Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Struggle towards Game Makery

I cannot remember a time in my life where gaming wasn't a big deal. Even during high school, and a few times in college, when I tried acting how I thought an adult should act, and be interested in what I thought adults were interested in, I still snuck in game time. Sometimes it was on a DS, other times in a browser window, or on someone else's console at a party, or while at home over breaks.

However, it wasn't until recently that I really got into the indie gaming culture. Until that point, I had mostly stuck to the big names in the industry and mainly played on systems made explicitely for gaming. I had never wanted to make games or join the industry, in fact, the idea of making a game was such a huge, complex, team-based concept, that it had never even slightly appealed to me.

Once I saw individuals making creative, unique, amazing experiences without almost any outside help, funding, or control, however, I got very interested.

That was in 2008; when I started my head first dive into indie games. With the help of some excellent bloggers/journalists (Anthony Burch, Jonathan Holmes), I started searching out all the art games I could find, obsessed with playing them and understanding how they could carry a message stronger than any other medium because of the involvement of the player.

It was during that time that I decided I could figure this out. I had taught myself HTML in middle school. I adapted to new standards and learned CSS in high school. I tackled javascript and php in order to do things I wanted to on the web and learned the ins and outs of wordpress in order to make my own custom themes. How hard could real code be?

Just to be safe, I started with GameMaker (I think it was GameMaker 6 back then) and dabbled in just using the GUI controls that came with it. Although I was able to put together some working things, the jumping was floaty, the collision was a joke, and the design was shit. "I can do better than this," I kept thinking, while looking at the much more robust games build in this same program. "What are they doing that I'm not?"

Writing their own code in GML, it turned out (Game Maker's code language). I tried learning some of it, but it was just a mind-fuck. There weren't great tutorials, the community was fairly robust but had other sorts of coding experience that I didn't, so examples and tutorials were still above my head. I got frustrated. I slammed my head on desks, walls, against people. I gave up. About that same time the following year, I downloaded the new Game Maker and tried again with no success.

"So, GML isn't my cup of tea," I figured. "Maybe I can figure out how to do things with Actionscript instead." And with the help of FlashPunk, and their great community, I made progress in leaps and bounds. I got some basic games thrown together, and except for a few bugs here and there, they worked! But there was a problem... I didn't know HOW they worked. Because of that, I couldn't fix the bugs.

And then I went back to school... and the whole idea of learning actionscript while taking design classes full-time, and working part-time, just seemed like too much. "But I'm not giving up," I told myself. "I'm just pursuing this education first."

That brings us up to about now. I'm looking forward on a year of part-time school and part-time work before I graduate and move on to whatever the hell is after this, and my desire to write games and tangle with code is back with a passion. So, to teach myself the basics, I got some great ebooks on how to use actionscript 3.0 when making games (Foundation Game Design with Actionscript 3.0, AdvancED Game Design with Flash), and although I'm still struggling through basic stuff, the logic of it all is falling in place. The building blocks are being moved around to give my games a foundation to work upwards from.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I have to have some form of accountability for my plan.

I am going to finish these two books before school is out in May. I will spend the rest of that month playing with code and messing with small game ideas. And then, over the course of the summer, I want to tackle as many of the past Ludum Dare themes as possible, giving myself a week to mess with each. Sure, the actual events are limited to 48 hrs, but this is more about forcing myself to do different things and mess with new code each week to pound the concepts into my brain and force the new neural pathways to be easily traveled and accessable down the road.

So hold me to that plan. And no matter what my excuses are, call me out on it when I undoubtably try to wiggle free of it.

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