So you want to be the one to create the next Call of Duty or World of Warcraft huh? That is all fine and dandy, but there is a problem.. you do not know where to start. Whether it just yourself, or a robust team waiting to create the next “big thing”, here are a few simple steps to help you get started along with some recommendations.
This is the most important step in your quest to make the perfect game… what kind of game will it be? I say this is the most important step because it is… this sets the pace for the rest of your en devour. This is something you have to be absolutely certain about though, because changing the genre will possibly doom you once you get started, after this point comes the next and a huge 180. During my time in school for Game Design, we had got this rather useful and practical card set called “The Art of Game Design: A Deck of Lenses” by Jesse Schell; and in this contains 100 of the most useful Lenses that are perfect for a situation just like the one you are in. One the very first card called “The Lens of Essential Experience” it breaks down the 3 most important questions you (the creator) need to ask yourself:
What experience do I want the player to have?
What is essential to the experience?
How can my game capture that essence?
The point here is to really research and get into your target audiences head. I am more than positive you are a player, now it is time to think what others would want / like to see. Once you can do this you can really get started and even more excited for what you are about to do.
This is a word I hate more than anything when it comes to developing a game; they should call it “stick knife in heart and turn”. In all reality though, budget is vastly important because without it you will almost certainly get nowhere. This is all because of one little word that you need to become very familiar with: license.
I am about to expose you to a world of hurt in this particular section; everything costs money. That “free-to-use” development program you have been using is a perfect example. It IS “free-to-use” but NOT free to publish. Let’s take a look at the most popular “free-to-use” development software in Unreal Development Kit:
Here is their End-User License Agreement which can be found on their website UDK.com.
UDK Commercial Terms
The UDK is FREE for educational use. Feel free to use it in your school’s curriculum. Educational institutions can use the UDK for free even though they’re charging tuition. No additional license is required for faculty or students. Your students are encouraged to use UDK inside or outside of school to learn game development.
The UDK is also FREE for non-commercial use. Feel free to use the UDK to make any application (game or otherwise) for free distribution. No additional license (beyond the EULA) is required. Just go for it.
NOTE: We are extending the US$50,000 royalty-free revenue benefit to all existing UDK commercial licensee. Please click the license link in the license acceptance email we sent you to see the updated terms of your license.
If you use UDK in your business, sell a game or application created using UDK, sell services or training and in connection with that business, distribute an application you’ve created using UDK, or use UDK in any way to generate revenue, directly or indirectly, in addition to your agreeing to the UDK EULA, you are required to sign a UDK Commercial Use License Agreement.
A summary of the current terms of this license are as follows (note that the below terms are only a summary – the actual terms appear in the UDK Amendment):
If you are using UDK internally within your business and the application created using UDK is not distributed to a third party (i.e., someone who is not your employee or subcontractor), you are required to pay Epic an annual license fee of US$2,500 per installed UDK developer seat per year. This license fee only applies to UDK seats used for development; no license fee is required for hardware where only the resulting applications are installed.
If you create a games or commercial applications using UDK for sale or distribution to an end-user or client, or if you are providing services in connection with a UDK based game or application, the per-seat option does not apply. Instead the license terms for this arrangement are US $99 up-front, and a 0% royalty on you or your company’s first US$50,000 in UDK related revenue from all your UDK based games or commercial applications, and a 25% royalty on UDK related revenue from all your UDK based games or commercial applications above US$50,000. UDK related revenue includes, but is not limited to, monies earned from: sales, services, training, advertisements, sponsorships, endorsements, memberships, subscription fees, in-game transactions, rentals and pay-to-play. You or your company will only need one commercial license to cover all the UDK based games or commercial applications you develop.
Here are some examples:
- A warehouse company uses UDK to create an application for employee safety training. They develop it on one computer and then install the resulting application on two computers for their internal employees to use. They require a single UDK development seat license for a total cost of US$2,500 per year, for as long as they use UDK to develop and/or maintain the application.
