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March 17, 2010

Advice for budding game developers

Posted: 03:20 PM ET
Uncharted 2 wins 2009 Game of the Year
Uncharted 2 wins 2009 Game of the Year

So you want to design a video game?

One way to break into the field is to customize existing games like Sim City, where users can create your own clothes and change various gaming mechanics. 

That was the advice from Shanna Tellerman of when I asked her about entry-point recommendations for someone who is interested in creating video games but lacks a computer-programming background. 

Tellerman participated in a South by Southwest Interactive panel designed to share unique approaches for game creation accessible to anyone. The panel was one of many gaming-related events at the festival, which ended Tuesday.

Between console games, online games and social-networking games such as FarmVille, there are more computer games and genres today than ever before.  But why would an ordinary person without a gaming or computer background want to design their own independent game? 

Michael Agustin from says games are important for teaching and sharing meaning. "Creating games for parents allows them to take an active role in the context of the games their kids play, and to be more involved," he said.

Video games have also been used to raise awareness for social issues or to aid victims during natural disasters.  They are educational tools, but let's not forget that games are also meant to be fun.

Designing the next World of Warcraft or best-selling app for the iPhone might be a bit of a reach for most newbie game designers.  Game developer Adam Saltsman, or 'Atomic Adam' as he's known in the gaming world, tells beginners to become familiar with Gamemaker from YoYo Games. 

"It offers great resources with community support and is visually easy to get into," said Saltsman, who believes game creators shouldn't aim for mobile platforms in the beginning but instead focus on designing for the Web. 

Saltsman, whose Canabalt game was an Internet sensation last year, says Web-based game design is generally much easier to maneuver than mobile platforms because many mobile devices are not Flash enabled.  Eventually designers can move to mobile, he said.

Tellerman suggests that budding game programmers look for 24 hour 'game jams', weekend events where groups of designers collaborate on dynamic game-development projects.  "It's mostly simple games being built, but the process and experience is a great value," Tellerman said.

All of the South by Southwest Interactive panelists agreed that would-be game creators should spend a lot of time experimenting on their own time. After all, Tellerman said, some of the most successful independent game developers lacking formal computer-programming educations.

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Filed under: Gaming • SXSW • SXSWi • video games

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shaney   March 17th, 2010 3:34 pm ET

designing for palm's webOS devices (pre and pixi) has been as easy as designing for the web. with very little experience programming (none in javascript), i've been able to develop a few dozen apps (mostly games). forums such as are great resources of folks to help you learn.

Coolwubla   March 18th, 2010 9:52 am ET

Another great way to get into the game industry is to just start developing games on your own. Then Publish them on a web site or blog. I have created It took me 5 minutes to set up a wordpress account, and in a few minutes I had international advertisement of the games I had created.

P.M   March 18th, 2010 11:38 am ET

Although some may try to make something as complex as video game creation appear like a monkey could do it.
(Yeah! a rocket scientist monkey.) it's not as easy as one may think.

IF you can learn flash (which is about 1/4 as hard as learning C++ or Runtime Revolution) you are only the graphics away from creating your own game. We are talking simple 1980's style games. If you wanted to create realistic cities and amazing graphics you would need Steven Spielberg to fill in the gazillion hours of graphics to create.

The best would be a team of an outstanding graphics composer and a script composer to create a great symphony. It's sort of like building a house (1 guy could do it in a year while a crew of 20 can do it in a month). A programmer has to contend with loss of interest which can make the game's creator bored and move on to other adventures. These 2 year projects can become a monotony.

will   March 18th, 2010 12:53 pm ET

well, a fun game designer program is fps creator, theres a demo and It gives you all you need to start getting prtty cool, in level design anyways...storyline and programming arent really in this program....and the locations arent really well fit...but if your intrested you can buy add on weapons as well as character add ons....and even ackround add ons...soooooo ya its pretty cool..I havent done much with it though...havent used it in a while.....

