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A little help getting pointed in the right direction (Or, "A New Path")

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by FF_Ninja, Dec 30, 2015.

  1. FF_Ninja

    FF_Ninja

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    TL;DR - Personal intro, and a few important questions.

    I... I don't really know how to explain this.

    I love games. I have loved gaming since I was two years old and my dad stuck me in front of an old CRT television and handed me a NES controller. I've been hooked. The world of video gaming has expanded and evolved so much over the last three decades and I've been watching it intently the entire time. I've lost track of the number of times I've had what I thought was a stellar idea, only to see it come out in a game three or four years later. "D'oh!" eventually turned into "That could have been me." which eventually turned into "That could be me!"

    So, here I am. Near 30 years old, my second kid coming from my second marriage, unemployed, but with this hopeful feeling in my sternum - like maybe, just maybe, there's a chance here.

    I want to make games.

    A little background: I'm 30 (as I said), married, former military, with just under thirty years of user-to-intermediate computer experience under my belt. I spent three year attending ITT Technical Institute for a Multimedia and a half-finished Digital Entertainment and Game Design AA/BA (and, before any of you bring it up, I'm painfully aware that ITT Tech was a gross waste of my military education benefits). I enjoy every type of gaming I know of, including tactile gaming (card, board, pen-and-paper, dice, etc). I developed an interest (but not proficiency) in object-oriented programming, and developed a moderate proficiency with 3D modeling (poison of choice: 3DS Max, but I'm totally leaning toward the freeware awesome that is Blender as soon as I can force myself to learn a new software suite). Most of my skills are rudimentary and self-learned - college taught me only what I learned at home from YouTube. I tried to pick up and work with a copy of RPG Maker VX Ace a few years back and I never seemed to allocate the time to really dig into it. And then a new edition came out. It's too limited to do what I think I want to do, anyway.

    And I really want to make games. Probably more than anything else.

    I have this huge problem getting my ducks in a row. Any ducks. No, let's go with cats, because getting my priorities straight here is not unlike herding a bunch of neurotic cats. I have this tendency to really throw myself into something I'm passionate about, which the effect of burning myself out when I fail to prioritize or just get too damn weary after a few days/weeks of burning the candle at both ends. I get bored easily with something that doesn't challenge me.

    I've written up - full or in partial, or just in my head - these epic concepts for just about every game you could imagine. I get so disheartened about half-way through, though. I think, How could any of this actually become reality? I'm lazy at times. I get tired, I struggle with depression and the crappy sleeping habits that come from it. I'm a night owl. It's a mess.

    I'm so damn intimidated by the gaming industry. It's big, it's esoteric, it's the high tower of wizardry. I'm, well, pretty envious of the people on the other side of those ivory walls. For all the time I've spent researching game design theory, I've never talked to one single solitary individual that actually does it for a living - indie or otherwise. I've finally gotten to the point where I'm damn-near desperate. I want to be a game designer so badly that I'm positively bleeding pixels. PIXELS, Carl.

    I'm not an artist - or if I am, I have no experience with art. I do inorganic design, I do templates, I do ships and mechs, but I do not grasp aesthetics or organic design. I could probably never do illustration. Perhaps concept art at best - rudimentary scribbles. I am a competent writer when I'm not setting fire to my own work. I think and dream in systems (such as when I put together an elaborate anti-griefing law system for a sandbox MMO I was concepting in college - and it'd have worked, too).

    Okay, I think I've typed enough. Question!

    For those of you who identify even a little bit with any of this slog, where should I at least start? I have the general idea that I can't really go wrong with Unity (regardless of what type of game I might want to pursue down the line), and that a good, solid, game-capable programming language like C# is a good one to pick up. But where do I start? Do I go on Lynda.com and get some tutorials? Should I start small, or should I simply learn some things before I start? What does starting even look like?

    Any bit of direction or advice, or especially encouragement, would be wildly helpful. I just want to start walking down the right path here. Hell, I just want to start taking steps. Good steps. Towards some kind of goal.
     
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  2. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Tradition dictates that, as a newcomer asking where to start, you be directed to the Learn section, given a smack on the bottom, and sent on your way.

    Your story really speaks to me, though. I identify with you quite a bit.

