2023 Review + thoughts on game dev December 24, 2023 on Kenneth Dodrill's blog

Hi there, it’s been awhile. The last game I made was released almost two years ago. I was extremely burnt out and I just wanted to throw something out there to see what would stick. It certainly didn’t. I made my only paid-for game free last year which I think was a good idea. I got more people to play the game on Steam (and Itch probably) and have received a good amount of reviews (around 50). I enjoy seeing how people react to the games I make, even if it’s negative or critical.

I have still been working on some projects, but overall I feel pretty deflated as far as games go (playing and making). Making games is tough. Doing all the art and code is tough. Piecing together the entire experience can be exhausting and sometimes isn’t worth the effort. I only made $150 from my paid-for game, and I didn’t see any of that because of Steam’s $200 limit on payouts. I made around $30 from itch.

This year I directed my attention towards other aspects of my life. I spent much less time playing games and consuming content. I planted a garden and worked on my house. I have focused a lot more on my health, both mental and physical. I developed more opinions about games and how they are today versus when I was a kid. I still worked on game development, and will share more about that in another post later.

The market is saturated. Anyone can make games now. That’s not really a problem, right? Well…what happens when Unity, Unreal, and Godot are the only thing people use? You get the exact same results. You get 1st and 3rd person controllers that feel exactly the same. You get the same exact bugs from the same exact engine versions. The UI often looks similar. On a deeper level, you get generations of people who don’t necessarily know how to program games, but rather know how to use Unity to make something that looks good for their trailers. Then you get gamers who think that this is what gaming is.

I have purchased, played, and beaten a lot of games. For the past couple of years, before I buy a game I do research to see if a game uses Unity or not. Is the game developed with a custom engine or otherwise? I’m interested, I want to know how it feels. Is it made with Unity or Unreal? I’ll pass. I already know exactly how these games will look like or feel, so why bother? You may make the argument: you have played too many great games, so you’re comparing unfairly. Two responses: yes, of course I compare my previous experiences with new ones; how can you not? Second, if a game is developed to be similar to a certain game or genre, of course I will compare it with the best game in that niche.

When developing a game, you have to ask yourself: what amazing games will I be up against that are in this style and/or genre? Attempting to develop a 2D platformer puts you up against Mario. Enough said. Interested in Dark Souls and want to make something similar? There are a million other people who have done this.

I don’t say this to discourage anyone from making video games. I say this because I think now it’s more important than ever to distinguish yourself from other developers. I have a lot of opinions on open-source and free software, but putting all that aside; please, for your commercial projects, stop using these massive tools that do so much. Consider how unique your project would be if you make your own 2D body player controller. Hell, even just using something like Box2D is a step up from Unity. I’m bored of Unity and Unreal games. I can spot an Unreal game a mile away. Godot is in a better position, but the more people that decide to use it the less interesting it will be. Consider finding smaller game libraries / making your own.

Finally, a message to AAA developers (or rather the executives making the decisions) using game engines: stop. Your game costs $70. Why am I paying you $70 just to feel like I’m playing an Unreal demo? Develop your own engine. Make it unique.