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Problems with advice for beginners (Forums : General Banter : Problems with advice for beginners) Locked
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iQew
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Dec 10 2012, 1:28pm Anchor

Hey guys,

I was browsing the game idea section and scanned through a few ideas, read through a few completely here and there and also had a look at the feedback those guys and girls got. What I often found was that many people do give feedback, which is a great thing, but the content of what was being said was often somewhat critical. First of all, I'm nowhere near being a professional game developer nor will I probably ever be, but in the past 5 years I made the other experience or two with game development.

I think the most frequently given advice is "Think about your game idea/mechanics again, because it's not original/unique enough."

That's definitely easy to say, but does it really apply in the real world? What's often said indirectly or even directly is that a game idea, which has no unique features (in whatever way it might be), is not going to be successful, as it's too boring. I think that's definitely not true, there are a few games that got awards for being the best games or most innovative games and so on, but those are only the BEST games. Those games definitely had at least one thing that was innovative, unique and never been done in that way before, but does it make sense to turn that notice into advice for beginners?

The advice given in guides, forums and tutorials often don't really fit together. If you'd really do what everyone is telling you, then you would have to start out small, but not too small, because otherwise nobody is going to like your game and you should only concentrate on the most important features at first, but you have to keep the full game in mind already so that you can write a proper GDD, which is a must by the way, because nobody is going to join your team, if they hear that you don't have written a 20 page GDD and while you do that, you better have in-game material ready soon, because nobody is going to believe in your game idea, if you only post concept art and music and story.

I see that many starters are overwhelmed by the expectations they have to fulfill before they even have the slighest chance of getting noticed. And, the worst of all is that, if you're trying to become the leader of the team then you have to be multi-talented, because you need to understand what the programmer is doing, what the PR manager is doing, what the concept guys are doing, what the level designers are doing and what the 3D guys are doing.

In my opinion, most advice given is usually an extreme version of what really is needed. Yes, the industry is a tough place and it's definitely not easy to become a game developer one day and it's even harder if you want to become it right away just after your first game title. But, most of the beginners around here (myself included) are "just" trying to create something that does not totally suck.

Most of the over ambitious ideas are created, because everyone tells you that you have to create an super awesome game and after a week or two while being in development they realize that it's too much work and they can't handle it. The motivation level and the will to work is often there, but it gets destroyed, if everyone tells the leaders to be a) skilled in multiple areas b) have the greatest game idea of all time.

This thread is supposed to be a motivation for everyone, who isn't sure, whether he's on the right path or not and everyone who struggles or does not have the courage to start an own project. My advice is to start small, really small, ... even smaller. You do not need a fully developed plan to start a project, nor do you need any unique features. The only thing that is a requirement for any project in the world, whether it's game development or anything else: stick to it and finish it. Every minute invested in working for a project makes you better at what you do and is also an investment for the next project. The longer you stick to it, the better your projects are going to become. Start small, finish it (don't start a new project before you have finished the easier one) and then continue.

Requirement for a game project: Sticking with the project

Every project is going to get realized, if you stick with it and invest time on it. It's pretty straightforward in my eyes.

Best wishes
Kjell

Edited by: iQew

Dec 10 2012, 2:41pm Anchor

I'm going to have to agree with you. On everything. While I've never seen the conflicting statements that you're talking about, but I don't spend much time here on the forums nor anywhere else really.

Whenever I've given out advice, I've always said to start with a design document, which doesn't have to be 20 pages long, or even perfect, but has to state specifically what you want to do, and how you plan to go about it. Making a game is a process, and it's usually easier to build a house (game) when you lay it out on paper first (GDD). Or at least that's my approach to it, and is the angle from which I give advice.

Advice like the quote is the worst kind. Neither positive nor helpful. I don't know about anyone else, but I think the human race is pretty much sucked dry of original ideas by now. The only thing left to do is to try to use old ideas in new and novel ways. Someone who doesn't understand something that fundamental in this industry has no business giving advice to newcomers, let alone being developers themselves.

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iQew
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Dec 10 2012, 6:40pm Anchor
TerranAmbassador wrote:I'm going to have to agree with you. On everything. While I've never seen the conflicting statements that you're talking about, but I don't spend much time here on the forums nor anywhere else really.

Whenever I've given out advice, I've always said to start with a design document, which doesn't have to be 20 pages long, or even perfect, but has to state specifically what you want to do, and how you plan to go about it. Making a game is a process, and it's usually easier to build a house (game) when you lay it out on paper first (GDD). Or at least that's my approach to it, and is the angle from which I give advice.

