I’m fascinated about making games. Not just for the shiny end result, I’m talking the twisting roller coaster, one-step-forward-and-seventeen-to-the-side-with-backflip journey of making them.
One thing I often ask myself is “Pete, did you take the bins out last night” and “Pete, why does making a game take so incredibly long?”
They do, trust me. This is coming from the guy who has been kicking around the industry for 13 years and thought he was experienced enough to know what it would take just to make a simple demo and was, surprise surprise, wrong.
So what gives?
Let’s instead get up from the computer and take a walk to your kitchen. When we get there I, a professional human, reorder your cutlery drawer (because forks should go on that side) and also say…
Let’s bake a cake.
“Sounds good!” You say, “Oh look, I already found a recipe. I’ve got all the ingredients right here all measured out in little cooking show bowls. Lets’a get’a baking.”
Sounds good. It’s going to take a bit of time to make, but we know everything we need to do, and we’ve got everything we need to make it. My friend, we’re rolling. On the cake express.
Estimated time of arrival into cake town: an evening.
Now though, let’s use this tasty calorific analogy in the context of making a video game.
Let’s bake a cake.
Have you built a farm?
Huh? A farm? But we just need some flo-
Flour? Yes, but how do we get flour? Ok, so build the farm first and let’s get some grains growing. Hey, that’s looking cool. Not sure if the supports should be made from marzipan but it’ll do for now.
Now how do we grow grains? Can we just plant them any time of year? Hang on, I just need to read up on this…
Got it. They go in the ground, who’d have thought. Alright those grains are looking great! Jump in your metaphorical harvester and let’s get them to the mill.
Er…where did you hide the mill?
You mean you didn’t build that either? Sheesh. Ok, look never mind, I got a cheap one off the Asset Store which hasn’t been updated for 6 years. It’ll do.
Hey we’ve got flour! One step closer to cake town. Lovely soft plain flo-
Well, we can give it a go… No. Yeah, nah, that’s a health risk. This won’t work with plain flour. We need some of that fancy self-raising stuff. At least that’s what I think the recipe says, half of it is all smudged out. We’ll just have to try and figure it out as we go along.
Wait, did you hear that?
Sounded like a farm built on marzipan foundations collapsing. Grah! Ok, we can
refactor rebuild this better than before.
Also, do cakes need eggs?
And so on.
Estimated time of arrival into cake town: a few years.
Do you see the difference? Between being able to just make something, versus, needing to figure out how to make something?
Game development is slow because so much time is spent learning how the game should be made, and what it needs to be made.
That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what game development 99% of the time is.
It’s true through all the technical development and all the way through the gameplay design. It can be as big as “Oh, I need to learn how to use this program” to “you know I’ve built this level but it just isn’t feeling as fun as the others. It needs to be redone from scratch”.
It’s all learning, and that takes a lot of time.
So next time you start to feel bad about how long your project is taking give yourself a break. Games take a long time to just figure out.
And remember, in the classic words of Walt Disney’s 1953 Peter Pan, the path of making games is the second star to the right, one-step-forward-and-seventeen-to-the-side-with-backflip.
The end.Pete Brisbourne, 2020