    I'm 31. Married. Have a six-month-old. Former military. Community college graduate. Know my way around Blender with basic shapes, but struggle with organics. Love to doodle, but have never considered myself an artist. I consider myself an intermediate programmer (and probably always will). I very often get stuck in the thinking/planning/dreaming phase of any project. I'm a web developer by profession, and when I'm not playing games, I try to make them in whatever spare time I have left. I've completed one, and it... kinda sucks. :p I mean, I'm proud of it, but it has its flaws and is far from being my magnum opus.

    To answer your question on where to start, the answer is...

    Start anywhere.

    I have two cliches I enjoy that are appropriate for the situation. Take whichever you prefer:
    • Move any direction, as long as it's forward.
    • More is lost by indecision than wrong decision.
    Both apply. As long as you're learning, you're not wasting your time. You'd be amazed how learning something that seems only barely related to what you want to do can still be useful. But sitting around wondering which direction to go will only delay or prevent you from getting there.

    Here's a bit of hard news, in case you weren't already aware: You're not going to get a job in the games industry. There are too many people who want the jobs, willing to do them for cheap, who don't have families to support, and who are actually qualified. But that's fine.

    One of the great things about Unity is that it's great for hobbyists. Which is exactly how you should be approaching game development. It's something you're doing for fun, so have fun with it. Don't put all that pressure on yourself that comes with making big career choices. If/when you get good at it, it may become a career, but for now, just learn it as you can.

    Additionally, while game design is a skill for sure, there is absolutely zero demand for it as a position, even on indie/hobbyist teams. Everyone has their own ideas for games and their own idea for how the mechanics should work. So if you want to design a game, you'll have to either build it yourself or pay someone to do that part for you. Which would be dumb, since that takes all the fun out of creating the game yourself!

    Are you interested in working as part of a team? Do you have a portfolio of things you've made (specifically, 3D models, as that seems to be your most developed skill if I'm understanding correctly)? How do you feel about Star Trek?

    In any case, welcome to the community. Please stick around. I enjoy your sense of humor, appreciate your writing competency (you rarely see someone write "it'd have") and already feel invested in your success.
     
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  3. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    OK, well, you've come to the right place. By that I mean both Unity, which is indeed the right development environment to learn; and this forum, which is one of the friendliest & most helpful communities I've ever seen on the internet.

    So, well done! You're off to a good start so far.

    Now you need to level up your skills, and learn to use your tools. You love gaming; think of building your skill set as a real-world RPG. You're playing the role of a game developer. You're currently a Level 1 game developer, which is to say, barely ahead of a Level 0 NPC. But you are ahead of that, because you're armed with Unity and have a little knowledge already.

    Now, actually making a living at game development is a serious boss monster. You must be at least Level 10 to even get in the door. Obviously to charge forward at that monster right away would be suicide. So, like any good RPG character, you must focus first on leveling up. You do that by training (starting with the Learn link at the top of this page) at tackling smaller monsters. Make a Space Invaders game. Make a Flappy Bird clone. Make a simple game where you drive a tank around and shoot balloons. Seek out challenges like this, take them on, spend a few weeks conquering them, and move on to the next one. Your skills will increase dramatically (and you will undoubtedly find better tools along the way too, though Unity will always be your #1 tool).

    And most importantly, enjoy the process. If all you care about is beating that Level 20 boss monster, everything leading up to it will be a frustrating slog. That's no good. But with the right frame of mind, you will find that these beginner- and intermediate-level challenges are incredibly fun and rewarding in their own right. Embrace that, be proud of each step, and you will have fun the whole way!
     
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  4. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Great analogy, Joe!
     
  5. FF_Ninja

    FF_Ninja

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    You guys have been great. I've run across a lot of discouragement in the time I've been digging into this whole gaming career dream, but this is one of the few times where I think, Hey, it might actually come true.

    I appreciate the analogy, Joe. I think that's probably one of the few things I've read in a while that's brought a stupid grin to my bearded face. It's good to have a little hope again. I think if I'd gotten a dismissive response from here, I might not have come back to the whole concept for months, if ever. Take that as praise and encouragement in its own right; you two may have just played a role in saving my future.