Advice like the quote is the worst kind. Neither positive nor helpful. I don't know about anyone else, but I think the human race is pretty much sucked dry of original ideas by now. The only thing left to do is to try to use old ideas in new and novel ways. Someone who doesn't understand something that fundamental in this industry has no business giving advice to newcomers, let alone being developers themselves.


For a beginner, I wouldn't even call it a GDD, as the planned game/project can be written down on one single page. I'm radical on this, practice is way more important than theory is. In my eyes, it's better to fool around without even a plan at hand and no idea what you're doing for let's say a month than developing an A+ GDD without realizing the plans afterwards.

Dec 10 2012, 11:30pm Anchor

I think it's a bad idea in general to encourage a true beginner (as in no experience with any tools or making a game) to create a project for the world to see at all. The pressure from anticipated criticism is usually a huge block for a lot of aspiring developers who fall into this rut, who feel their first project should be good enough to sell copies and share with the gaming realm. Unless they're working with a more experienced developer, this likely isn't going to be the case.

I've seen a lot of aspiring game designers focus more on how they're going to sell the game rather than on how they're going to make it. I think beginners who are chasing after a game designing career should start small. It isn't about being noticed, it's about making your first game, regardless if it's a piece of crap no one wants to buy. It's about giving yourself the game design experience, without the pressure of the outside world. After a few of these projects, after you feel comfortable, then go out and create a game for players everywhere--heck, turn one of your smaller pre-projects into a whole game! But before you start developing for an audience, you should at least learn some game design tools.

This isn't to say your first game project will fail, or that it won't be good enough to release; but if you're just starting out you'll have much more fun if you aren't worrying about making it unique enough or fun enough or sell-able. Your first design experience should be about making a game.

Dec 11 2012, 1:07pm Anchor

I'm not a professional either, and generally don't comment or give advice on specific designs.

However, at times, I think cynicism is justified. Partly because there are many yes men, which makes it hard to get feedback on an idea. But the main reason for critical advice when I give it is because I see the same things happen over and over again.

You know, a teenager will post this idea for a MMO RPG RTS FPS with a million guns, bullet time, epic sound track, and a 50 hour story driven single player campaign about a bad arse hero who does a bunch of bad arse cliches. All they need is a modeller, a programmer, and a sound man. They will post some "concept art" that is little more than a doodle in a sketch book and maybe post a few 3D renders of a tank or whatever. A month or 2 later, they will return all angry at everyone's lack of vision, and if only "those fools" would have helped him out, it would have been the greatest game ever.

I'm even reluctent to call them games, as they are more fanfics with a vague idea of a genre.

This is why almost every Stargate, Star Trek, Star Wars and Starfox mod never gets released, and pointing that out gets a mouth full of indignation about how "this will be different".

iQew
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Dec 11 2012, 1:41pm Anchor

SabreXT wrote:I'm not a professional either, and generally don't comment or give advice on specific designs.

However, at times, I think cynicism is justified. Partly because there are many yes men, which makes it hard to get feedback on an idea. But the main reason for critical advice when I give it is because I see the same things happen over and over again.

If you don't get precise feedback, then you'll have to ask more specific questions. What things do you see happening over and over again exactly?

SabreXT wrote:
You know, a teenager will post this idea for a MMO RPG RTS FPS with a million guns, bullet time, epic sound track, and a 50 hour story driven single player campaign about a bad arse hero who does a bunch of bad arse cliches. All they need is a modeller, a programmer, and a sound man. They will post some "concept art" that is little more than a doodle in a sketch book and maybe post a few 3D renders of a tank or whatever.

A month or 2 later, they will return all angry at everyone's lack of vision, and if only "those fools" would have helped him out, it would have been the greatest game ever.



Is that what you are trying to stop, because it's happening over and over again? If yes, why?

SabreXT wrote:
I'm even reluctent to call them games, as they are more fanfics with a vague idea of a genre.

This is why almost every Stargate, Star Trek, Star Wars and Starfox mod never gets released, and pointing that out gets a mouth full of indignation about how "this will be different".


I would call those game ideas, nothing more and nothing less. I don't see a difference in the development of a mod/game based on an existing game/movie or an original mod/game, the difficulty to release that project remains the same.

Best wishes
Kjell

Dec 11 2012, 2:50pm Anchor

You are missing the forest for the trees. It's not those games specifically. It's that these people, usually teenagers, with no experience will have this grand idea so huge that it dwarfs AAA ideas like Halo. Ideas that have no chance of being made. Often, they don't want to hear it.

