How to make your very own game in 10 steps.

Bonjour! And welcome to another session of It’s Cooking Time! Last week we discovered the secret ingredient for a good teenage vampire book, and it was quite sparkling. Today, we quit the world of fine literature and enter the mysterious universe of video games. You know what I’m talking about! I’m sure you know someone in your friends who is adept of this strange activity which consists in mashing some buttons and watching a movie punctuated from time to time with strange lines of text and indications on the screen. Do not confound, though: it looks like a leaked sequence of an upcoming movie, with watermarks all over the screen, but it’s not. It’s a video game, and today we will learn together how to make your very own game in 10 steps.

1. I want to see the blood dropping on the floor ten miles away. In slow-mo. With lens flare. BRING IT!

Well, I don’t even need to explain this point. Video games are all about graphics. It is so obvious that sometimes I wonder why people even purposely try to do something ugly. It is totally illogical, for you want to bring the best for your customer. You want him to look at the screen and squint as he looks the virtual sun and observes all the lens flares. You want him to wonder if he can touch the screen and feel the soft texture of the leaves. Your very own game has to be absolutely wonderful and graphically gorgeous. Look in the reviews and critics. What is the first point ever mentioned? Hell yeah, ladies and gentlemen. Graphics are everything. The world is the best graphical environment available for the current version of Earth, and your goal in your very own video game should be to approach this model. During the dark ages of video games, people tried to simulate it with pixels and 2D, and it was beyond terrible. Those were the times where three sprites could mislead honest players into believing that they were watching a tree or worse, a CHARACTER. I mean, come on, how dumb was that? But now, photo-realism is here. We have the technology to put pretty clothes on every protagonist and make every nervure of a leaf visible in 1080p. How cool is that?

“I want to play!” “Shut up, Johnny, and look at the mountains. Aren’t they beautiful?”

2. Open world…or not-so-open world. Give me at least landscapes. Please?

Now that you have excellent graphics, it’s time to use them wisely. What are you going to do with such beauty and majesty? Obviously the bigger, the better. Remember your goal? You should always try to copy and imitate the world in every aspect. Graphics and photo-realism combined together will help you create a huge open world, so that your customer will drown in it. Tons of exploration, endless wanderings, hundred of places to discover…This is perfect. This looks like the real world. We approach the model, guys, hold on! Unfortunately, sometimes, you don’t have the technology yet. Or you simply don’t want to give your player an entire universe. Whether it is because of your extreme laziness or your lack of imagination, it doesn’t matter, for you can always include some landscapes and panoramas. Customers love watching the environment. Guess what, just do your very own game like you wold normally do, with a straight linear progression. It will be totally fine, as long as you keep putting some landscapes to look at from time to time. You would not want you game to be that different from the real world now, would you?

3. Come on! Grab my hand! And don’t you dare dropping it!

This step is absolutely crucial. Miss it, and your game will be unfair and unplayable. Customers will point out your lack of generosity and your sadistic mind, as well as bury your attempt at making interactive photo-realistic movie. Your poor game with no tutorial whatsoever will rejoin his brothers. You know what I’m talking about, again: back in the dark ages of video games, there existed cartridges which were mean, cruel and unforgiving. It was a torture to watch anyone play those things. The customer was right there, in front of his screen, and if he touched nothing, guess what, nothing happened! That’s right, I’m not telling you horror stories for children. Back in these days, you could get stuck forever because a lazy programmer had forgotten to put a line telling you what to do. How mean is that? Do you imagine it? Hopefully, you are not a lazy sloth, and you actually care for your customers, so be sure to include a never-ending tutorial and hundred of texts, so that nobody will be left behind. We are brothers and sisters and we do not give up that easily, but some hints from time to time are appreciated nonetheless. If you wonder about the amount of clues you should include in your very own game, try to be in the position of the player. What amount of time would you endure before moving around and actually starting searching on your own? That’s right, 10 seconds. So be sure to drop a line or two of texts every 10 seconds or so; players will thank you for the little attentions. Oh you, lovely caring creator!

