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Yesterday, I did something for the first time since I was 13

By on August 20, 2013
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I fired up GameMaker and started to make a game.

Actually, that’s a bit of an overstatement. I’m older now, and realise the value of following tutorials to save time later, so I’m just following the initial tutorial to create a simple game in GameMaker.


I can write pretty passable HTML and CSS. My knowledge of PHP is limited. I still don’t understand arrays. Object Oriented Code sounds clever to me. That last game I wrote was nearly 30 years ago (it was a simulation of a gold mine on the Spectrum. It would fit a free-to-play design well, now I think about it).

I’m not expecting to release anything for a long while, if ever. But I am spending more of my time on game design these days. My focus is designing the long-term game: the retention loops that add fun and longevity to the game without which a F2P game can’t thrive. I want to get my hands dirtier with the core elements of game making.

I don’t expect to be a coder. I expect to work with people who are more talented, more practiced and more focused than me. I do expect to understand the building blocks of their job. It’s why I hand-coded the whole of by hand, but am now working with an external designer to redo it, probably in WordPress. It is crazy to build a website by hand but, by crikey, does it teach you a lot about the process.

Now that I understand the process, I am much better at commissioning websites and advising people on how to improve them. That’s why I fired up GameMaker yesterday.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve:
  • JC Haswell

    Sure, I’d be happy to share . I’ll shoot you an email to discuss.

  • That’s really interesting feedback, and I love the idea of Just in time learning.

    Would you be interested in writing a guest post in how to marry the commercial with the dev to make a strong business?

  • JC Haswell

    Hi Nicholas,

    This sounds very similar to my thought process when I decided to finally start making games. Like you, I knew I had no intention of being a lead developer / CTO. I am a business guy / journeyman designer. But I wanted to further my basic technical knowledge so that I wasn’t completely in the dark when it came to programming.

    I got into both Unity and GameMaker and spent a lot of time doing tutorials and making little minigames. However, in the end, this didn’t really teach me much that I think has had any lasting value. Much more valuable to me was taking Stanford’s online intro to programming course using java, which culminated with building brickbreaker from scratch (yay!). Though honestly, I’m not even sure that has been, or will be, very useful to me in running my company.

    We’ve launched several games on iOS now and I have yet to really find my lack of programming expertise a major hurdle. Of course you have to have a great lead dev to complement your skill set, but given that, to me it’s not worth my time.
    One caveat though – there have been plenty of times when we have a specific technical problem and I’ve done research myself (google, stackoverflow, etc) to try and understand the issue better when discussing with my team. It’s “just in time” learning instead of “just in case” learning (I think I got that from Tim Ferris).

    Just my 2 cents…

    Sizzle Entertainment

  • Sik

    What are you gonna do, recreate that gold mine simulator now? 😛 (how well does Game Maker lend itself to making F2P games? though it could be used to make a quick prototype and test the gameplay I guess)

    The problem with arrays is that their quirks change depending on the language 😛 But the gist of them is that they’re just a dumb list of values, e.g. in an array called blah, blah[0] would be the first value, blah[1] the second, blah[2] the third, etc. Not much of a mystery really. Adding items and such is where things differ depending on what you’re using :/ (I don’t remember what GML did)

    And if you think making a page by hand is ridiculous: I did it for my game’s site. I was gonna make a script and such (don’t tell me about 3rd party stuff, the HTML atrocities they tend to make really put me off), but I couldn’t settle on how it should work, so I ended up ditching the idea and going with what worked quickly (and if something needs to be automated later, then I’ll do that whenever I need it). Though GamesBrief was indeed quite complex even back then, I’d have expected at least some automation (even if just “grab a bunch of HTML pieces and put them together”, which can get you quite far actually).