Here we go for a new edition of the game incubator. For the last 9 years, we’ve had the chance to support new game creators making their first game. This year is once again virtual. Note that our sessions are in Frnech; for this reason, the material we will share throughout the program will be in this language. If needed, you can look up last year’s blog posts for additional material.
Here’s a summary of this new incubator’s programme.
It all starts somewhere
In our first session, we took the time to get to know each other and to find out everyone’s interests. It would not be a proper Zoom session without some cameo appearances by cats. (And it’s always a pleasure to see them!!) Some participants already have a good idea of the game they want to do, and others are still thinking about it. In any case, it is important to take the time to plan your project to start off well. That is why the first week is dedicated to brainstorming and scoping. Before you start making your game, it will be very useful to make a list of all the game elements you will need to make or find, and place them in priority to help you organize your time and make choices.
Whether you already know what you want to make or are still wondering, that’s perfectly fine! If you are stuck with ideas, we suggest the following exercises:
Mind maps are an organic way to organize and structure your ideas so that you get the most complete picture possible of the options available to you. Start by writing a central idea, then define its elements by going deeper to the end of each branch. Do not hesitate to use words, pictures, drawings, lists, or any other form of expression that allows you to complement your ideas.
30 CIRCLES CHALLENGE
Similar to the concept of automatic writing, this idea-generation technique focuses on QUANTITY rather than QUALITY. Try to have as many options as possible from which you can choose later. Your objective is not to come up with just one “good” idea, but rather a lot of things that will feed your thinking later.
Start with a basic idea (example: I want to make a platform game), and write or draw anything that comes to your mind and that relates to that idea (example: I might have enemies that breathe fire, moving platforms, slippery platforms with ice, etc.). Even the silliest ideas should appear here!
Fill the circles in less than 5 minutes! It’s not that easy, but this time limit will help you move past your mental blocks.
EDIT, COMPARE AND COMBINE IDEAS
Take a look at all your ideas, and try to reduce them to find one that you like! Don’t be afraid to try different ideas, just because you start to explore something doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later!
The idea you’ve come up with is great, and you finally feel ready to start. Take a moment before jumping. Is it possible that your idea is a little too complicated? Is everything you are thinking of doing really essential to your game? Sort the items you want to put into your game in order of priority, starting with the essentials and ending with what you find interesting but optional. Anything that you don’t really like should be removed from the list. It’s good to have ambition, but no one can make the next Red Dead Redemption in just 8 weeks. Don’t hesitate to aim smaller to start, for example by creating only the first level of a game that you imagine to be longer. Nothing prevents you from adding more later if you wish!
Now that you have a better idea of your game, start thinking about its mechanics, that is, the actions the player will take in the game. For example, the mechanics of a platform game might be jumping, collecting items and shooting enemies. Whereas, in a musical rhythm game, they would be synchronizing one’s actions to sounds or holding the note. Try to identify at least one or two mechanics that are essential to your game. This will give you an idea of what to do next.
Also start to summarize your idea for a game in a sentence or two. It could go something like: I would like to create a game [type / genre of game] that is about [a topic that interests you], in which you can [game mechanics / action verb]. For example: I would like to create a platform game featuring a cat that can jump and collect items.
CHOOSING YOUR TOOLS
There are a huge number of tools you can use to create your game. Many of them are available for free. We encourage you to explore several to find the one that’s right for you! You don’t have to choose right away, but you can definitely start looking if you want.
When it comes to game engines, some require you to write code while others do not. However, they all offer some form of programming. Don’t be afraid of programming; just as it is possible to learn a new language, it is possible to learn to program! However, if that’s not your cup of tea, don’t worry, you can focus on other elements of game development.
The mentors made many great suggestions for free or very affordable tools. They also recommend that you take advantage of the free trial periods to try out the paid tools that interest you before investing.
Here are many suggestions:
Art, illustration and animation
HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT RESOURCES?
When you’re looking for resources and tutorials on the different tools you’ve chosen, here are a few steps that will help you find what is right for you:
- Start with the website for the tool in question. Look for a Learning, Tutorial or Documentation section. It is common to find very useful videos there.
- Look on YouTube! There are some extremely well-done tutorials there.
Pay attention to the creation date of the tutorial. It might have been designed for an old version of your tool and might not be compatible.
- Take the time to watch the tutorial or video series, before you start. This way you can clearly identify if it answers your questions. In any case, it will not be a waste of time as you will familiarize yourself with the tool and gain specific vocabulary to improve your research.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice!
- If you find a great resource, share it with other participants!!
TIPS FROM THE PIXELLES GAME INCUBATOR GRADUATES
Who knows better than those who have gone through this incubator before? Here’s a healthy heaping of advice from some Pixelles Game Incubator Graduates.
- 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 (like Construct or Game Maker) 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.
- 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. The multi-award-winning game Undertale 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 skills than you ever thought you could have.
- 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 step. 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, and 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! Send an email to your dedicated mentor or to one of the coordinators at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Never feel alone in what you’re doing. Some of the Pixelles graduates 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!
You are of course free to start with whatever feels most important to you and your game, but here is what we suggest you do first:
- Start conceptualizing your project, thinking about what kind of game you want to do and what the player will be able to do. Remember to start simple, you can always add more later. Try to summarize your game in 2 sentences that present its genre, its theme and its main mechanics.
- Look at the list of game engines and tools and identify the one you want to use. You can even start watching tutorials online.
- Play games and get inspired! You can also look at the games that were created in previous incubators to get an idea of what you can do.
Next week, we’ll take a look at Game Design, Level Design and Prototyping.
See you then and have fun making your game!