- A team creates a game with UDK that they intend to sell. After six months of development, they release the game through digital distribution and they earn US$60,000 in the first calendar quarter after release. Their use of UDK during development requires no fee. At some point prior to the UDK Application’s release they will need to secure a royalty-bearing commercial UDK license with its US$99 license fee. After earning US$60,000, they would be required to pay Epic US$2,500 (US$0 on the first US$50,000 in revenue, and US$2,500 on the next US$10,000 in revenue). On subsequent revenue, they are required to pay the 25% royalty.
- An architecture firm uses UDK to create a live walk-through presentation for their customers. They charge their customers a fee of US$500 for each walk-through. Before they begin to charge customers for the walk-through, they would pay Epic US$99 for a royalty-bearing commercial UDK license. They sell walk-through presentations to 100 customers in the first quarter, bringing in US$50,000 in revenue. No royalty payment would be required to Epic for that first US$50,000. In the second quarter, they sell another 100 walk-through presentations, bringing in another US$50,000 in revenue. They are required to pay US$12,500 to Epic. On subsequent revenue, they are required to pay the 25% royalty.
The UDK Commercial Use License may be executed by an individual or a corporate entity. If an unincorporated team wishes to license UDK, we recommend setting up a simple corporation or partnership for the team before contacting us for a license. If that is not feasible, please designate a single individual to contact us who will be responsible for executing the license and fulfilling the terms.
A note to developers under the age of consent (minors): Please have your parents contact us for a UDK Commercial Use License, as we cannot enter into a license agreement with a minor.
If you have any questions about licensing UDK or require custom license terms, source code licenses, or use on consoles please email email@example.com for more information
I know what you’re thinking… it can be difficult to understand right? Actually it isn’t if you read it correctly. Here is what they want:
|$99 UP FRONT||Till $49,999|
|25% Royalty fee||Once at $50,000|
|25% Royalty fee||After $50,000|
No here is the kicker… according to their EULA, once your FIRST $50,000 is made then you have to start paying the 25% royalty fee from there. However, that is just on your first time using UDK, and any time you use it there-after you are required to pay the 25% royalty fee on any subsequent game made with Unreal Development Kit. However, this can avoided by publishing your game for free-to-play which we will dive into in a later section.
There is a benefit though, if you are on a team, you will only need 1 single license to publish your game. This was only an example, as most case scenarios are similar to that of UDK when it comes to development engines.
This is only ONE of MANY license’s you will need to be worried about… let me ask you this: how is it you plan to get those bad-ass 3D models into your game? What are you creating them with? How are you going to animate them? Are you planning on using some form of physics?
Let’s take a look at Autodesk 3Ds Max as an example as it is the most widely used 3D modeling software in gaming. You have to pay roughly around $3,500 per license (unsure about royalties) per computer unless you purchase the Network or Mulch-seat Stand-Alone license at an additional cost.
However, a different approach can be taken with a piece of software called Blender 3d. Blender was created specifically with the GNU in mind, meaning you can publish your game / work without any additional cost. It is safe to say that Blender is an excellent source, and a very good 3d Modeling tool.
Now that you have some knowledge on what exactly it is you are going to do, how is it you are going to implement it? Here are a few good books for you to look into -various platforms- as they can explain it a lot better than I ever could:
“David Perry on Game Design: A brainstorming toolbox” by David Perry, Rusel DeMaria
“Fundamentals of Game Development” by Heather Maxwell Chandler, Rafael Chandler
“Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling” by Chris Crawford
“The Game Audio Tutorial” by Richard Stevens, Dave Raybound
“Character Development and Storytelling for Games” by Lee Sheldon
“The Ultimate Guide to Video Game Writing and Design” by Flint Dille, John Zuur Platten
“Beginning Java SE 6 Game Programming Third Edition” by Jonathan S. Harbour
“C# 4.0 How-To: Real Solutions for C# 4.0 Programmers” by Ben Watson
“Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games” by Edward Castronova
There, those are some books I recommend you take a look at!