    To answer your question specifically, Schneider, I'm a big Star Trek proponent. I enjoy the series and I love the ship architecture. My portfolio is a mess, though. I don't even know if I still have the remnants of it anymore. They were pretty shoddy, pretty crap-tastic. The only things I've got that still exist do so only because nothing ever truly dies on the internet, and can be found at deviantART. I've come a little farther since then, but not much - life kind of took over and all of this rather fell to the wayside.

    Y'know, I'd just picked up a copy of Disgaea 5 today. I was planning on melting myself into the couch this weekend and just... playing. Instead, I ended up picking apart the design of the game mentally: animation, pixel art, level design, textures, music, special effects - the whole nine. You game for long enough and you start to see the Matrix for what it's composed of, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I think I might toe the water this weekend instead. I can't say I won't spend (read: intentionally waste) numerous hours playing SW:TOR or Mount & Blade: Warband or Just Cause 3 - because that would be lying and momma always said that liars go to hell - but I think I'm going to find a place, any place, and just sink my teeth in.

    I'm reminded of my Ultima Online days, interestingly. I remember throwing myself into the character I made, with little or no goal or plan other that to simply play and have fun. Weeks into it, when I decided to make my character into a competent weaponsmith, I discovered that not only had I damn-near perfected the art of smelting and fashioning ingots, but I was steps ahead in my mace wielding ability as well. I just... played, and only later did any of the skills I'd developed (a few of them without even realizing it) come into play.

    Believe me, I came to the conclusion about the professional industry a while ago. When I was younger, I dreamed of going to the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, AZ, or Full Sail, or Digipen, or somewhere. My dad instilled the concept into my psyche that I'd never "make a living" in the video game industry, so I ended up abandoning it. Now, any chance that I might have had is pretty much ruined. That's okay, though. My new goal (lofty, rather ill-conceived at times, and certainly ambitious) is to start my own indie company with someone, somewhere, someday. My shorter term goal is to become decently studied in a few key articles of the faith (C#, Unity, Blender, a few others) and try to get a project put together - something basic. Eventually, I'd love to see a little income - enough to remind me that, indeed, it's quite possible to make a living at this if I want to put enough heart into it. I just can't pour my heart into something full-throttle again without some sort of mental and emotional security, because I will burn myself out again otherwise.

    I'm not against keeping the conversation going. I'd like to think that more will come out of this, and that others will gain encouragement from this discourse, as I am now. Is there a friend system in place here?
     
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  6. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    There isn't a friend system, but that doesn't mean you can't PM people providing other contact info like Gamertags and such.

    I challenge you to go through the official tutorials this weekend. See how far you can get. Follow along, and don't skip anything. If you're confused, do it again.

    And most importantly, remember to have fun with it.
     
  7. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    You can also Follow people, which will give you an alert in your alert stream when they post. I'll follow you for a while, and help out when I can. Feel free to follow me (or anyone!) if you think you might spot something useful that way.
     
  8. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    I think you just handed out a quest.

    "Bring me 5 tutorial pelts." :D
     
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  9. FF_Ninja

    FF_Ninja

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    There's a rat-slaying quest no matter where you look.
     
  10. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    Check out the game design zen podcasts by @Gigiwoo , they are great.
    I'm sort of in a similar position except I'm 46. I'm about to start my 2nd year as a game design student but luckily have access to programming & art students if I can convince any I can help with the design & production.

    If you have trouble focusing & get distracted & or carried away my suggestion would be to categorise things into art, sound, design, programming & then work out some sort of order within them. When you wake up pick the topic that interests you that day & work hard at it without switching. Knowing that the next day you can do the others should help you stay focussed. If you have a cool idea on another topic write it on a post it note & add it to one of the columns for next time.

    You said you like all games including board games. Don't get fixated on just using Unity. You can make other types of games or even make a paper prototype of games to test them all out before you try to code them. This helps as
    1. It can be a lot quicker to mock it up & test
    2. It lets you change rules mid game if necessary & it is very quick & easy to do so
    3. It doesn't matter how it looks, & actually having piecemeal looks lets you concentrate on the actual gameplay & mechanics.
    4. It lets you show people that you are serious & actually have ideas.
    5. People always judge a PC game by its looks even if you made it yet they are very forgiving if they see hand made cards, bits of paper etc as it is easier for them to see you made it.

