Jordon McClain, also known as Jdawgg or Superstar McClain, is the President of a small indie game company called Steel Cyclone Studios. Currently Jordon is in school and is teaching himself Game Art, Design and Development on the side. Jordon is currently working on the Cyclone Game Engine which is a 2D/3D game engine created entirely from scratch built upon the XNA Framework. Jordon's ultimate aim is to make it into the videogame industry and join the greats of videogame designers. In the meantime, Jordon is trying to hone his skills and learn as much as possible about this wonderful and constantly evolving industry. WARNING!: Mr. McClain is insane in the brain! :-D
I am asked so often, "Hey Jordon, I have a Great Idea for a
video game... it's like this game completely combined with another videogame. How
do I sell it and get it made?" Anybody can say it's like Gears of War
mixed with Borderlands 2. This is a growing problem and the first statement is
not really an idea. Statements like these are too broad and sound like you're
completely ripping off both games. For anyone wanting to truly be a game
designer, put some actual thought and time behind your ideas. Even if your idea
is similar to another game's feature, talk about the gameplay behind it.
Instead of saying Gears of War mixed with Final Fantasy so that it doesn't
sound like you are completely ripping off both games, say something like it's a
game with a unique cover system that takes place within an alternate universe
of magic and technology. From there you can build and expand on that. You can
add that you were inspired by Gears of War and Final Fantasy, and that you are
taking a different route but be specific. There is nothing wrong with using
games as a reference.
Sadly, that's the way it's usually asked, as though it was all just
one question. But in fact it is actually two explicit questions:
1. How do I
sell my game idea?
2. How do I get
my idea made into a finished game?
The short answers are:
1. You can't sell it
(nobody pays money for game ideas from industry outsiders). Which is why I
stress so much to write it down, then get more ideas and write those down. If
you don't write them down, they definitely will never get made. But if you do write them down, and they're
good, it's possible you can get a job in the game business!
2. You probably won't get your
idea made into a finished game... unless you get into the industry. If you
haven't yet graduated college (and you are still young), then get a college
degree and go into the game business as a career. Like me unfortunately, you
might have to make the game yourself, but hey - once you're an industry pro,
you'll know how!
And of course, those short answers lead to many more questions:
3. How do I get
into the game biz?
4. How do I
write a game design?
5. How do I
make a game myself?
6. How do I
sell my completed game?
So, I doubt that you are all that satisfied with the short answers
given above. So read on - you are now entering into... the long answers.
1. NOBODY WILL BUY A GAME IDEA
I don't know why so many people think that game ideas are a
sellable commodity. Have you ever heard of an industry outsider selling a game
idea? I haven't! Although I haven't been in the game business long enough myself, I
have heard this from actual developers in person.
Finished games, now, that's an entirely different matter! A game idea may not be a sellable commodity, but a finished game is. Lots of
guys have made their ideas into finished games - and those you can get
But first you'll have to be in ... guess which industry? That's right! The industry of making video games!
WILL BUY YOUR GAME IDEA
The game biz is first and foremost... a business. And business is
all about managing risks.
It would be bad business policy to give a million bucks to every
guy off the street who walks in with an idea. After all, what guarantee does
the game company have that their money will be well spent?
They want to see a finished game. Or at least to know, if the game
is not yet finished, that the presenter (the guy pitching the game idea) is
capable of taking it all the way -- of making it into a finished game. And that
the presenter will proceed in a professional manner (a manner that takes the
realities of the industry into account).
Everybody in the game business has ideas for games - and there
isn't enough time or money to make them all. So on the one hand they have a lot
of free ideas already sitting there not being made, and on the other hand
there's this idea that comes in over the transom, for which they would have to
pay royalties. It's not
hard to see why they'd be reluctant to pay for ideas from outside. Especially
when the submitter does not have industry experience.
WILL MAKE YOUR GAME FOR YOU
I assume that you are thinking mainly about console games.
PlayStation games, Wii U games, Xbox games, games. Or
commercial-quality PC games. There are lots of folks who make their own little
PC games, but that's an entirely different endeavor than a console game or
commercial-quality PC game.
Commercial-quality games are hugely expensive to make. You can
read about budgets and schedules in game magazines, especially developer-oriented
magazines. It may cost a million, or two million dollars, or even more, to make
a commercial-quality game like Mass Effect and Skyrim. It takes teams of dozens of people a year or two, working nonstop,
to make a commercial-quality game.
While all those people are making your game idea, they can't work
on their own ideas. Everyone in the industry (the programmers, artists,
designers, producers, marketing managers, sales managers, and corporate
executives) has more ideas than time to work on them all. Ideas are a dime a
dozen (and that's probably an inflated value!). I have
several ideas myself, and get more all the time but I am working on the smaller
game ideas now and saving the bigger games for later. But because normally it
takes so long and costs so much to make one game, it just isn't possible to
make them all. So when an outsider comes to a game company with an idea, do you
really think all the pros should just drop their own ideas and make that idea instead?
