Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Descent Into Mobile Game Development

Sometime around October of last year (2013), I got it in my head that I'd like to make a mobile game. Having ideas and making plans to do this or that is nothing new for me - I've got a number of half-finished (novel) and/or aborted projects (fantasy playing cards) - but for some reason, this one stuck.

Up to this point in my life, I had some experience as a Javascript/PHP coder built over some Java & C++ classes taken years prior in college, but never fancied myself a serious programmer. I always leaned toward front-end work, because that's where the designers and artists got to play. However, I knew enough to get myself into trouble. So I did a couple of Google searches to find out what was involved in producing a mobile game.

Eventually, I stumbled across (not upon) Unity3d. At first blush, it had everything I was looking for: It was free and it could export builds for both Android and iOS devices, which make up something like 98% of the mobile market. It also allowed to languages: C#, which is almost like C++, and Unityscript, basically Javascript, with some quirky additions. I had originally intended to go the 'Script route, but was surprised to find myself working in C#. That decision was probably aided by the number of quality C# tutorials and lessons that help get me immersed in the environment.

I spent some time trying to figure out what sort of game I wanted to make. Ideas? I had lots of those, but which one? One of the Unity forum threads had some advice for new game developers: "Yeah, you want to make something epic and great, but you need to start small. Otherwise you'll get discouraged and quit before you finish your first game." At least, that's what I took from it. So I began to churn out ideas for 'small' games - ones that I didn't feel would be too terribly demanding to produce (because I'm still working as a full-time freelancer), but would still be fun. Because, ultimately, that's the most important thing.

Nearly one year later, I've almost wrapped up development on my first mobile game - Springling Swipe - and starting to get my business and marketing ducks in a row.

The challenge at this point is feature creep - the urge to keep adding little extra bells and whistles to make the game that much 'better' or 'polished' or 'professional.' Sometimes, I can be a bit of a perfectionist. Other times, I use the perfectionists' excuse of 'it can be better' to tweak a project into oblivion so it never sees the light of day and risk handling any sort of rejection (that's a whole other can of worms). I think I've got a handle on this, though. I think I'm at the point - barring a couple of details - where I'm ready to put the game (and myself) out there in a way I never have before and let come what may.

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