Designing video games. It sounds like the dream job, doesn’t it? Sounds like the sort of job where you spend hours playing games and don’t do much else, right? Wrong. Being a game designer is hard work requiring knowledge of storytelling, design theory, art and programming. A basic skill you can use to determine if you’d enjoy game designing is to start by making modifications to existing games. Unreal Tournament, for example, has an editor you can use to create new levels with little programming knowledge. It does however, require some patience. You can’t assume that you’re going to sit down at any editor, Unreal or Warcraft 3 or even RPG maker, and churn out the next Defense of the Ancients. It doesn’t work that way. You have to put in the time and the effort, not just in creating your game but also in designing it before the actually development period begins.
Here’s the part that surprises most people. Did you know that in order to do the technical part of game development, you have to be just as good a programmer if not better than many CS majors out there? Games are high end on the technological scale, and extremely intensive on the hardware. Its up to you as the developer to make sure that your code is as efficient as humanly possible and make sure that everything is being done in the best possible way so that the maximum number of people can play your game. The more awesome your graphics are, the more important this becomes. The same goes for the intelligence of your NPCs.
So, you want to do art, do you? Do you know how to 3D model? How about rigging a model to animate it? So you want to do 2D games. Alright. How well can you draw? Do you know how to animate 2D? And you don’t even want to see the price tag on some of this software. But never fear! There are trial versions, student versions and freeware programs that you can use to learn the basics.
I think that everyone should try their hand at least once to designing a game, be it board, card or video. The basic idea of telling a story that other people can be a part of and of setting up puzzles and challenges is a very interesting mental exercise. Even if you just make a little game with squares of various colors moving around, or you set up the art without any code, but you know what you want the missing pieces to be, it is completely worth the time you put into it.