“It’s not like it’s my first jump in the game or I want to stay here and meditate whatsoever but…”

4. The Hollywood balance: two cinematic sequences for one action sequence.

Now that you have a great world, great graphics and awesomely detailed characters, it is time for you to transform your whole game into a giant interactive movie! The thing with video games is that unlike traditional movies you can include some playable sequences in an interactive movie! How cool is that? Also, be sure not to overdose and include too many gameplay sequences. You wouldn’t want the movie to be interrupted every half-hour with pointless wanderings, would you? The key is to let the movie flow and drown the player into a deep audiovisual emotional cinematic. Ask yourself the following question: if you were to open a door, would you rather simply press a button and do something as dumb as opening a door, or see the character do it for you while you enjoy the quality of the animation and the virtuosity of the voice acting? Think the controller as a TV remote: when you watch something on your TV, you press one or two buttons from time to time to lower the sound volume or pause the video. The controller is designed to be precisely the same thing. It is useful from time to time, when you have to control the camera or make your character walk toward the next cinematic, but you should not abuse it in your very own game. It ruins the cinematographic experience, and that would be disastrous in a video game, right?

This movie looks like a game. OH WAIT.

5. Hans Zimmer is the best. Period. 

We talked a lot about the graphics, but you should not forget that a video game also contains music and sound effects. It is a very important part of the product, and it should be taken seriously. As always, if you don’t know what to do, start from scratch and ask yourself what you would like to hear, if you were a customer. Imagine you are in the middle of some important and emotive cut scenes. Your controller has been on the table for half an hour now. What could possibly add something interesting to the situation? Well, violins and piano, of course! You guessed it right! Truly, you know what appeals to the public. In order to make your very own game a sublime musical experience, you might take a look at the Big Four. It has been studied and quantified that using one of them effectively increase the popularity of your original soundtrack, regardless of your game content. Some evil people claim that every Big Four-based music could be swapped one another that it would be the same result, but shh… Still, what are the Big Four, you ask me? Wait no longer my dear fellow game developers, here they are!

  • Heart-breaking lamenting violins
  • Overly melodramatic piano
  • Exceedingly fierce and epic war drums
  • Somewhat powerful chorus or solo singer

I swear I didn’t even edit this picture. Well I guess music is pretty nice once you clean off the sounds of explosions and machine guns. Aha.

6. I’m an assassin or a warrior. DON’T TELL ME HOW TO PLAY. I CHOOSE.

Everything is set for your very own game to be the best game ever made! Now you may think that it is time for you to choose which kind of game you want to develop, right? Absolutely not! Choose for the player and your game will very likely be treated as anti-fun and boring as hell. You should always let your customer decide whether he wants to play stealthily or go berserk and ravage everything. Think about the possibilities! First it creates two games in one, and thus enhance its longevity, because obviously the game radically changes whether you’re an assassin or a warrior. It has been studied indeed that scenario and AI level of enemies are different depending on your playstyle. Secondly, it allows you to put several difficulty modes for even more options! Customers love options. They love freedom. And because your game cannot be fully appreciated in normal mode, because eh, it is only normal mode, right?, adding a superior difficulty will allow the customer to correctly understand what you tried to do in your very own game. Let’s say that normal mode was just training mode, and training mode was just…well, training mode. Right?

Also, don’t forget to make your character walk like a totally badass dark guy, it will be original.

7. ‘Tis a rock! A peak! A cape! No, it’s a quick-time event!

We are so close to create your very own game, ladies and gentlemen, hold on with me for a few more steps! It looks already so promising that I already want to see the first trailer of your product eight months before its actual release! But don’t get too confident, for you still need to successfully implement a few important gameplay features. This one for example, may be compared to the backbone. I’m talking of course about the quick-time events. They are the core of every good interactive movies. It separates the spectator from the player. It requires observation and quick reflexes. Indeed, you need to grab the controller that was laying on the table and press one or several button as they appear on the screen. Thanks to the dark ages of video game, button mashing is now served with brilliant cutscenes. Can you imagine pressing a button and seeing your character opening a door? Now imagine that you actually do it and see you character opening the same door with every possible details like searching his keys, finding the right one, aiming for the lock, turning the key inside and finally turning the doorknob…but from a different camera angle! This is real evolution, and it has to be implemented in your very own game, because you want nothing but engaging actions and meaningful sequences.

