Teaching myself game design from the ground up.

Month: May, 2013

To School or Not To School

Before I realized that I wanted to make video games, I had a pretty rough time in the world of academia.  I was an English major, with aspirations to “get paid and travel” but no aspirations to write travel guides.  Or really, to write anything for the public eye.  Or to publish.  But I was raised to believe in academia, either for a career or for an education or for some fulfillment, so after my degree I moved to NYC for graduate school for writing.  I hated it.  Everything was basic, obvious, and dumb and as a result my writing suffered.  I’d spent my whole life studying writing, and it came down to: read a lot, write a lot.  I dropped out after the first term.  

I owe 80k in loans for my BA, term in grad school, and a semester I spent at NYU for shits ‘n giggles.  I didn’t know anything about loans, my parents took them out in my name and said it was fine.  I really wish I had been more involved and less delusional and I really wished I had taken my time instead of rushing into more school.  But I can’t change the past.

Now I’ve been accepted to a really expensive graduate program for game design.  I’ve been offered a little money (under 1/10th of the cost) and the over all program will double my debt.  Owing more money than I’ve ever seen is terrifying.  But also, I’ve been learning a lot on my own.  I’ve been excited about what I learn, and I’m taking on great projects.  Do I need grad school?  The average game design job is a) scarce and b) pays less than the tuition of the program.  

My pro’s and con’s lists are all over the place.  If I go to this school I accept that it will be my life for the next two years, I will probably couch surf to avoid rent, it will leave me in insane debt and might lead to a job or friends or community or mentors or projects or something.  If I stay put, I already have a great community, friends, projects, and insane debt.  There are so many ways to learn without a degree, MIT is offering more and more online game classes.  The information is out there, and I’ve been good about going out and exploring this dream.  I left NYC originally to come back and learn all I could about gaming so I could move back to NYC with a plan, and it’s all coming together but I can’t tell if that’s what I want anymore.


Mission Accomplished


Tada!  Sorry I need a real post where I upload the process and things, but here’s the catch: I didn’t really measure anything, I don’t really know how to work with power tools, I used a turbo mouse instead of a joystick so I can’t give wiring advice, and I made the game using Construct 2 so I can’t offer great coding knowledge.  


Regardless!  Here are my experiences:

1. Supplies/Cost.  I got a bunch of used wood for cheap (7$ total for all of the wood used).  I got tools for free at the local Tool Library.  I got plexiglass from a friend.  The turbo mouse from Free Geek (5$).  The biggest expense was Construct 2 (they have a free version but my game needed more lines of code so I had to bust out 120$ for a license.  I better use this program a lot more.  It is way nicer than game maker so I’m ok with that.)  The rubber around the edges is an old bike tube (free from a bike store’s recycle pile).  Paint was roughly 15$ from a recycled paint store and a recycled art supply store (Metro Paint and SCRAP).  The computer I got for free was full of malware and wouldn’t work in the time limit I had so I ran it off of my mac.  My biggest cost was on things I didn’t use or misc hardware stuff (brackets, screws, duct tape, joysticks that didn’t work, buttons that didn’t work, wrong wires, etc).

2. The game itself is available to play here It is still sooo buggy but playable and the collisions are handled so much better than the version I made in gamemaker.  When I play I just see everything I want to work on/add so it’s hard to talk about the process of getting this far.  I see it as a really solid draft.  I want to learn more about user interface because watching people use the instructions/etc was really… educational.  In the future I want to spend more attention to music, faster learning curve, UI, and I want to add more elements like wingmen.

3. OMSI After Dark.  This arcade was made in 3 weeks for this event, I was an hour late (finding a mouse that would work with the control system, working to the last minute!), and I was still reprogramming on the show floor the game to work with a mouse (the gamejolt link uses keyboards).  Once the game was functioning enough, I got to finally step back and watch people play.  THIS WAS THE HARDEST PART.  It is so hard to watch people play my buggy game! I wanted to apologize or explain every bug that occurred or explain that you don’t need to click the mouse to get a drink, just roll the wheel, etc.  It was also sooo rewarding.  Everyone smiled and laughed and the humor that started the game resurfaced.  I was so nervous I had to stop watching people play closely and went around to enjoy the rest of the gaming OMSI After Dark (which had amazing, way more professional games).  So inspiring!


Next Step:  Sometime in August is the Gaymer Con, gay gaming convention.  I contacted them and asked if I could bring Queertas for folks to play and they said yes!  Now I just need to do a hundred things (fix bugs, stabilize game, get malware off that computer, paint it better, etcetcetc) but I have months to plan instead of three weeks 😀 😀


I’ll throw more photos up soon!