-making! These are the best places to ask questions and get feedback quickly. Hope to see you in either or both!

Meet Ups

We know it’s hard to learn something new all alone, so we have face-to-face extra sessions again this year. Come out to the meetups to work on your game and support other first-time game makers. Bouncing your ideas or even talking about bugs to other people can be extremely helpful especially when others have solved that same problem. See you there!

When: Saturdays from Jan 16th to Feb 20th, inclusive
Time: 2pm to 5pm (except for Jan 23rd, 11am to 2pm, to make time for Cookies & Cocoa!)
Where: Gameplay Space, 1435 Rue St Alexandre (Metro Place-des-Arts)

Email Mentorship

We had a large number of very high-quality applications this year: some of which only needed that last final push in an unknown field, and others were even applying from all over the world! In response, this year you can additionally sign up for individual email mentorship. If you’re interested in this as either a mentee or a mentor, please email moms@pixelles.ca and we’ll get you all set up!

Crafting Your Game Idea

So you need an idea.. Start by thinking of what game YOU’D want to play. You should aim to make a game you’ll love and want to play over and over! Being excited by your own idea will keep you going during those hard nights, at 4am, being completely stuck. It will be YOUR game! Love it!

Decide what kind of game you’d like it to be. What do you want the player’s goal to be? How about the story’s theme? Your idea might be big and that’s okay. Try reducing the idea to key action verbs (what we call a “game mechanic”) like running, jumping, digging, matching, etc. Since there’s only six weeks to get your game up and running, you should concentrate on only one or two verbs. An elevator pitch like this is sufficient: “I want to make a [genre] game about [a topic you feel passion for] that uses [game mechanic].” (eg: “I want to make a mystery game about striped pandas that uses jumping.”)

Your game should be about 30 seconds to 3 minutes of game play. Another good baseline is “one minute of fun”. That’s our suggested scope, but remember that you can always add more! In the end, no matter what, your game will be fabulous. And after the incubator you can always continue working on it. In fact, we encourage it!

Mostly Free Game-Making Tools

It’s up to you to explore and find the right tool for you. We’ve listed some genre-specific ones but that doesn’t mean that something like Stencyl or GameMaker won’t do the job just as great.

NON-PROGRAMMING TOOLS
2D GameMaker (Windows only)
Stencyl
Construct 2 (Windows only)
Game Salad
3D Unity + Playmaker ($)
Text-Based Inform7
Twine
StoryNexus
Inklewriter
RPG RPG Maker VX Ace Lite (Windows only)
Stencyl‘s RPG template
Strategy Turn-based Strategy add-on for GameMaker (Windows only)
Adventure Adventure Game Studio (Windows only)
Fighting M.U.G.E.N. (Windows only?)
CODING KNOWLEDGE REQUIRED TOOLS
3D Unity
Unreal Engine 4
Unreal Development Kit (Windows only)
Superpowers
2D Unity
Unreal Engine 4
Flashpunk
Flixel
LÖVE
Superpowers
Point ‘n Click / Adventure Adventure Game Studio (Windows only)
Puzzle Puzzlescript
Visual Novel Ren’Py
Belle
Tyrano Builder ($)

Want more tools? PixelProspector offers a pretty thorough breakdown of all the tools out there!

Still can’t decide? Try reading this Indie’s Guide to Game-Making to help narrow down your choices. (Thanks Elise for the find!)

Tips from Pixelles Alumna!

Who knows better than those who have gone through this incubator before? Here’s a healthy heaping of advice from the Pixelles alumna present at our first session.

  • For those afraid of programming, don’t be. Do what you need to trick and convince yourself to not fear it: choose a visual-editor-type game engine (Stencyl, Construct2, Twine, GameSalad) that has minimal to no typing. That being said, remind yourself that This Is Still Programming. The leap to type-scripting is getting smaller. You are Doing It.
  • Programming is a language. If you can learn English, French, elvish, Klingon, you can teach yourself C#, Python, Javascript, Processing.
  • Choose a popular game engine over an obscure one because there’s a higher chance you’ll be able to find someone who can help you when you’re stuck. Undertale (potential GOTY 2016) was made using Gamemaker. You don’t need something fancy to create a great game.
  • For those afraid of art, don’t be. Look up some simple pixel art tutorials. Make a game entirely out of coloured boxes and simple shapes. Even the best of artists will find it difficult to make a super-lush environment in only six weeks, so take the pressure off!
  • Worry less about the look when you start, and use pre-made assets to your advantage. You can always switch things out later, and remind yourself “aesthetic” is not just created visually — it’s also feel, touch, sound, fun!
  • We guarantee you, if you come up to a snag as a first-time game-maker, it is a snag that someone else has hit before. We’ve all been there. Nothing is unsolvable.
  • Google is your best friend. If nothing at all, you will emerge out of Pixelles with stronger Google-fu than you ever thought you could achieve.
  • Focus on a small scope to begin with. Once you have one single action, you can continually build around it. Mechanics, Design, Aesthetics. (We will talk about this more next week.)
  • Cloning an existing game that you love, with a personal twist, is also a completely legitimate way to approach the incubator. Think about what makes you love the games that you love, but this time come at it with the game design perspective.
  • There will be moments where you will feel incredibly lost, or stuck on one simple place. That’s the ideal time to go work on something else, or just leave it alone for a while. Rest is an essential part of getting through a problem. Once you solve it, you will feel amazing!!!
  • What are your goals for this incubator? Make a list of the elements of a video game (art, game design, programming, sound, writing, etc). Cross out the ones that you are stronger in and confident with. Circle one of the remaining ones. That is the skill that you can use the incubator to challenge and improve on.
  • For all the other skills you’re insecure with, don’t be afraid of using existing resources — free art sprites or easy art, free songs, a game engine that doesn’t require programming, many more. You can use that constraint to inspire you! Trying to build too many skills at once from ground zero can be exhausting and not fun.
  • In every case, don’t be afraid to bring your worries to us! Do it at either one of the Follow-Along meet ups, and/or by email to your dedicated mentor or to one of the coordinators at moms@pixelles.ca. Come hang around in our dedicated communities. It’s been proven that a single email can fix your entire game.
  • Never feel alone in what you’re doing. Some of the Pixelles alumna chose to continue in games and joined the industry. Some of them never made a game again, but continue being awesome in other fields. In every instance, it turned out great, and we all still share in this together. So, welcome to our community!

Get Inspired!

We’ve put together a list of small yet amazing and different games to inspire you. It’s important to remember that a great game isn’t necessarily one with mind-blowing graphics, orchestral soundtracks, or break-out-of-the-box mechanics. A great game can be simple yet evocative and fun! So take a page from these games and start thinking about your own! Remember that six weeks isn’t a whole lot of time so keep it simple and later, if you have time, you can add more!

More games. Even MORE games. MOAR GAMES. Howabout playing the Best of Twine 2013? What games do you find inspiring?

Homework

  1. Choose one of the game engines from the list above, or in your email. Do some tutorials in the same vein as your game idea.
  2. Play some games from our list.
  3. Look at the games that were made in the previous incubators to get an idea of what scope of game you can expect to make.
  4. Start conceptualizing your game: what game genre, story/topic, what player’s goal will be, doodles, sketches, etc. Remember to keep your ideas simple for now (1-2 verbs). You can always extend the idea later.

Best of luck! We believe in you!



Posted in Follow Along, News, Pixelles Game Incubator 4
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Pixelles is a non-profit initiative committed to helping more women make and change games. We're based in Montreal, and have already succeeded in building a supportive community of game creators, both hobbyist and professional.

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