Can’t wait to see them in real life in the next Earth upgrade.

8. ME DOG. ME FETCH. ME LOVE IT.

Eventually, you may think about what you want to include in the gameplay sequences between the cutscenes and the quick-time events. Choose carefully! Those sequences are very important, for the customer will take his controller back (or put his fingers back on the keyboard). Make it worth it! There is nothing more frustrating than moving during an interactive movie for the wrong reasons or not being rewarded. Here, your fine knowledge of the human psyche will be required. If you want to create something as appealing as possible for the customers, you may use the most natural human behavior which is the compulsive necessity to collect everything. Ever wondered why dogs are man’s best friend? The explanation is actually quite simple: we have a common trait with them, which is fetching. That’s right, we love fetching and collecting! There is nothing more agreeable than to search for every possible object that you, the lovely game developer, hid in the huge universe, especially when it is particularly relevant to the ongoing story. Beware though not to put enough objects or put them in a single quest. Remember the crucial rule: the more, the better! You should always implement the fetching feature and duplicate it in every possible way all over the universe. Because we love fetching. If you want to create the perfect game, you may even add rewards that are completely irrelevant to the main plot, so dedicated customers will do it only because you are awesome at hiding objects, and not because it may help them in any way for the story progression. Damn those opportunists.

Teach me, master.

9. Pew pew pew. Bang bang bang. Hell yeah. 

Between two cutscenes and some fetching, your character should not stand idle, except if you want your customer to be speechless in front of the landscapes (see above). Be sure to include some actions in between, starting with more fetching and quick-time events. Oh, did I already talk about that? Great, it means that now it’s time for more action on a greater scale! In your very own game, customers should feel at ease and familiar with the environment. Hence, you may want to include realistic gunfights or any fight in general. This way they won’t be disoriented with the lack of violence in your very own game. The world is cruel, and so should be your product. In no way you should try to do something different from the model, otherwise you may be called horrible names such as boring, unrealistic or even…artsy. Sheesh, the words on their own are enough to make me shudder. Anyway, you have plenty of options when it comes to fighting sequences, so feel free to add them all. Never forget the rule: the more, the better! Plus, it gives freedom and choice for your customer, and we saw previously that it is very important as well. So be sure to include tons of weapons, and make them upgradable. This last element allows you to kill two birds with one stone. Why? Because upgrades mean more choices and also more fetching in order to make them! How clever is that? Now hold on for the very last step. If you are familiar with the show, you know that it is the secret ingredient, so don’t miss it!

NOTHING TO SHOOT, NOTHING TO KILL, AAAAAAAAH, WHAT TO DO?!

10. It’s better together!

You guessed it, caring developers! The logic behind the secret ingredient is quite simple, actually: why would you play alone when you can play together? Did you ever go to the cinema alone? Of course you didn’t. It is way too sad! Video games work the same way. It benefits to the customer and his friends as well as it benefits to you. Four players mean four more voices ready to advertise your very own game and make it the best game in the world! Don’t be afraid to make it big! Here’s an idea to start with: try to adapt your single player mode so that it can also be played in multiplayer mode. In this way, you are sure to make the game a unique and unforgettable experience.

“But how can we be scared if we are two?” “-Shut up Johnny and turn your helmet down, people want to see that we actually have wrinkles on our forehead.”

And here we are, ladies and gentlemen! Thank you for watching this very special edition of It’s Cooking Time about how to make your very own game. I hope you found here some useful elements for your next big hit in the gaming industry. Surely, your little baby will be the best in its kind and praised everywhere. Trust me! Next time, we will focus on how to successfully advertize your game one year in advance. Because the sooner, the better! Stay tuned, folks!

Warning: If you made it that far, I hope for you that you realized that this post was not serious at all. Obviously those steps are highly exaggerated and not used in the gaming industry…or are they?

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About Maratz

Ludophilophage. Explorateur de mondes pixelisés. Coucheur de mots sur écran. English. French.

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