Yes, it's cynical, and in rare cases the game makes it (starcry) but otherwise these projects are doomed from the start. I remember years ago, saying how Shadows of Lylat had little chance. I was shouted down by fans and devs of the game, a few years later...

SoL wrote:"It is our regret to the fans that this mod has pretty much ceased all activity.

No real work has been done for ages sadly. We've tried multiple times to find ways to revive ourselves with focused goals and new ideas. Unfortunately, they didn't take and we were just right back where we were before.

As well we've moved on with life. Finding jobs, going to school, other fun things in life. Those things didn't help matters for the mod, but they couldn't really be helped.

So that's it. The mod is dead! It was fun while it lasted. "


Taking a cynical view is fine in these cases because, 99% of the time, it's correct. It makes sense to get them to give up on their dream and try and make something that has a reasonable chance rather than waste months or years on a dead project that will leave them bitter, angry, and will mean they will never make a game.

iQew
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Dec 11 2012, 3:33pm Anchor
SabreXT wrote:You are missing the forest for the trees. It's not those games specifically. It's that these people, usually teenagers, with no experience will have this grand idea so huge that it dwarfs AAA ideas like Halo. Ideas that have no chance of being made. Often, they don't want to hear it.

[...]

Taking a cynical view is fine in these cases because, 99% of the time, it's correct. It makes sense to get them to give up on their dream and try and make something that has a reasonable chance rather than waste months or years on a dead project that will leave them bitter, angry, and will mean they will never make a game.


I don't understand what the problem with teenagers and them wanting to realize unrealistic goals is. You seem to be quite annoyed by it, why is that? Why do you make it part of your business?

Dec 11 2012, 5:50pm Anchor

What do you mean? I'm not annoyed by it. At most, I roll my eyes and move on. More to the point, they don't want to realise unrealistic goals, they are TRYING to realise unrealistic goals. As such, they fail.

Dec 11 2012, 11:08pm Anchor

The problem is that they set these unrealistic goals, and then fail, get called out on it, find out that this game development thing isn't anywhere as easy as they thought, or some combination of the 3, and they quit.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to make an MMO or a AAA mod or whatever. But as a first game? With no prior experience? Not likely. Either they need to start small and build up or find a job/internship/whatever with someone trying to do something similar, preferably someone who's already done it.

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iQew
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Dec 12 2012, 5:00am Anchor

There's nothing wrong with telling beginners to set their goals low or to hint people at being too ambitious. Where I see a problem though is, if people turn people down, because their idea isn't original enough. I'm not sure where this approach is coming from, mods and indie games do not have to be 110% original and unique in order to be successful, but it seems like that's a common belief around the forums. I think that it's a shame when people are trying to force creativity into their previous solid idea.

Best wishes

Edited by: iQew

Dec 12 2012, 3:53pm Anchor

There's unoriginal, and there's making a clone. All too often I've seen half-baked ideas for a minecraft clone with X gimmick tacked on. And all too often, they're being being cooked up by first time developers.

It's wrong to veto something because it's not 110% original, that I'll agree with. But some things really do need to be beat back for literally trying to be another game.

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Dec 12 2012, 5:59pm Anchor

I agree with pretty much everyone here. It's tough enough to make a playable game without having to worry about trying to do something that no one else has done before in a game. I'll even take it a step further and say that there's too much emphasis on innovation and uniqueness in games in general, beginner, indie, or AAA. Every game is trying to bring something new, and then something else new, and then something else even newer. I think there comes a point where all these stacked innovations actually detract from the gameplay. I'd rather see a game really nail some core gameplay than be based around some convoluted mechanic just for sake of being able to claim innovation.

TerranAmbassador wrote:There's unoriginal, and there's making a clone. All too often I've seen half-baked ideas for a minecraft clone with X gimmick tacked on. And all too often, they're being being cooked up by first time developers.

It's wrong to veto something because it's not 110% original, that I'll agree with. But some things really do need to be beat back for literally trying to be another game.


I was about to make this point. There's a difference between saying, "I want to make a simple 2D platformer" and saying, "I want to make a platformer where the player controls an Italian guy who collects coins and can power-up to grow bigger and shoot fireballs. The object of the game is to find the princess. It may sound like Super Mario, but it's not because my character is a BAKER, not a plumber." That kind of game idea totally deserves the unoriginal stamp, and a que to take it back to the whiteboard.