The making of games is a business. And business is all about
making a profit. There are always risks
in making any game - nobody can predict whether an idea will succeed in the
marketplace. It's all about managing
risks. And industry pros are a
better risk than outsiders and wannabes. When a major game title fails, that
company loses a lot of money because they paid their artists, programmers and
designers so much money to begin with just to create the game.
If you truly want to be a game designer, you have to make sure your ideas are
also realistic enough for your team to develop and is within their skills. More
than 90% of game startup companies fail because they lacked resources, people
with the necessary skills, time and money. They also failed because they
started out trying to make what I hear so often to create "the next big
thing" which is beyond their skills.
3. GETTING INTO THE INDUSTRY
It's not hard to get into the game industry if you have the
appropriate education, abilities, and attitude.
For starters, get a college degree. There are also a lot of things
you can do at home to build a design portfolio and to flesh out your resume
(assuming that your college studies and youth have thus far prevented you from
getting professional experience to fill your resume):
· Play a lot of games (haha most of us do this).
· Discuss their strengths and weaknesses with other gamers on
bulletin boards and newsgroups.
· Host multi-player games (act as dungeon master or perform other
· Build levels for games that come with level-building tools (helps
stir creativity and understanding level design to make maps fun to play in.
Halo and Far Cry come with Map Editors.
· Volunteer for beta testing
· Write and draw!
o Write about whatever interests you. Anything that inspires you to
work and create. You need to develop habits of working on projects, and
o In your writing, develop good writing habits - use punctuation
marks, complete sentences, and the shift key.
o Draw whatever interests you so you can polish art skills
o Write your own game design documents for your ideas
· Read whether its education books or books to entertain you
· Follow your interests! Read, write, research on the internet and
at the library. Get out there and do, participate.
You'll need to be a team player, a professional who works on projects
without letting his own ambitions get in the way of doing a game other than his
4. WRITING A GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT.
If you truly want to be a game designer, the first thing you ought
to do is describe your game idea in writing. Thank God, the bright side to this
is that there isn't one standard format -- every game design document looks
different. It needs to be well written, with good spelling, grammar,
punctuation, and with a coherent and well-organized outline. It needs to tell
what is special about your game (why your game will stand out from the other
games in the market). You have to know your market and target audience. The
Game Design Document needs to be told in a clear and informative manner -- you
need to understand the competition, and express that understanding in the
document. The document needs to describe your game's look, the tone, the
gameplay, the user interface, and go into excruciating detail on what the game
will be. The document needs to
be well illustrated.
With a game design document in hand, it's possible to go to the
next step (getting the game made). Without a design, the idea is just so many
electrons darting around in the synapses of your brain.
5. HOW TO MAKE A GAME
I can't tell you how to make a video game in this article. It
would take several books! But
basically, you have two ways to go: (a) DIY (Do It Yourself) or (b) get a
career in the game industry. I call these two paths "The Lone Wolf
Route" and "The Career Route."
a. The Lone Wolf Route - You're on your own if you want to DIY. Go
forth and teach yourself about programming and about management and business
and marketing. Read the postings at the game design newsgroups, the programming
newsgroups, the graphics and animation newsgroups, and go get a bunch of books.
Research. Learn. Create. Do it all, all by yourself.
b. The Career Route - My recommendation is that you begin by
working in the game industry for a few years before going it alone. Working at
game companies will not only teach you a lot about the process of making games,
it will also introduce you to a lot of game professionals who can help you
(with graphics, sound, programming, and even marketing).
Okay, let's skip ahead a few years. So you've written down your
game idea, and you went into games as a career. You met a lot of people in the
industry and came to appreciate the skills they bring to the picture. You learned all about making games, and either you've convinced
the bosses that your game is going to make everybody rich or you've gone off on
your own. You got the best programmers and artists you could, and together
you've made a game.
Or you went the Lone Wolf route, and made a game all by your
But now you have one little problem - your game doesn't have wide
enough distribution. You need a
6. SELL YOUR COMPLETED GAME
A publisher probably gets ten finished games to review for every
one game that they decide to publish. Or (another way of looking at it) a
developer probably has to take his finished game to ten publishers before he
finds one to publish it. And the finished game is, of course, the most likely
to succeed, compared to any other possible submission formats.
CONCLUSION - GET INTO THE BIZ!
Now we've come around full circle to where we were at the
beginning of this article. I don't want to discourage you from dreaming up game
ideas. But sending a concept around in hopes of getting something for it, or of
getting your game developed, will just lead to rejection and frustration. Sorry
for the "bait and switch" with my choice of title for this article.
But by now you should see that there's a better way to proceed after you've
written down your idea.
A portfolio of creative and well-written game designs could get
you a job in the game industry.
If you have a passion for designing games, and you are not yet in
the game industry, then I hope that you are planning to get into it. It will
require hard work, and you'll have to be patient and professional. But if you
want to make games, I don't see any way to do it except from the solid footing
of being an industry professional.
If you want to make games, then where else should you be, but in
the game industry?