Now we are getting down to business! Here is the time when you want to take the things you want in game and start hammering out the details. What I would suggest for those that have writers block is to take what you absolutely want / need and work around them. This has helped me a bunch of times, and it works out very well for others.
You are probably wondering what story boarding is too right? Well, this is where you take concepts (from your story) and put them down onto paper to show the flow of the storyline / game. Chances are though, during this process you will find things that just make you want to smack your head against your desk. So I really recommend that you outline any sharp objects with bubble tap for this and the next step.
This is the stage which separates the men from the boys, and women from the… uh girls? This is essentially the 3rd most important stage -Discovery being the 1st, and Prototyping the 2nd- in your quest to make your game.
This is where your designs, concepts, programming, art and everything comes together in 3 stages… this stage is Alpha. I am not going to really walk you through how to exactly to do this as if you unsure look at the books above they will help. Nobody can be holding your hand in this process, as it Is a true test as if this is what you want to do.
And.. the fun begins (testing)…
We are now at one of my favorite perks of the industry… testing and fixing problems. You should spend a considerable amount of time on this particular area, as you do not want to ship a game that has game breaking problems, or if it is a multiplayer game a way to exit the map and murder everyone. One of the greatest bits of information I had ever received while testing was “this is not meant to be fun, it is meant to piss you off” when testing your own game. Trust me when I say, there will be plenty of occasions where you will come across some bugs and really become frustrated as to why it is there.
Now, here is a big thing, to save your sanity it would be best to test out a bug multiple times, fix it, re-test multiple times, re-test even more and so on. Again, as with most games, bugs will appear their ugly face out of nowhere, and you will want to document every last detail about it; what you where doing, what happened, time, date, can it be reproduced? These are pretty key things, but I do encourage that if you cannot reproduce it then just move on. If it is a prevalent bug then it will appear again.
Do keep in mind that you will NOT find all of them, and be very mindful of bugs that come out after shipment. I also encourage you to keep testing up until (and later than) ship date, just in case you need to assemble any patches along the way. Just remember, nothing is perfect, and your game will not be either.
F2P or Charge?
We established most of what you have to do in order for you to make you game, but once it is in the gold phase what are your plans? Do you plan to allow players to play it for free, or are you looking for a return on investment? Before you make that judgment you need to think very hard about this decision. Look at the Budget section above again, and ready through the EULA carefully (if you are using UDK) and study the EULA of every other piece of software you use. I am not talking about just quickly glancing at it, no, instead you should make a list of pros and cons for both FTP and ROI. Nobody can tell you what to do here, both of them have very positive aspects. For instance here are some Pros for both:
Return on Investment
|Reach a bigger audience – this is after all the biggest reason for a free-to-play game.||Money – who does not want it?|
|You have more control over your players and the content they interact with||your ROI can double or triple with DLC content|
|* Charge players for “special” items, such as armor, weapons ect. * This will also kick the royalty clause for UDK into effect.|
However there are far more cons to both, for instance: say you want your game to be published on Steam, or the like; this would require an additional fee to be paid to the said publisher. Keep this in mind when figuring out this portion. Take it easy, and think it through, and I am sure you would come to a agreement with you -and your team- on what is the best choice.
Market the hell out of it!
This is actually one of the more brighter spots of your long and stressful journey, marketing the game you created. The funny thing is, you should have been doing so throughout the entire process. Friends, family, college buddies, everyone is now a potential audience. One of the best things you can do is to write up a Press Release, talking up your game -for the love of God be enthusiastic about it!- and your target for this is simple: magazines, review websites, YouTube reviewers, everyone. You should be sending review copies to every major website, magazine with your Press Release. This is key because it is the biggest word you need to get very used to: exposure. The more exposed your game becomes to the public, the more players, and you will see your revenue jump vastly if you chose to Return on Investment.
I would like to conclude this with a huge thank you to those that make our industry so f&cking awesome, and a huge thank you for reading this. Leave a comment with your positive or negative reaction to this article!