Making games is now easier (and harder) than ever

May 09, 2022 at 10:30 am by nemirc

Making games is now easier (and harder) than ever
Making games is now easier (and harder) than ever

As you know, one of my interests is game development, and I spend a lot of time writing about game engines and digital-content-creation software, and sometimes part of my focus goes into software that is easy to use and can produce good results. A very good example of this is Character Creator and iClone. Thanks to these kinds of applications, and game development engines being free to use, it is easier than ever to make games. However, that has resulted in more competition, since there’s more people making games now. I constantly keep an eye on game business stuff, and I read all the time how most indie games on Steam barely sell copies. While making games has become easier, selling the games is more difficult.

A while ago, I wrote about whether or not the tool replaces the artist, since now there are tools that are very easy to use (  ). I think the same applies to game engines. In that article I talked about how you still need your “artistic eye” to know if your CC3 character is looking good or not (I have seen some really bad CC3 projects, with really bad proportions and questionable anatomy). Likewise, if we talk about game engines we can talk about how Unreal Engine was used to make the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, but that doesn’t mean anyone can make their own Final Fantasy 7, because game development requires a lot of technical knowledge. In other words, the question is not whether or not your game engine can produce photorealistic graphics and massive open-world games. The question is whether or not you can do it.

While 3D applications can easily create something (for example, Meta Human and Character Creator can easily create photorealistic humans), game engines don’t have a way to “easily create the next Doom”. Ghe dominant engines, Unity and Unreal Engine, offer a lot of “templates” that developers can use to start development of a game. However, you still need the talent and know-how, if you want to turn that template into a decent, or better yet, amazing game, since templates are supposed to be the starting point for your game, not your game with different graphics. Unfortunately, a lot of developers simply take these templates and do a reskin. This is the origin of the term “asset flip”, where developers simply swap assets on a template to make a game. Predictably, many of these games don’t make money.

Of course, I see making games as a business, not as a hobby. As I said before, a lot of indie games are not making games, and I think this is because aspiring developers don’t think about strategy, meaning how they will actually make money. Most of the time they still have this 10-year-old mentality of “just make a good game” but that doesn’t apply anymore. Unfortunately, a lot of big developers still perpetuate this idea, so newbies just repeat those ideas because that’s what the “established developers” say.

There are various reasons why games may not make money. The one people will repeat the most is “well, because your game is not good” (“just make a good game and it will sell, man!”). There’s also the possibility the games were good but they didn’t get enough promotion, so games are just released to die in the sea of games. Lastly, some don’t put enough work into their Steam release and games are just lost in the platform. Some people like Chris Zukowski spend a lot of time talking about how to use all your resources to make the most of your Steam release.

On top of that, there’s also the chance developers focus so much on how the game looks, but the gameplay is really bad. I have seen a lot of games where the graphics look very good, but when you see everything in motion, it all falls apart. I have even had conversations with aspiring developers from my country and, when I ask them what’s the main “hook” of their game, they answer “the graphics”. Good, photorealistic graphics are not going to save a bad or buggy game.

Another thing I see is that the age of “low-budget” video-games is coming to an end. While low-budget games can still get moderate success sometimes, I think we are going back to the point where games with higher-investments (including investment from third-parties) will have a higher chance of success. I am not saying low-budget games are going to go away. I just think more and more low-budget games will not make money. Of course, all developers must start somewhere, and I am not saying your first game must be this mega-production. Definitely make small games to start, but as you progress in your game development career, you should take on games of different sizes, big and small.

Some may consider this to be pessimistic, but I simply consider this realistic. Making games is indeed easier than ever, but if you want to make games for a living, things are harder than ever. Of course, I am not an expert, but I have made a lot of mistakes that I have used as a learning experience, and that has helped me a lot to restructure my strategy. What I wrote here is just some of the stuff I have learned along all these years.

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