Dec 12 2012, 8:19pm Anchor

Speaking of problems with advice for beginners, I'm a beginner myself and when I posted a thread asking for advice I got 2 votes, 1 saying it was a good idea and 1 saying that it wasn't but neither one explaining any reasons.
I understand it isn't perfect, thats why I asked for advice, but a simple "its no good" is not very helpful... >.<

Indiedb.com

iQew
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Dec 13 2012, 2:32am Anchor
Cadh20000 wrote:Speaking of problems with advice for beginners, I'm a beginner myself and when I posted a thread asking for advice I got 2 votes, 1 saying it was a good idea and 1 saying that it wasn't but neither one explaining any reasons.
I understand it isn't perfect, thats why I asked for advice, but a simple "its no good" is not very helpful... >.<

Indiedb.com


As I said earlier, you usually can't blame the community for not getting feedback. You are asking for a favor so you should make it as easy for the others as possible to answer to your thread. If you want precise feedback for a part of your idea, you'll have to ask more specific questions. If there's only a poll saying "good idea" vs. "bad idea", you can't be surprised that people just vote and leave again, if they reply at all.

Best wishes

Osc
Osc
Dec 13 2012, 8:01am Anchor

I think your'e right every project meritate to exists, if the creator don't have time or don't want to complete it, it just will die naturally. And today there is more than one way to bring a videogame to life :D

Dec 13 2012, 10:29am Anchor

The problem isn't the feedback, neither is the advice. Me myself am a beginner and are just getting into game development in my off-time, simultaneously studying a CS degree.
Advice will not take the novice anywhere. I've searched for it everywhere, and have gotten some pretty awesome responses, even from this site, but that wasn't the issue.
Feedback is neither, because most of the times the novice won't even have something to get feedback from. An idea is simply that, an idea. No execution? It will only exist for someone else with the right way to execute it.
The real issue is development itself. In no way it looks like anything a beginner (even someone who's spent already a year or so programming) might have programmed before. Developing a game, even if simple, is the real deal.

It's not that they don't know how to code, or how to make great artwork or music, etc. It's how to work. It doesn't matter how many tutorials you read about how to use this and that in whatever graphical engine made for game-making, it still wont solve a thing.
Newbies need something else, they need to hit the road and slam into a wall, get a rock thrown at their head, and kicked in the nuts while still on the floor. And I don't mean literally.

We haven't been introduced to a development stand-point, and we don't have the perspective to know what to do, so we'll do whatever we can find (tutorials, for example). Big projects will fail, because there's no tutorial to an idea, and there's no precise cookbook for how to think. It's something that you get used to by... actually thinking.

So, if a newbie comes asking me for advice, the only thing I can tell him is that his idea is stupid; not because it's not a great idea, but because it's one he can't materialize because he doesn't know what's going on behind the scenes.

After a couple of years of being a complete and utter noob (and not because I don't have good advice, or a good idea) I have come to the conclusion that I needed to make an old-school RPG. Text based. Written input. Nothing more, nothing less. It has everything I need: programming challenges, design, workflow, teamwork (because we're a team of 3). But most of all, there's the one single thing I need: getting the job done by doing the job. First hand experience.

IMO, kill the novice's expectations because the bigger they are, the bigger the fall, and worse is recuperation, if any. Also, whatever game you try to make, it has to be completely unoriginal. It will not be a hit, it will not be paid for to play, it will be nothing. Enjoy making it, that's why you're trying to get into it.

Dec 21 2012, 4:17pm Anchor

I have to second n1v3k, there's really only so much that tutorials and getting feedback for every little step might do for you as a developer. I find that game development is a threefold challenge—refining your skills, applying your knowledge to solve problems without creating too many new ones, and networking with people who already have two feet in the door.

What a lot of this seems to boil down to is waiting for the right time. The right time to start working on a project, the right time to start getting the word out, and the right time to stop looking at tutorials and applying what you've learned. It's a big cycle, though; your skills dramatically improve as you work on your project, and getting the word and demos out might attract some good attention to your project or at least point out mechanical flaws that will test your skills as you try to repair them, thus honing your skills further and creating a better project, which attracts more attention, and so on.

Even professionals are constantly learning new things by getting their hands dirty and solving problems they've never even encountered before. Newbie advice should be more geared to generating more skilled developers that can materialize ideas, not on trying to make their ideas the best in the world.

Dec 28 2012, 10:56am Anchor

Man dude, nice rant I can tell you took time to get your ideas out.

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