    So, go have fun. Make a simple card or board game you can play with your kids & in the mean time learn the skills to make a simple version they can play in the PC. If you make it in 2d you could even use the pictures they draw as the sprites.

    Good luck :)
     
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  11. FF_Ninja

    FF_Ninja

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    Bit of an update.

    The old lady is getting closer to her due date, so there's been heaps of cleaning, rearranging, and other little bits and ends to handle. I did manage to start digging into the tutorials today, though.

    I'm curious: At what point should I dig into each of the tutorial projects? I'm assuming that they progress left-to-right, top-to-bottom in level of complexity, so that's the general order.
     
  12. tedthebug

    tedthebug

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    Pretty much. Start with the roll a ball & work up from there. Once done, start a new project & try to repeat it without the tutorial so you can identify the bits to revise. When you get it going try changing one thing at a time to see what difference it makes, e.g. Change the speed or velocity. You will be surprised at how some small changes can have quite a large impact on the playability.
     
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  13. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Were you nervous when you posted this? Kudos for being so personal, open, and honest. I've been making games for 12 years, I'm good at what I do, and here's my suggestions, in order:
    • Listen to some Game Design Zen podcasts. There are many answers in there.
    • Read this and Jesse Schell's book - Art of Game Design
    • And of course; try, improve, and repeat.
    Welcome aboard. It's a long journey.
    Gigi
     
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  14. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    May I be honest? Friendly chatter is awesome - we're all people here. Congratulations for having a baby on the way! You will be evolving soon. And, at the same time comes the harsh reality. Yoda said it best, 'do or do not, there is no try'. That's the industry.

    Gigi
     
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  15. jhocking

    jhocking

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    The Art of Game Design is definitely a good one. In fact, Jesse Schell wrote the foreword for my book Unity in Action (which btw is a good one to check out to learn how to *program* your game designs.)
     
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  16. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    @Gigiwoo brings up a good point. A wise man once said (paraphrased) "Resist the urge to talk about your development progress. Doing so satisfies the part of your brain that wishes to see things completed, and consequently your drive to continue is lessened."

    We'll absolutely be supportive of you going through the tutorials, but keep pushing! Learn until your brain can't hold any more, and then learn some more! Not sure what the situation is with your first kid and how that'll play into the new one's arrival, but between being exhausted and up to your knees in diapers, it'll be easy to justify putting the games thing on hold until things calm down a bit. They'll never calm down, and all you'll do is get further from your dream.

    I pop in on the forums to break up the doldrums of my day job, but I also am guilty of reading/posting when I should be working on my game. Posting here satisfies the part of my brain that wants to feel like a game developer, and it's much easier than tackling learning 3D modeling like I need to be.

    Dig up some of that leftover military discipline (did you get issued that? I think they forgot to give me mine) and keep working!
     
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  17. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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  18. MikeTeavee

    MikeTeavee

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    Schneider21 said:
    This post, though possibly accurate, really shook me up today. Upon reading, I closed Unity and I spent my day sitting on the porch depressed and contemplating my future.
     
  19. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Not sure if sarcastic, or...

    For the record, my statement was not meant to be a deterrent from pursuing your dream of making games (as is indicated by the following paragraphs). Setting proper expectations is a great way to actually hit your target achievements. You don't need to be "in the industry" to make a great game. But starting with all skill levels at 0 and learning Unity is not going to get you a job at Ubisoft/EA/Bethsoft/etc., is what I was trying to convey.
     
  20. MikeTeavee

    MikeTeavee

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    No sarcasm, I was legitimately unnerved.

    No disrespect or offense to you though, I think you're intelligent and your point is valid. Who knows what the future will bring though. Maybe FF_Ninja will land a job at Bethesda and we'll both eat our words.
     
  21. Schneider21

    Schneider21

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    Absolutely, that's possible! And it's also possible Natalie Portman will have tracked down my contact information via my website and ask me to leave my wife for her via text. :p

    Again, my statement isn't intended to deflate or discourage. The intent is to focus people on where their attention should be. When starting from zero, the thought shouldn't be "how do I get a job making games?". It should be "how do I learn how to make games?" and go from there.

    Define what success means to you, not just "be a game developer by having a job title of 'game developer' for a game development studio."