Robert Tamayo


How Hard is it to Make Video Games?

I taught myself Java while making a mobile video game for Android called Bad Blaster.

The game is a very simple 2D platformer. I drew everything, coded everything, and made all the music. I released it in 2014. It has 2 playable characters and 41 levels across 3 different worlds, each with 3 different sections. Here is what I learned about how hard it is to make a video game:

1. Programming: The key is performance

A key part of video game programming is a consideration for performance. I could easily decide how to use code to manage various projectiles and enemy positions, but I had to learn how to do it efficiently. There are supposed to be 30 frames per second in this game. In each second, the game will need to update all physics, redraw everything on the screen, and update the states of the player and all enemies and their various timers and attack states, and it has to do that 30 times. I still program with a heavy consideration for performance. For those curious, I used a framework called LibGDX to make this game.

2. Art: Drawing everything will take up the most of your time, especially animation

If there was one thing I learned, it was that making all of the art takes up an enormous amount of time, and I wasn't drawing anything complex:

That scene has some background buildings, a tile, a character, and 3 types of enemies. The character has to be animated for running, jumping, getting hit, and anything else you want him to do. The same goes for the enemy animations. I did my best to fit as many different styles of enemies into the game, but the end result was that I knew that the art was something I should leave to other people. It simply takes too much time to create.

3. Music and Sound: Fun but very difficult to get the mixing right

Writing songs is the easy part. The difficulty is in mixing and recording electronic music so that it sounds professional. I used Ableton Live Intro for the music, and so I had a limited set of instruments to use for recording. I had never recorded music before, so I greatly underestimated the amount of effort that goes into producing music. Writing songs is fun. The hard part is mixing the levels and getting it ready for release into the wild. The audio for the sound effects also came out too loud, and I could have done better.

In Summary

Making video games is a very time-consuming task. I'm just one person, and this game took 3 months to make, during which time I worked on it full time. It is very rewarding to make video games, but the workload it presented made me understand why solo indie developers take several years to make games, and even then they hire out some of the work to other people.

I have a lot to talk about regarding video game development, and since I'm getting back into it and making a brand new game this year, I will be bringing up more of it on the blog.
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