I want to make games...? January 17, 2022 on Kenneth Dodrill's blog

Last year, I focused very hard during select months on game development. I learned about 3d modeling, drawing, sound design and game programming. I have successfully launched a game on Steam and several on Itch. I also made a (paid) tutorial series on how to create a top-down shooter in the game engine I use. On top of all of that, I’ve produced several video devlogs and abstract game development blog posts.

After finishing my first commercial game, I immediately began work on a new one. I wanted to make something more game-y and less of just a story. I dropped that idea along with another idea I would have later on. The reasons for these decisions are well laid out in a previous blog post titled “Prototype your gameplay first”. Once I made that blog post, I discovered something - I do not enjoy many aspects of game development. Rather, I enjoy the final result or product of game development, but I don’t really like much of the work itself.

Here’s the crucial thing I have learned: It is very important to realize the difference between the end result and the journey. You may love the result, but if you don’t like the journey - what’s the point? For example, I love seeing amazing game artwork done by concept artists, 3d modelers, and animators. I love seeing the result of my hard work on a game and I enjoy comments from people who decide to play it. However, I spent a lot of time working on it. It’s easy to say that it was worth it because it’s already done. If I made something even bigger, would it be worth it now that I’m aware of what I don’t like?

There are two main things I enjoy in game development. One is the programming. I have had experience with programming before, and I know that I like it. Programming for games is different than what I did before (mostly web development), but it was still very familiar. The other is writing stories. I really like writing up these blog posts - asking myself questions and trying to figure things out makes me feel like I’m a detective solving riddles. Writing small stories that are intended to make an impact with clever dialogue or transitions feels similar to that. Above all, I want the person playing the game to experience something and feel something.

The rest of game development isn’t really my thing. 3d modeling feels monotonous and often patchy for me (someone who is just trying to make something that looks decent). Pixel art is more fun, but I get similar feelings when doing it. I think with pixel art you can be a bit more lax, especially if you are doing something in a very low resolution. Therefore, the “more fun” part probably comes from the fact that barrier to entry isn’t as high for making something that looks good. I find sound design a bit of a chore since much of it is finding and stitching together different sound files. Lastly, music production has a huge barrier to entry, and although I have created some simple tracks before, I still found it rather tedious and am largely uninterested.

These are mostly face-value things. I haven’t touched on different genres and what they contain. Level design, concept art, testing, and marketing can all be parts of game development. The truth is that I don’t think I want to make a game-y game. Even though I enjoy shooters, I don’t want to make another DOOM. I have always focused on small stories because that’s what I like to do. I’m not sure I enjoy the entirety of game development enough to continue investing (a lot of) time into it.

Much of what I have done has been a result of: I want X, so I learn Y to make X. I believe a lot of creatives work this way, and I think it is a good thing - you end up with a good set of skills, but you also learn more about yourself like I’ve done here. Overall, I am glad that I had the chance to learn game development, but I’m also a little bummed out that I don’t really like most of it.

Additionally, I will note here that learning game development has caused me to analyze any game I play or see. There have been many times that I haven’t purchased a game because it’s already so similar to something I have played before, or simply because it uses something like Unity or Unreal. There are now very few games that I actually enjoy, because I am able to successfully criticize them with the understanding and knowledge of what goes into making said game.