Sure achievements are a great way to show off to your friends how good you are at games. However, there are more cheaters now than ever in games. Sure it’s OK to find Easter Eggs and some cheats that developers put in their games deliberately for fun but I’m not talking about that. For
example, in Rainbow Six Vegas, to get the 10 kills achievement, two of my friends set up a player match and each took turns setting up a player match and let each other kill each other 10 times. Don’t get me wrong, many people’s Gamerscores are legitimate, and you can’t fake beating Call of Duty 2 or 3 on Veteran difficulty. Nowadays more than ever, there are plenty of ways gamers up their Gamerscores more than ever. Achievements to me are simply a record of my accomplishments in games. Most of them I got unknowingly and yes sometimes I compete with my friends on unlocking achievements, but the real question is are some achievements really worth it? Your Gamerscore also depends on how manygames you have played or owned. It’s easy to brag about your Gamerscore being higher than somebody else’s when you have more games than they do. I don’t mean
a little amount, I mean a landslide.
I think the Xbox 360 achievement system is great. It has its pros and its cons. It’s great for single-player games. Achievements can also add hours to games in the RPG or Adventure genres, but that’s not my problem with Achievements. My problems with Achievements are in Multiplayer games. Now Gears of War is by far one of my most favorite games of all time, but there are so many achievement points to be gained from defeating opponents online with different weapons and in many different ways. I can’t stand getting points based on number of kills. Today, players are only getting better at killing in multiplayer games because the technology is so advanced now, that it’s capable of tracking your accuracy when you shoot and kill enemies. I've grown to not like multiplayer as much anymore today. Multiplayer games in my opinion are suppose to be about cooperation and teamwork, and having these sorts of objective like defeating opponents with different weapons and getting so many kills can break teams apart. I don’t know how many times I've been told not to pick up a certainweapon because a player was working on an Achievement, or being accused of stealing a kill when it was better for the team if I finish an enemy off. The bottom line is this: it’s achievements like this in games today that discourage teamwork and make the multiplayer experience nothing more than a number game. It’s even more disturbing today because gamers today playing these games are getting younger and younger every day. I don’t have too much of a problem with the age of the player as much as the individual themselves.
Instead of being rewarded for killing so many lives, why not be rewarded for saving and rescuing lives? Instead of the old 'run and gun', what if Achievements were also based on a matter of survival, making sacrifices, making choices, friendship, honor, and perseverance. I'll admit that Microsoft’s Achievement system isn't perfect, but it is impossible to deny that it is influencing the way we play games. Achievements need to have purpose, value and be worthwhile. I believe these types of achievements in games are will greatly help improve Microsoft’s Achievement system.
Recently in the past couple of weeks, I got the rights to my own business through the Commonwealth of Kentucky and formed Steel Cyclone Studios, LLC. I am now President of Steel Cyclone Studios and working hard on making my dream becoming a reality. Steel Cyclone Studios is a small independent studio focused on creating games, videos, and graphic novels/books. As of right now, my game engine is called the Cyclone Engine which is being created under Steel Cyclone Studios. The Cyclone Engine is 3D XNA game engine created entirely from scratch. To learn more about the Cyclone Engine and its development, visit my blog here.
My goal here at Steel Cyclone Studios is to break into the videogame industry and to build a team and eventually join the greats of videogame designers. In the meantime, I am trying to hone my skills and learn as much as possible. Thanks for reading and until next time.
Hello Everyone... My name is Jordon but many know me as Jdawgg. As my first blog, I thought I'd introduce myself a little bit. I am a student by day and a gamer by night. Haha, that is just a funny line I like to say about myself. I enjoy movies (mostly action and comedy), the beach and playing videogames. If you like video games, then check out my YouTube Channel at Youtube.com to see my work-in progress on my Game Engine I am creating in my spare time. I have a 30 sec video glimpse and a progress video up so far. More videos of my progress are soon to come. I have been working on this project in my spare time for a long time now and because I am teaching myself, it has truly been an amazing experience.
This is the beginning of a journey of courage and inner-strength as I try to break into the game industry. This journey I am embarking on lies a tough road ahead and along the way I will hit many bumps and make mistakes, but I am determined learn and grow from it all and keep on going. I am determined to become a Game Designer. I never thought I would have come as far as I have with this project on my own. I started this project in my parents basement when I was 17. I didn't have very many books and resources at the time, or a lot of support. It has always been my dream to become a Game Designer like many other game enthusiasts and some of you reading this. At the time, there were not a lot of game engines out to download as there are now and I had limited resources.
A lot of time goes into creating something like this and I still go back to the basics. I've realized you can't just rush into working in 3D; it takes time. I am still a beginner even now and there is no end to learning programming. There are so many different ways to code things to perform a certain task. We all have to start somwhere and even now I still go back to the basics becuase 3d is very complicating to work with. My goal is to get as far as I can on the game engine so that someday I can gather a team together create some unique games. I hope you enjoyed reading this and I look forward to posting more behind-the-scenes information about the game eninge.
You can help support the development of my game engine by watching videos of my progress on my YouTube Channel. I hope you dig it and thanks for reading.
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