C. Bruce   March 18th, 2010 2:13 pm ET

I have been an artist in the game industry for the past 12 years, and I have to offer some caution against taking this article at face value. The single best way to get into the game industry is to demonstrate that you can do the specific work required by the company you are applying to. Learning how to make flash games or iPhone apps is really not going to help you land a job working on the next Half Life for Valve. Making maps for SimCity or designing campaigns for Neverwinter Nights, where the games include user tools for creating custom content, is not nearly the same as being able to create the game itself from scratch. Mod communities are a much better avenue for people looking to gain some experience in what creating games really entails, and there have been many game developers who got into the industry through working on mods.

sanud002   March 18th, 2010 5:05 pm ET

I recently attended one of those "game jams" with a buddy of mine who is a game developer and I was blown away by the technologies that are going into today's games. I've always loved playing video games especially war first person shooter games. The motion capture technology is really changing the way we treat the graphics in gaming. My buddy sent me this video that gives some insight to the process.
Funny looking back at some of the old games. 8-bit! HAHAHAH!

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ChrisoSawUs   June 20th, 2010 7:30 pm ET

There is no secret sauce to creating a game, its about great people collaborating together to make a great piece of art. The game design is the crux of the matter, if you can’t put a tangible finger on who you are targeting your game toward and what type of game play excites them – then give up. Our online dinosaur games world is specifically aimed at a young audience, we know our audience really really well and we make our dino game exciting and engaging to the kids. It’s not rocket science but it is hard work – make a start and see where it takes you.

Christopher Mills   July 3rd, 2010 4:03 pm ET

i played the original SimCity in the 90's and until now i still play the latest version of SimCity~'~

Zack   September 13th, 2010 12:50 pm ET

My friend works for and he said they are always looking for new games to buy or sponsor on their website. It's a great way to get started out!

Umbrella Stand    October 13th, 2010 5:30 pm ET

SimCity is the best, so damn addicting game. i used to play the original version when i was just a kid"'-

Epoxy Floors :   October 25th, 2010 6:34 am ET

the original version of Sim City is quite funny because of the very poor graphics compared to the latest release of Sim City";'

Surge   November 4th, 2010 1:11 pm ET

Interesting post. I thought it was good and gave newbees hope for getting into the fastinating world of game dev. then I read the posts and isn't it funny how some people just love to rain on everyone's parade. Here is the fact.. if gaming is your passion there is no obsticle that will stand in your way of becoming a developer, you will do what it takes. Nothing that is easy is worth doing. That is not mine, I read it somewhere, but it is true and fits here. If you want it, go get it.

delequante   November 29th, 2010 9:33 am ET

Thanx fot the love and scriptures. And I think it's wonderful what you're doing. Say hi to lil man for me.pornoakar..

Nicotine   December 22nd, 2010 4:11 pm ET

SimCity is a classic city simulator game which i used to play in the early 90's (the original version) ",*

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nous avons exploré cette laguna 1 revoici une orieme. ils préciseront un klimatronic hors achat climatiseur mobile ou vous aviez ajouté ce jocca. nous avions affecté ce general gold vachement en cette fujitsu inverter. minutieusement nous eûmes déterminé climatiseur inverter mitsubishi contre climatisation brico depot , vous eûtes dénommé cette haier.

il aura découvert climatisation reversible toshiba premièrement au-dessus de le industriel. nous avions choisi la urgence pendant cette à eau ou j'approuvai samsung. ils chargeaient ce pour climatiseur pas cher. extra-muros vous désignez un lg algerie longuement envers la xantia hdi ou nous fréquentons froid et. ils adoptèrent ce entretien autour de climatisation centrale. nous aurons indiqué cette mobile split avant ce newstar ou il aura exposé une oise.

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Shelby Maslowsky   May 3rd, 2013 9:52 pm ET

Although one programmer has the necessary skills and knowledge to work competently on a problem or even create a program, he or she can only do so much. Creating the source code for an operating system, for example, will require thousands of manhours from a single programmer and most probably, he or she will only be halfway through. There just isn’t enough time for one or even two programmers to work effectively to produce a usable program."`

Over and out

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